Last Updated On January 4th, 2019
Those whose parents gave them electric toothbrushes when they were young are fortunate. They haven’t had to listen to their dentist constantly nagging them to switch to an electric model – and their teeth are probably in better condition than those who have been brushing by hand for their entire lives.
A study published in the British research publication The Cochrane Library looked at 56 different studies of the effectiveness of electric vs. manual toothbrushes, and found that research subjects using the electric models averaged 21% less plaque and 11% less gum disease after a three month period. So when the dentist nags you, he or she is absolutely right. Electric toothbrushes really do work better.
However, the dentist doesn’t often tell you which models you should buy. And with so many on the market, most with super-duper “advanced features,” it’s nearly impossible to decide which one to purchase without doing hours of research. Making the task even harder is the fact that you’ll normally find better prices online – where you can never be sure if sales pitches and reviews are honest and reliable.
Our goal is to simplify the process for you. We’ve already done all the research and checked out all of the leading models available throughout the UK. Read on to learn more about the benefits of these brushes, the features that matter and the ones that are unnecessary, and find the best electric toothbrush to put that sparkle back into your smile.
Best Electric Toothbrushes At a Glance
Benefits and Features
Believe it or not, the very best reason to use an electric toothbrush has nothing to do with rotating heads or sonic technology, the size of the brush head, or the price. It has to do with an absolutely essential feature on any electric model: the timer.
The NHS and the British Dental Health Foundation, like every other major health and detail organization in the Western world, strongly recommend that you brush your teeth for two minutes, twice a day. However, surveys by the Dental Health Foundation have found that about 15% of Britons go at least two days without brushing; more importantly for our purposes, studies done around the world repeatedly find that a majority of people don’t spend the full two minutes whenever they do brush.
That’s where an electric toothbrush can make all the difference, because any model worth considering has a two-minute timer. You can, of course, turn it off manually. But once you’re using it, it will run for the full two minutes before turning off automatically, making it a virtual certainty that you’ll use it for the amount of time that dentists say will do the most good.
While all of the models we’ll be looking at have timers, there are several areas where you’ll find major differences. The most important is the action of the brush; the majority of models have rotating or oscillating brushes which do exactly what their name says: they rotate at very high speeds as they contact the teeth. The other option is a sonic which vibrates back and forth at a much higher speed than an oscillating one, emitting sonic waves which supposedly extend beyond the bristles to reach areas you can’t hit with a normal toothbrush. We say supposedly because sonic models were originally sold with the boast that the high-frequency waves actually “knock” plaque right off of teeth. That doesn’t happen, although there are a few studies that claim the waves may kill some bacteria than you can’t fight by brushing.
There is research showing that oscillating models are a bit more effective than sonic ones, but the difference isn’t that huge. The more important factor is how it us used and which feel you prefer; you move a sonic one back and forth through your mouth just like a manual, while you just have to place the oscillating brush against each tooth while it does its work. If you find the actual work of brushing tedious or annoying, you may appreciate the slightly easier use of an oscillating model. It’s also a little easier to fit into tight spaces because the brush is smaller. Sonic ones, on the other hand, tend to be quieter.
You’ll find that the more expensive the model, the more “advanced features” it will have. Many of them are of questionable value, although you may find a few useful.
Higher-priced ones often offer variable cleaning modes, meaning they can be set to move at different speeds or in different patterns. These allegedly allow you to vary your cleaning regimen to get at all the plaque, but there’s not much evidence that will make much of a difference. This feature comes in handiest for those with sensitive teeth because they can select a slower speed, and those with major issues who will find a deep clean mode helps them get at more of their plaque.
Two other common options are “quadrant timers” that beep every 30 seconds so you can move the brush to a different part of your mouth, and pressure sensors which beep when you’re brushing too hard. The first doesn’t help people unless they’ve been told by their dentist that they’re brushing unevenly, and the second requires so much pressure to trigger the alarm that it’s not particularly useful. Finally, some models include UV sanitizers which are said to “de-germ” the toothbrush. There’s been no evidence they really work, though
Finally, there are the obvious differences which could factor into a buying decision: the size of the heads and the length of the battery charge are two of the major ones. These are largely a matter of personal preference, but that doesn’t make them less important.
Top 10 Electric Toothbrush Reviews
Now that you’re an “expert” on what to look for, it’s time for us to make things even easier. We’ve found that Oral-B makes the best brushes on the market, as we believe the rotating heads do a better job removing plaque. One out of their enormous selection of models is suitable for just about everyone and every budget, and here are the top 10. A quick note: most of these toothbrushes come with two-pin power plugs and not three-pin UK plugs; you may need to use an adapter (which you can pick up anywhere for about £1-2) depending on the outlet you have in your bathroom.
