Electric toothbrushes intro
Here is the first rule of buying an electric toothbrush (at least in the UK, though we suspect it holds true overseas as well): NEVER pay full price for one. All the premium-priced, tooth-cleaning dream machines on the following pages are regularly discounted by as much as 50%, both online and on the high street. If you pay full price for one, you need your head examined. But probably not your teeth.
Got that? Good, now on with the intro.
Cleaning teeth each day was once a chore, but along came the electric toothbrush and the game changed forever. As with all the best power tools, the hard work is done for you, saving strain on your wrist and plaque on your teeth.
The electric toothbrush is perfect if you’re worried that your current brushing technique with a conventional manual brush might not be completely up to scratch. Going electric can be a serious investment, but it is superior in absolutely every way, in our view.
Getting the best electric toothbrush can be a little daunting – in fact most people probably find it easier choosing the right smartphone to buy these days. Some electric toothbrushes pulsate, while others rotate and the top of the range variety even use ultrasonic frequencies to help get the job done, whilst tracking your efforts via Bluetooth (no pun intended) and an app.
Dentists recommend you brush for two minutes, twice per day. Most people manage about a quarter of that. These electric brushes can help you hit your brushing goals, leaving you with whiter teeth, healthier gums and better breath - what's not to like?
Oral-B Pro 6000 SmartSeries
On paper, a Bluetooth-connected toothbrush does seem a little over the top but perhaps not too ridiculous given the surfeit of other personal healthcare apps and wearables on the market. Nevertheless, having used this elite model for the past few weeks, we can see some value in having a toothbrush that monitors one’s daily dental chores. After all, most of us just do a quick one-minute whizz round the gnashers which, as any dentist will tell you, isn’t enough to remove hidden plaque and other tooth-decaying nasties.
The tall-standing Pro 6000 comes packaged with three different rotary heads and a small LCD monitor that sticks to the wall above the bathroom sink. As soon as you press the button, the brush unit syncs to the wall monitor and sets off a visible two-minute timer that counts down the cleaning process.
Tooth brushing, we’re told, should be like a disciplined military exercise with equal time spent on each area of the mouth. Hence the brush itself vibrates every 30 seconds to let the user know it’s time to move to the next area before a final buzz signals the end of the two-minute process. Being pressure sensitive, it also flashes a red light if pressing it too over zealously. Punctilious tooth carers can also use the accompanying iOS and Android app which not only keeps statistics of their day-to-day regime, but also issues reminders, a whole bunch of oral care tips and silliest of all, a list of personal achievements. Frankly, we can’t see the point of yet another pesky – and in this instance complicated – app telling us how to live our lives. ‘Sorry to break from the meeting chaps but I’ve been sedentary for more than 15 minutes and my apps tell me I need to do a run, eat some fresh fruit and brush my teeth. Back in a mo’.
So, taking the Bluetooth element out of the equation, how well does this tooth brush actually perform? Amazingly well, it must be said. Oral B’s always adopted the revolving circular brush method and we like this a lot because it involves very little wrist movement which can be quite exhausting first thing in the morning. With this system you simply hold the brush head against all areas of the teeth and gums and let the brush head do all the work. Result? A row of gleaming choppers like luxury hotels on the Florida coastline.
Philips has clearly spent as much time on the exterior design of its flagship model as it has on the technology within. Available in manly black, white and a gorgeously lush pink satin finish, the multi-mode DiamondClean is no slouch in the pantheon of tooth care products. Granted, it does seem extraordinarily expensive for a toothbrush, but it really does seem to live up to the trumpet-blowing hyperbole on the Philips website. After several weeks’ use, this long-in-the-tooth tester noticed a marked improvement in cleanliness, whiteness and, above all, gum health.
As the moniker suggests, the Sonicare system incorporates not only mechanical scrubbing but also a secondary ‘sonic’ (or sound) action that vibrates the brush tip at up to 31,000 brush-strokes per minute. This in turn encourages ‘fluid dynamics’ whereby the high-speed vibrations agitate the natural fluids around the teeth obliterating otherwise hard-to-remove plaque. Like most modern electric toothbrushes, it vibrates every 30 seconds until the user reaches the magic two-minute mark.
Originally pitched at the more well-heeled end of the market, the DiamondClean comes with a very stylish hard travel case and a snazzy inductive charging system that incorporates a mouth-rinsing glass and a chromium charging base. Simply place the brush unit in the glass and rest it on the charging plinth: a 24-hour charge provides around 14 days’ use. This is actually more of a pain in the arse than just plugging it in, but it looks nice.
More usefully, the travel case doubles as a charger with a USB connection - good thinking.
Despite the high price and the fact it only comes with one brush head, the Sonicare DiamondClean ticks all the right boxes. It cleans and removes plaque exceptionally well, is particularly good for those with sensitive teeth, holds a long charge and it looks bloomin’ fantastic, especially in pink. This was a good buy to begin with, but now it's more than halved in price, it's a no brainer.
