Best electric toothbrush 2020: electric brushes for whitening, clean teeth and healthy gums

The best electric toothbrush is undoubtedly more effective than a manual but which IS the best?

Best electric toothbrush

Are you still using a manual toothbrush? You really should reconsider. The best electric toothbrushes are way more effective when it comes to reducing plaque, freshening breath and they're better for whitening by a considerable margin.

Electric toothbrushes are an essential not a luxury, in my opinion. Like moving from doing the washing up to owning a dishwasher, once you switch, you never want to go back. 

I'm not amazingly judicious about cleaning my teeth, I hardly ever go to the dentist, nor is my diet exemplary, yet I've had no cavities or other dental issues since starting to use electric brushes 10 years ago. That must prove something, right?

The best electric toothbrushes to consider are coming right up but those seeking some background may want to leap to our 'what you need to know' e-brush guide.

What is the best electric toothbrush?

Assuming you want a really good clean and are willing to pay a little more for it, what brush should you choose?

Philips long-standing Sonicare electric toothbrush range-topper, Sonicare DiamondClean is outrageously good. The RRP was originally buttock-clenchingly expensive, but it's generally now to be found around £130. 

If you prefer a rotary action, Oral B's Genius 9000 is fantastic, although again I really didn't think much of the app-enabled 'smart' brushing that gives it its 'Genius' monicker. 'Genius' shoppers might want to consider the 8000, a brush that is all but identical to the 9000 (there's one less brushing mode) but usually a handy bit cheaper.

A cheaper, more recent Sonicare brush that's well worth considering is Philips Sonicare 6100 ProtectiveClean. Arguably it's the best electric toothbrush at the moment on a scientific scale of cost-to-effectiveness, but I prefer the older DiamondClean's longer battery life and better build quality. After bargain brushes? Keep an eye on our Amazon Prime Day hub too.

The best electric toothbrushes to buy, in order

Best electric toothbrush: Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Sonic

1. Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Sonic

Best electric toothbrush

Reasons to buy
+Excellent cleaning+Quite sexy for a toothbrush
Reasons to avoid
-Cumbersome glass charger

This slightly older, still excellent Sonicare sheds any of those largely pointless 'smart' elements found in newer brushes and cleans (literally) brilliantly. Having now been using the same one for nearly three years, I can also vouch for its longevity.

This was always an excellent electric toothbrush, which justified its premium price thanks to the quality of its cleaning and the elegance of its design. Nowadays it's nearly always to be found for around £100-£150 – still not cheap as such but far more affordable than when at launch.

This particular model sometimes comes with a wireless charger in the shape of a drinking glass, for your bathroom. I personally prefer the more traditional stand chargers, but the glass is quite attractive. There's also the option of a USB travel case for on-the-move storage and charging.

With five cleaning modes and the power of sonic waves, it feels great and gives really superb results. The DiamondClean also has a better battery life than any other brush I've tried and seems to continue to hold charge well after years of use.

This DiamondClean is perhaps not quite as good overall as the more recent, more expensive DiamondClean Smart, but it doesn't muddy the waters with a pointless app, and its lower price makes it a better bet for all but the truly minted. 

Read the full review: Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Sonic

Best electric toothbrush: Oral-B Genius 9000

2. Oral-B Genius 9000

Best Oral-B rotary electric toothbrush

Reasons to buy
+Excellent cleaning+Comes with four brush heads
Reasons to avoid
-The 'smart' app is all but useless

Due to the eccentric way toothbrushes are discounted, this can now frequently be had for the same price or lower than Oral B's last flagship brush the 7000 Series (down at #5). No, we don't understand it either.

This offers cleaning performance comparable to the Sonicare ProtectiveClean and DiamondClean brushes, but with a rotary motion rather than the Philips' sonic buzzing. We prefer the mouth feel of the Philips, and find the Oral B is more prone to getting clagged up with a delightful mixture of saliva and toothpaste than its rival, but the choice is yours.

The USP of this at launch was that it uses an advanced smartphone app that actually watches you brush via the phone's camera, and tells you when you've cleaned each quarter of your mouth, and where you're going wrong – pressing too hard and such.

