When you brush with an electric toothbrush, you do so much more for your oral health than you can with a manual toothbrush. They clean better between teeth, get rid of significantly more plaque, and help you take better care of your gums. All at the push of a button.
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Some people might be drawn to electric toothbrushes for aesthetic reasons – we Brits are generally mocked for our teeth (think Mike Myers in ‘Austin Powers’). Americans have long embraced the glaringly white, even smile, and it’s catching on over here. In the age of Instagram and selfies, more people than ever want to improve their teeth, and sales of electric toothbrushes are at an all time high.
And despite what our dentist tells us, a staggering number of us still brush our teeth for less than two minutes. This can, over time, lead to unnecessary, invasive and painful (not to mention expensive) treatment. Thankfully the latest electric toothbrushes are now clever enough that they can bully us into brushing better and for longer.
How do we test our electric toothbrushes
Our tester Chris Haslam has decades of experience of writing about and testing tech. He has been hands on with dozens of toothbrushes, whittling them down to the best. Chris was looking for a toothbrush that cleaned exceptionally, with good battery life. Simple operation was essential – buttons needed to be easy to locate and press, and modes and speeds easy to understand and change. The relative weight of the brush was important, as was the softness or hardness of the bristles. Extras, such as travel cases, or multiple ways of changing, got our brushes extra brownie points.
What is the best electric toothbrush in 2019?
Our overall best electric toothbrush was the Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart, which we rate for its unrivalled all-round cleaning ability and clever extras.
Why do I need an electric toothbrush?
Image credit: Tim Young
It’s no exaggeration to say that regular teeth cleaning could help you live longer. Good oral hygiene can improve our general health far beyond a pretty smile. Recent research found that gum disease can speed up mental decline – such as the progression of Alzheimer’s – by as much as six times.
Aside from the health benefits, and better smelling breath, using an electric toothbrush can improve your brushing technique. They can alert you if you press too hard – something that can wear gums away over time. Thanks to built-in timers they can help you to brush for two minutes, which is something must people fail to do when pushed for time.
Top-end electric toothbrushes can also help with that Instagram smile, thanks to whitening modes, as well as sensitive and gum care. Some even have tongue cleaning modes, but even the most basic electric design can improve the quality of your brushing and the cleanliness of your teeth.
Best electric toothbrushes
1. Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart – best for all-round cleaning
There’s no getting away from the fact that this electric toothbrush is exceptionally expensive. However, after just a week of using it our teeth, felt super clean. Thanks to the smart app features, we understood more about oral hygiene. There are five modes and three intensity settings; clean, for everyday cleaning; white, to remove surface stains; deep clean and gum health, and the idea being you treat your teeth to some extra attention once in a while.
As for the app, once you download and sync the toothbrush to your smartphone it will track your brushing. With the help of a mouth map you’ll see where you need to brush more, and you’ll be alerted if you’re pressing too hard. Once you’ve finished the set two minute clean it will show you where to clean more thoroughly. It is very clever stuff, but all a bit unnecessary. After a few days we started to skip using the app and just let the toothbrush tell us (by vibrating) where to brush.
The electric toothbrush base even lights up if you press too hard. This toothbrush comes with a neat glass stand that plugs into a shaver socket, and a more practical travel case that also doubles as a charger. You also get various brush heads for the different modes and a dedicated tongue-cleaner.
If your budget will stretch, we recommend combining this – or one of the others in the Sonicare range – with a water/air flossing machine. It’s the closest thing to having your very own hygienist at home(without the disapproving looks and funny pink water).
Ideal Home’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
2. Colgate ProClinical 250+ – best value electric toothbrush
Available in three colours (black, white and pink), this dinky electric toothbrush from Colgate doesn’t look especially hi-tech, but for just £50 it boasts two distinct sonic cleaning motions: up-down and side-to-side. It did a very good job of cleaning our teeth and gums. Not much bigger than a standard manual toothbrush, it’s great for travel and won’t clutter up the bathroom. After a few days we noticed our teeth felt significantly smoother than they did with an older rotating-head toothbrush.