This one is for the techies in the crowd, or those whose dentists want them to closely track your brushing activity for review – it actually has Bluetooth connectivity. Through an app on your smartphone, you can save six months worth of details on your dental hygiene. The dentist can then review the information and program the app with specific routines for you to follow. Overkill? Probably, but also something you might find helpful. There are also gum care, sensitive, deep clean and whitening modes. This is one of the more expensive options you’ll find.
We include this model primarily for completeness. It’s basically identical to the Pro 2500 we’ve just reviewed; the only real difference is the colour (the Pro 2500 is black, the Cross-Action 2000 is light blue). However, you may only find one or the other available in your area, so don’t be put off if you can’t find the Pro 2500. This model is just as good.
The 3D brushing action of this offering is the same as on the two models already reviewed and does the same great job cleaning teeth, but there are several differences to be aware of with the Pro 650. It doesn’t have the gum care mode or pressure sensor, but does have a handy travel case. It’s also somewhat less expensive, perhaps the nicest “feature” of all.
We finally have a model which is substantially different than the ones we’ve looked at. The Advance Power isn’t a rechargeable model; it runs on batteries which need to be changed regularly (although you can use rechargeable batteries, if that helps). This one cleans with the same basic oscillating action as the heftier
The biggest drawback, though, is that there’s no two-minute timer, which would disqualify the Advance Power to our minds – except for the fact that it’s quite suitable as a replacement for a manual toothbrush when you’re travelling or on holiday, at a bargain price.
With the Pro 4000 we take a step up. This model has all of the strong brushing action and features of the Pro 2500, and adds two more selectable modes to the normal and gum care options: an alternating speed for teeth whitening, and the sensitive setting we’ve mentioned earlier as a godsend for those with touchy teeth. Three brush heads (normal, sensitive, whitening) come with the Pro 4000; the package sells for more than the 2500, but if your teeth are sensitive, you’ll be glad you spent the extra money for this model.
Oral-B, manufactured by Braun, is a premier brand and this model lives up to the billing. It’s an oscillating model (as are all of the ones we’re reviewing) which also rotates and pulses to vary the action of the brush against the teeth and break up plaque; the manufacturer calls this these three different motions their “3D” process. The bristles on the round brush are set in what the they call a “CrissCross” pattern, angled to reach between to hit the areas which would normally only be reachable by floss. The Pro 2500 has a pressure sensor (which stops the brushes and lights an indicator on the handle) and a quadrant timer, as well as a feature we like a lot more, a gum care mode which provides the gentler massage that many dentists recommend for gum health.
This one can run for seven days on one charge, as can just about all of the brushes we’ve reviewed, and has all the features you could need (as well as some you might not) for a very reasonable price. We think that’s a brilliant deal.
Confused yet? We were, at first. The Pro 600 is another “entry level” model and a slightly lesser version of the Pro 650 (makes sense), with the same basic functions but doesn’t include the travel case. There’s a single cleaning mode with a timer, but none of the other bells and whistles; it just does a very good job brushing your teeth.
There is one interesting feature in the design of this model. It has the dual-clean action seen on some of the others, but with two brush heads: a top brush that rotates and oscillates, and a lower one that pulsates to break up plaque. We can’t tell if it’s more effective over the long term than single-brush models that rotate, oscillate and pulse, though. Again, no bells and whistles, just a great price for a great clean.
Similar to the Pro models in that it cleans well without a number of different speeds, it comes in at a lower price because the brush only rotates and oscillates, without the pulsing action to break up plaque that’s found on their higher-level models. Oral-B calls this “2D” instead of “3D.” We call it less expensive, too.
We wrap things up with another inexpensive model; this one varies from the White and Clean only because it’s 3D instead of 2D. But for some reason, it costs slightly less than the 2D model. Quite frankly, we couldn’t tell any difference – save the money and get this one instead of the White and Clean.
Any of these models will do a very satisfactory job cleaning your teeth, compared to a manual toothbrush – but not because they have some magic hocus-pocus in them. It’s because most people simply don’t use a manual brush properly, while an electric one does most of the hard work for you and prompts you to keep it in your mouth for the full two minutes.
The choice between these rechargeable models should be relatively easy to make now that you have seen a rundown of what you can expect from each model; the different price points are primarily based on the features built into each brush, such as quadrant alarms and selectable speeds to accommodate sensitive teeth or those that require extra deep cleaning care. (And if you’re one of those who simply must have everything connected to your phone, have fun with the Pro 6000.)
Even the best electric toothbrush won’t do a bit of good if you don’t use them; studies show that seven million people in the UK don’t brush properly – and since those numbers are only based on people’s survey answers (and saying “I brush my teeth once a week” would be pretty embarrassing for most), we’d guess the number is truly much higher. Find the best for your purposes, and then use it for two minutes, twice a day. You’ll thank us when your dentist tells you, “no cavities again!”
Oh, and don’t forget to throw a 3-pin power adapter in your shopping cart if you’ll need one.