This is a complete waste of time in my opinion – you have to stick your phone to the bathroom mirror, then stand still in exactly the right spot… and still it frequently thinks you're brushing the top row of teeth when you're actually on the bottom, which ultimately makes you severely question its 'smartness'.

However, with a generous four brush heads included, all for different types of cleaning and whitening, multiple cleaning modes including a tongue cleaner and generally excellent performance, you can safely ignore the 'smart' stuff and still have a superb, if you will, 'oral experience'.

Battery life is noticeably poorer than the premium Philips brushes though, so keep that charger to hand…

• Also worth considering. The Oral-B Genius 8000 has almost all the cool functions of the 9000 for, in theory at least, less money. Because of the way brushes are endlessly being discounted, it may actually be more expensive, so pick your moment carefully.

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Best electric toothbrush: Philips Sonicare 6100 ProtectiveClean

3. Philips Sonicare 6100 ProtectiveClean

Best cheaper electric toothbrush you can get, pound for pound

Reasons to buy
+Excellent cleaning+Quite sexy for a toothbrush
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive 'smart' heads are recommended 

By all accounts, Oral-B's rotary brushes outsell Philips' vibrating, 'sonic' ones quite comfortably, but I prefer the Sonicare range as the brushes tend to feel better in the hand, and look better. There's also something about the design that means they need less cleaning – Oral-B brushes always seem to rapidly form a layer of dried toothpaste around the base of the brush head that is decidedly uncool.

Cleaning performance is excellent on both systems, however. I have no quibble with Oral-B on that front.

This Philips brush offers the current best blend of features and price in the Sonicare range. It doesn't pile on too many pointless cleaning modes – just the self explanatory 'clean' and 'white' plus a 'gum care' mode that might be useful if you have problems in that area (I never use it, admittedly).

There's also a choice of three intensity settings, a timer that buzzes after you have spent long enough on each quarter of your mouth.

Like all these brushes this one will reduce intensity if it senses you are pressing too hard – this can damage gums and even, supposedly, your teeth. 

A new feature is BrushSync. This has one slightly dubious function: it modifies the intensity and mode used according to the type of 'smart' brush head attached (Philips makes a number of options). This supposedly optimises brushing. 

Now, I'm sure this is very clever but it's hard to say whether it improves cleaning at all. You can use this brush with older, non-'smart' Sonicare brush heads, if you wish.

More handily, BrushSync also lets you know when to replace the head. Although given how pricey the heads can be, perhaps you'd rather not know.

For everything from cleaning performance to style to mouth-feel, this is a great electric toothbrush, and finally knowing when you should change your head – as opposed to just leaving it on until it's gone green and moulted – is the icing on the cake. Even if it does mean you end up spending more on heads, your mouth will thank you for it.

• Also worth considering: Philips' next model down, Sonicare 5100 ProtectiveClean lacks only the BrushSync 'optimisation', which I'm a bit dubious about anyway, and has only one intensity setting. It's otherwise identical to the 6100, so if you can live without those two features and the price is right…

4. Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart Sonic

Sonicare range topper offers premium brushing at a premium price

Reasons to buy
+Great cleaning+Sexy styling+Easy power control
Reasons to avoid
-Iffy 'smart' features

This is possibly the very best brush you can buy,  but it does tend to be pricey as hell as a result. Part of the reason for that, I assume, is the inclusion, as with the Genius 9000 and 8000 above, of a smartphone app and 'smart' features that supposedly analyse your brushing. Again, I just don't feel like this is accurate enough to be worth bothering with – it often doesn't register you're doing any brushing at all, when you are, and can also fail to correctly detect which part of your mouth you're currently cleaning. 

That doesn't necessarily matter, as you can just ignore the app entirely and use the old-fashioned approach of just brushing your teeth. As with all these, it buzzes if you're pressing too hard, and lets you know when to move on to the next 'quadrant' of your mouth. Actually, arguably the greatest innovation here is that the timer on this Sonicare divides your mouth into six 'zones' rather than four. That is a big improvement if your attention span is as short as mine.

The Smart Sonic has 3 power/speed levels and five cleaning settings and does a really fantastic job of plaque removal, day-to-day cleaning, and whitening. You can even get a model of this that comes with an ultra-violet chamber to sterilise your brush heads.