Although it lacks the plethora of smart features found elsewhere, there is a two-minute timer with auto-off when you’ve brushed for long enough. It will vibrate after 30 seconds to tell you to move to another part of the mouth. It’s faff-free. The bristles are quite soft but, trust us, that doesn’t mean they’re not doing a good job. A choice of power settings would have been useful and we would have appreciated a spare brush head. But in reality, this electric toothbrush is all about simplicity and is much better than average at cleaning.
Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
3. Oral B Genius 9000 – best for features
This top-of-the-range electric toothbrush is packed with six independent cleaning modes – Pro Clean, Daily Clean, Sensitive, Tongue Cleaning, Whitening and Gum Care. It also has timers to make sure you brush for long enough and pressure sensors to prevent you pushing too hard. A smartphone app and unique Position Detection mode uses your phone’s camera to map your mouth as you clean to be sure every angle is cleaned properly.
Oral-B claims that its Deep Clean Mode removes ‘up to 99.7 per cent of hard-to-reach’ plaque and it uses an oscillating rather than sonic cleaning action. This design cleans individual teeth and feels more vigorous than the sonic designs. Our teeth felt exceptionally clean after using. On the electric toothbrush handle there’s a 360° SmartRing that illuminates when you brush too hard.
The electric toothbrush smartphone app (Android, iOS) connects via Bluetooth and will record your every brush stroke and provide feedback on how long and how thoroughly you clean. The brush itself has memory for 20 brushes so if you don’t have your smartphone close, you won’t lose your brushing data. It comes with a smartphone mount that sticks to your bathroom mirror. This isn’t for watching Netflix while you floss! Instead, it uses the phone camera to watch you brush and analyses your technique. At the end you get a score out of 100 on how you’ve performed.
It’s a neat trick and when it works, it offers useful insight. However, not only is it tedious standing still in front of the mirror, but we found the app struggled to track us even when stationary. The cheaper SmartSeries app-controlled Oral B electric toothbrushes without the extra technology may prove better value for money (see number 7 in our round-up).
Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Buy now: Oral B Genius 9000, £99.99, Amazon
4. Colgate Minions Kids Interactive Battery Brush– best electric toothbrush for kids
Suitable for young children (aged 3+) this super little electric toothbrush managed to transform tooth brushing time in my house from a daily battle to a fun activity. The extra-soft bristles with two-part oscillating head design get into any nooks easily. The vibrations, while strong enough to get rid of plaque, don’t have the fierce motorised power of adult electric toothbrushes.
But the real story here is the fact that once you turn it on a Minion will talk your child through a two-minute brushing programme. The brush will tell them to move to specific parts of the mouth (top left, button right, front etc.). This makes the obligatory two-minute clean fly by.
One of the best things about this brush is the positive reinforcement offered by the built-in brushing ‘coach’. It’s also good that if the user presses too hard there’s a vibration to warn them to be gentler. But it’s not all good news – while the batteries can be replaced, the brush head is fixed, so when the bristles wear out the whole unit has to go in the bin.
Ideal Home’s rating: 3 out of 5 stars
5. Foreo ISSA 2 electric toothbrush – best travel electric toothbrush
The Foreo ISSA 2 electric toothbrush has a slinky modern design (available in blue, black, lavender and mint) that’s more sculptural than pharmaceutical. But all the smooth silicone means it is extremely hygienic. It only has one cleaning mode but comes with an impressive 16 power levels and two brush heads. One is completely made of silicone and one combines silicone with traditional super-soft bristles for a very gentle clean.
Using a silicone brush head feels extremely odd to start with, but despite it feeling weird, the supersonic 11,000 brush strokes per min does get your teeth clean. We thought the all-silicone electric toothbrush performed well. While not sure we would swap a traditional electric brush head for it, some people will clearly love the look and the result.
The Foreo electric toothbrush can be charged using USB and it will warn you when the battery is running low instead of just running out of steam mid-brush. A two-minute timer with 30-second buzzes to remind you to move to a different part of your mouth. Best of all, the battery can last a year and there’s a lock so you don’t have to worry about it buzzing away in your suitcase.
