How to buy the best electric toothbrush

Lynn Wright / 24 May 2016 ( 11 March 2019 )

If you’re thinking of swapping your manual toothbrush for an electric model, first read our guide on how to buy the best electric toothbrush for you.

If you want to improve your oral hygiene and keep your teeth sparkling clean and white, then an electric toothbrush is a must.

Used correctly, an electric toothbrush can remove plaque quicker and more effectively than manual brushing. Many electric toothbrushes come with extra features such as pressure sensors and timers that can help you achieve the best results.

Read our guide on what features to look out for when buying an electric toothbrush.

Types of electric toothbrushes

With so many different electric toothbrushes available – each working in a slightly different way – choosing the right electric toothbrush can be a challenge. In general, electric toothbrushes either rotate, vibrate or oscillate at different speeds.

Rotating heads are typically found on the cheapest models. Designed to clean one tooth at a time, these small circular heads have bristles that spin – either individually or together. Some models oscillate – rotate in one direction and then the other – and more expensive rotating-head toothbrushes throw in a pulsing motion too, which helps to remove even more plaque.

Vibrating heads These are generally more expensive than rotating toothbrushes and are typically labelled sonic or ultrasonic toothbrushes. Often similar in shape and size to manual toothbrush heads, these heads move side-to-side at super high speeds so the bristles sweep against your teeth removing plaque. The vibrations also force water and toothpaste around the gums and between the teeth to remove plaque in areas the brush itself can’t reach. Sonic or ultrasonic toothbrushes often hum in use and their super fast vibrations make for more effective cleaning in less time.

Electric toothbrush battery life

Electric toothbrushes typically use a rechargeable battery, although some cheaper models operate on standard AA batteries. Most rechargeable models come with a charging stand on to which you place your toothbrush when the battery is depleted. A few models have a cable so you can plug the toothbrush directly into a wall socket.

Battery life varies widely among electric toothbrushes. A premium electric toothbrush’s battery should last six weeks of twice-daily brushings between charges, while cheaper models typically need to be more frequent charging – sometimes lasting only two or three weeks.

Battery life may be less important if you use your toothbrush mainly at home with the charger close to hand. But if you travel frequently, or don’t want a charger cluttering up your bathroom then opt for a model with a long-lasting battery.

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Electric toothbrush features

Electric toothbrushes differ in the features they offer. Budget toothbrushes may offer little more than a single brush head and one cleaning programme. Pay more for a premium model and you can enjoy a host of features ranging from extra heads and cleaning programmes, to brush timers and pressure sensors. Top-of-the-range models even come with built-in Bluetooth technology that links to apps so you can get feedback on your brushing.

Electric toothbrushes come with a wide variety of models. Basic electric toothbrushes may have just one brush head and a single cleaning mode, while premium models offer a host of features and accessories that explain their high price. Knowing what features are worth paying extra for will help you choose the best electric toothbrush for you.

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What electric toothbrush features to look for

Brush modes Many electric toothbrushes offer a range of brushing modes so you can adjust cleaning to suit your needs. Typically these include a whitening or polish mode, daily clean, deep cleaning mode, massage and sensitive modes. A sensitive mode is useful for children and those with sensitive teeth. Some electric toothbrushes can switch between rotating, pulsing, vibrating and oscillating motions, again to suit the area of the mouth being cleaned.

Brushing timer Electric toothbrushes with timers are a great way to ensure you brush your teeth for the full two minutes as recommended by dentists. Some models are programmed to stop working after two minutes while others beep when it’s time to stop brushing.

Interval timer Some electric toothbrushes have interval timers that help ensure you brush all of your teeth within the recommended two minutes. An interval timer buzzes, or pulses every 30 seconds to signal that it’s time to move on to the next section of your mouth. This way, each area of your mouth is thoroughly cleaned.

Pressure sensor Brushing your teeth too vigorously can make gums sore and bleed. Over time, pressing too hard when brushing may even cause your gums to recede. Prevent this by choosing an electric toothbrush with a pressure sensor, which lets you know if you’re pressing too hard with a flashing light or a beeping/ buzzing sound.

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Replacement heads The brush heads on your electric toothbrush need to be replaced at around the same frequency as you replace a manual toothbrush – every three to six months. Replacement heads can be expensive, so before you buy an electric toothbrush, check the price and availability of new heads for it. Buying in multi-packs will help keep costs down.

Soft-grip handles Opt for an electric toothbrush with a soft grip handle as it will be more comfortable to hold and use.

Battery life This can vary widely across models. A premium electric toothbrush’s battery should last six weeks of twice-daily brushings between charges, while cheaper models typically need more frequent charging – sometimes lasting just two or three weeks.

Power charger A basic accessory for your electric toothbrush is a power cable or a charging station. Most rechargeable models come with a charging stand on to which you place your toothbrush when the battery is flat, although some cheaper models operate on standard AA batteries that can be easily replaced. A few models have a cable so you can plug the toothbrush directly into a bathroom wall socket.

Travel case A travel case is a handy and hygienic feature if you plan to take your electric toothbrush and its charger away with you on holiday or when you travel. 

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.