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22 October 2021

Top electric toothbrush features

Find out more about the best electric toothbrush features to look out for, and whether it's worth paying any extra for them.
Patrick Gallagher

Electric toothbrushes are more complicated than their manual counterparts, but are designed to do a better job of cleaning your teeth and keeping your gums healthy in the long term.

Every electric toothbrush will clean your teeth, but some come with features and accessories that can enhance the brushing experience – and they'll more than likely add to the price. Here we reveal the features on offer, and whether they're worth paying more for.

To see which models are best for keeping your teeth clean and your gums healthy, head straight to our electric toothbrush reviews.

Electric toothbrush types

Electric toothbrush heads

In general, electric toothbrushes can be divided into two types depending on whether their heads rotate or move from side to side.

Rotating brush heads

Toothbrushes with small circular heads rotate to clean one tooth at a time.

Some pulsate, too, which helps to dislodge plaque. Most Oral B electric toothbrushes are rotating and/or pulsating models.

Vibrating brush heads

Others have a conventional head, similar to a manual toothbrush. These heads move in a side-to-side action at high speeds – the brush head vibrates against teeth to remove plaque.

These vibrations also drive cleaning fluid (a mixture of saliva, toothpaste and water) into gums and between teeth to tackle plaque you can’t reach with your brush. Philips Sonicare brushes work in this way.

We’ve tested both rotating and vibrating brushes.

See which type comes top in our tests by checking out our Best Buy electric toothbrushes. 

Brushing modes

Pricier brushes tend to come with extra brushing modes. These are designed to let you tailor your toothbrush to your cleaning needs.

For example, if you suffer from sensitive teeth, a 'sensitive' mode is designed to give a gentler clean than the standard programme. Other modes you'll come across include massage, whitening and deep clean.

Most brushing modes work by simply changing the speed or power of the brush.

Some models can adapt their brushing movement to the specific area you're cleaning – they can switch between side-to-side and pulsating actions depending on whether you're brushing the tooth's face or biting surface.  

Brushing timer

Most of us don’t spend enough time cleaning our teeth, according to dental experts. Making sure you brush for a full two minutes (or longer) is key to keeping teeth and gums clean and healthy.

Good electric toothbrushes will automatically brush for two minutes. This handy feature helps you on your way to a good brushing technique without you having to think about it. If you choose a brush with only one feature, make sure it’s an automatic brushing timer.

Interval timer and pressure sensor

To get the best clean, it’s important to brush all of your teeth – top and bottom, and front and back. It’s easy to spend more time on one section of teeth compared with another, and an interval timer can help you ensure you get an even clean.

An interval timer pulses or vibrates every 30 seconds to let you know when to move on to the next section of your mouth. This way, you clean each quarter of the mouth evenly.

You don't need to scrub your teeth harshly to remove plaque – in fact, pushing too hard against your teeth can do more harm than good. 

Some electric toothbrushes have a pressure sensor that will beep or flash to warn if you're applying too much pressure. Some models will stop pulsing if they sense you're pressing too hard.

To find out how to brush your teeth with an electric toothbrush, see our step-by-step guide to How to brush with an electric toothbrush

Electric toothbrush accessories

Electric toothbrush charging in a bathroom

All electric toothbrushes come with a brush head, standard cleaning mode and charger. More expensive models can have various accessories that will add to the price.

For example, the premium Philips Sonicare DiamondClean’s glass charger means you can keep your toothbrush to hand in your bathroom even while it’s charging (providing you have a two-pin shaver plug socket installed). 

The Oral-B iO, Oral-B Genius and Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart range of electric toothbrushes have Bluetooth and built-in sensors to record your brushing activity. They can connect with smartphone apps, which show a 'map' of your mouth and give real-time, dentist-inspired feedback while you’re brushing.

Smart toothbrush

These additional features may appeal, but you'll pay a premium for them – the Oral-B iO Series 7 and Oral-B Genius 9000 will set you back in excess of £120. Which? Best Buy brushes, meanwhile, start at less than £65.

To find the best electric toothbrush for you and your budget, head straight to our independent and expert electric toothbrush reviews.