Ideal Home’s rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Buy now: Foreo ISSA 2, £149, Amazon
6. Philips Sonicare AirFloss Pro dental flosser – best for healthy gums
So much easier to use than regular dental floss, this automatic teeth flosser uses micro-droplet technology, which combines bursts of air and water to powerfully remove plaque. Philips claim that when used alongside an electric toothbrush, it removes up to 99.9% of plaque, and when used regularly you’ll have healthier gums in two weeks.
This dental flosser gives a quick blast of air and water (it comes with a bottle of mouthwash) between your teeth, helping to blast the bad stuff away. It’s super simple to use and you can either press the button as you need to or hold it down for regular automatic bursts. It’s a weird sensation, but you’ll soon get used to it and you can really feel the difference in just a minute.
Flossing your teeth can be an absolute pain, but this is fast and effective with none of the discomfort or faffing. Battery life lasts around two weeks of daily use and it can easily be charged on the stand provided. There’s even the option to personalise the cleaning if you want a single, double or triple burst of clean. This electric dental flosser is expensive – especially if you’re also buying an electric toothbrush – but the combination will make a huge difference to your dental health.
Ideal Home’s rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
7. Oral B Pro Expert Pulsar 35 Soft Toothbrush – best budget electric toothbrush
We were reticent about including this disposable electric toothbrush because the concept seems unnecessarily wasteful. However, unlike some, the battery can be removed and recycled and some of the plastic parts can also be recycled.
While nowhere near as effective as a proper electric, compared to a bog-standard manual brush you can really feel the difference. For the price, it makes a great travel brush, or a first step towards a full electric. The bristles were quite soft, and without the pulsar motion switched on it didn’t clean anywhere near as well. But thankfully the battery lasted longer than three months, which is the recommended time to replace your manual brush.
Ideal Home’s rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
What are the main features of an electric toothbrush?
1. Cleaning modes
Look for brushes with a couple of specialist modes, such as whitening or gum care. They often use a different brush head and help you to target specific problems. At the very least your brush should come with a couple of power settings which makes it ideal if you’re sharing with family members.
2. Replacement heads
Most brands now offer different style heads for various cleaning modes, including those for sensitive gums and whitening. Remember, you need to replace the brush head ever three months.
Many electric toothbrushes come with built-in timers that stop once you’ve hit the magic two-minute mark or vibrate after 30 seconds to remind you to move to a different part of your mouth.
3. Travel case
Going away shouldn’t mean your teeth suffer, so look for cases that keep your brush and spare head safe. Some also have built-in charging for added convenience.
The majority of models available in the UK come with a 2-pin shaving socket plug for charging. If you don’t have one, you’ll need to get a simple plug adapter. Newer models now come with USB charging for added convenience.
5. Connected cleaning
Some electric toothbrushes come with a free smartphone app that gathers data on how you brush and helps you improve your oral hygiene. It’s helpful to see how you brush your teeth, and where you need to improve. Plus, the apps can remind you to buy new brush heads.
How much should I spend on an electric toothbrush?
We’ve tested models from £7 to well over £300, but you can buy a great quality electric toothbrush for between £30-£80. Look out for promotions on big-brand toothbrushes.
The top-of-the-range electric toothbrushes come with many features, but in our tests, many of the headline grabbing extras – smartphone apps for instance – were ignored after the novelty wore off. Travel cases and good charging bases are the most practical extras.
Oscillating or sonic electric toothbrushes – which is best?
Image credit: David Giles
- Oscillating-rotating brushes have a small, circular brush head that targets individual teeth, while the brush head of sonic (or super-sonic) toothbrush is similar to that of a manual toothbrush.
- Oscillating electric toothbrushes tend to have rotation at between 2,500 and 7,500 brushes per minute in comparison to only 300 manually. Sonic brushes offer an estimated 30,000 brushes per minute.
- There have been various clinical trials done to answer this question. Tests in 2009 and 2010 ranked them equally good at removing plaque.
- The good news is that all leading toothbrush manufacturers offer a money-back guarantee (typically a month) so you can try both and decide which you prefer.