Panasonic EW–DE92 Ionic
If you travel a lot then this four-mode oscillating model is a fine choice. It’s about half the size and weight of others on test and its battery lasts about 90 minutes which equates to about three weeks of brushing. It’s a weird thing to use, mind, but bizarrely it’s also incredibly efficient at both cleaning and leaving teeth feeling as if you’d hired the services of the world’s best French polisher. Unlike most other models, the DE92 employs oscillation and ionic technology to do the job.
Rather like the latest range of oscillating power tools, the brush head vibrates horizontally at 31,000 strokes per minute and the strokes are so minute that it actually tickles. Really tickles. It also hums a like a Theremin when in use.
Meanwhile, your hand on the handle completes a circuit that delivers a minute electrical charge to the brush head that supposedly ionises the teeth and gums, removing both stains and plaque with higher efficiency. Or so we’re led to believe. All we know is that it produced the cleanest feeling set of teeth on test, but not without some judicious wrist effort, which partly defeats the object of having an electric toothbrush in the first place. Top buy nonetheless.
Colgate ProClinical A1500
Colgate came to market with a high-end electric toothbrush some time after Oral B and Philips. As if to make up for lost time, the A1500 comes with a lot of cool features. Its sonic cleaning action delivers an impressive 32,500 strokes per minute which is roughly 31,999 more strokes than you’ll achieve using your wrist. That means less plaque and a better chance of keeping your teeth in the latter years.
Uniquely, the A1500 also features built-in sensors that detect where the brush is being held in the mouth and adjust both the speed and cleaning action of the brush head accordingly. Hence, in ‘auto’ setting, when you hold it horizontally the motor usually slows down to achieve a more gentle clean. But hold it vertically and it whizzes up to blistering speed, obliterating bacteria, plaque and anything else in its path. However, this speed change can be a bit disconcerting if you have sensitive teeth so we advise selecting ‘optimum and making your own adjustments.
The A1500 is a noisy thing, but we’re impressed by how well it cleans, even between the narrowest of gaps. Expect about a week of cleaning from a single charge. Again, prices have fallen since launch.
Philips Sonicare HX9172/10 FlexCare
This variant on the DiamondClean comes with a UV sanitiser that removes up to 99% of the bacteria that builds up on your brush. That's of highly debatable usefulness for anyone who isn't utterly paranoid about hygiene, but the brush itself is excellent. There are three cleaning modes and three intensity settings, a three week battery life and a dynamic cleaning action that not only works on the teeth, but on the gums and tongue too.
£102 | Philips
Oral-B Triumph 5000
This further Oral B effort doesn't have a Bluetooth app, but does come with a wireless digital "Smart Guide" that shows a friendly face and gives you a handy 30-second countdown timer for each of the four "zones" of your mouth (top right, top left, bottom right, bottom left). That way, you know when you’ve done your full two minutes, at which point, the Smart Guide's face starts smiling and winking at you. The saucy thing. The brush itself is again excellent, boasting 3D tech, meaning it’ll pulse, rotate and oscillate, while five modes let you customise your clean.
£77.50 | Oral-B
Not strictly an electric toothbrush, but this app-connected manual design will map your brushing patterns and provide handy timers, with music if you want, to make sure you complete a full two minute clean morning and night. Multiple brushes can be synced to the same app so the whole family can compete for dental dominance and it will even tell you when it’s time to replace the brush head and send replacements automatically.
Rio Dental Polisher
While not technically a toothbrush (neither are flossing aids, mind), the chance to get your teeth as white as a sheet without having to cough up to a Hygienist is certainly worth investigating. This handy gadget from Rio allows you to perform a quick home tooth polish – the benefit being not just that they look better, but that they also come out the other side with less plaque on them than when you started.
Philips AirFloss Interdental
An electric toothbrush is an excellent starting point in the quest for perfect teeth, but if you’re a bit of a dental gadget freak, a DIY flossing kit will compliment your current cleaning repertoire quite nicely. Philips' take on flossing using tech is its Airfloss Interdental, which uses a mixture of pressurised air and micro-droplets of water to blast away all the muck hiding in between your teeth. Just point and squirt and in 30 seconds your teeth will be cleaner.
Emmi-dent 6 Ultrasonic Toothbrush
The Emmi-dent 6 Ultrasonic is an electric toothbrush unlike any other - rather than use conventional types of brush action, the Emmi-dent harnesses the power of ultrasonic which means it's able to produce ultrasound while you brush. The air oscillations created are able to work beyond the limit of bristles, meaning you get a much superior clean, with flossing and stain removal included as part of the package. You can also get the Emmi-dent 6 in a version specifically for those with braces, with a brush head tailored to suit.
Waterpik Complete Care WP-900
While this dental care kit might resemble the sort of thing you'd see when you walk into your local practice, the Waterpik Complete Care WP-900 promises to deliver the total teeth-cleaning experience. For the price of a posh electric toothbrush, you get a Sensonic SR-3000 power brush with two speeds, three types of brush head and a 30 second interval pacer; as well as a waterflosser, which helps keep those annoying gaps in your teeth free of daily debris.
£110 | Waterpik |