5. Oral-B Pro 7000 Black SmartSeries

Older Oral-B flagship, now going cheap (er)

Reasons to buy
+Great cleaning+Handy timer and visual guide
Reasons to avoid
-App could be more useful-Gets mucky too easily

Another very fine electric toothbrush that's worth its high price - although obviously, NEVER pay RRP for it when you can usually get it for less than half that. The Oral-B Pro 7000 Black SmartSeries is not a sexy bit of design, but your mouth will still thank you for buying it.

The little timer that comes with the 7000 is, ironically, more useful than the high-tech phone app that the 9000 (above) employs. Not only does it tell you when you've done each quadrant of your mouth, it also smiles and winks at you when you brush for the full two minutes that dentists recommend.

Bluetooth means you can use a more primitive version of the Oral B app as well, letting you track your brushing history. I have literally no idea why you'd want to look back and see how long you cleaned your teeth for on any given day, but hey, it's a free country.

Read the full review: Oral-B Pro 7000 Black SmartSeries

6. Oral B Pro 6500 SmartSeries

Very slightly downscaled version of Oral B Pro 7000

Reasons to buy
+Same excellent cleaning as the Pro 7000
Reasons to avoid
-No pressure sensor, though

This shares most of the attributes of the excellent Pro 7000, above. As such it gives an excellent clean for several years, comes with 4 brush heads – which is very reasonable indeed given the cost of replacement ones – and has a number of modes which you may or may not find useful. 

I just use the 'clean' and occasionally the handy 'tongue clean' mode, to be honest. I've not detected much whitening effect from the 'whitening' mode, though some users may find the 'sensitive' one handy.

As with the 7000, you get a little screen with a timer, a four-part schematic of your mouth and a cartoon face, which becomes increasingly smiley, the longer you brush. You can also see your 'brushing stats' via a smartphone app and Bluetooth, although I do feel like something's probably gone wrong with your life if you want to spend time doing that.

All this seems to lack from the 7000 is the 'deep clean' mode – which is not a problem. And, despite what the promo photograph above suggests, no, you do not get two toothbrushes for your money here.

My only issue is that, like all rotary toothbrushes, this one does tend to get a bit mucky over time. A mixture of saliva and toothpaste runs down the side of the brush head and forms what I can only 'clag'.

7. Emmi Dental

Admittedly hideous German electric toothbrush cleans up a treat

Reasons to buy
+Good cleaning performance+Interesting interdental head
Reasons to avoid
-Requires 'special' toothpaste-Ugly and cheap looking

A curious product that looks cheap and awful, but makes some big claims about its tooth and gum cleaning prowess. We can't necessarily verify those claims, but it does seem to work well. Its looks and fact that it claims to require special toothpaste do count against it a tad, however.

Presumably, you can use any toothpaste with the Emmi Dental really, but they insist in their literature that you must use Emmi Dental own-brand paste, so that is worth bearing in mind. 

Read the full review: Emmi Dental

Electric toothbrushes: what you need to know

Rule one of electric toothbrush buying club: never pay full price for an electric toothbrush. With discounting rampant in the powered oral hygiene market, our general advice is always to shop around, or wait for the brush you want to inevitably plunge to half its RRP or less.

The best advice here is look at our price widgets and see what's cheapest on any given day. Oral-B in particular has models called Smart Series 4000 to Smart Series 7000 that are all incredibly similar - they just come with different accessories, and the cheapest ones lack certain modes like 'Deep Clean' and 'Tongue Clean', but then, do you really need your tongue cleaned, or a mode that's blatantly aimed at people who only brush once every few days, ie: skanks? Maybe not.

I tested brushes from Philips and Oral-B – the two top brands by miles – then added a few token selections from other brands just for politeness. These are all top or near-top of the range model in most cases. As a result, most of them aren't cheap, but then I refer you back to RULE ONE at the top of this guide.

Testing was done via general use over a period of weeks and months. I ate food, drank coffee, even had the occasional social cigarette. I didn't deliberately subject my teeth to anything unusual, I just, you know, lived normally and brushed my teeth once or twice per day.

I also did some testing with disclosing tablets to try to get a slightly more scientific view of how well each brush cleaned.

In that particular test, I found Philips' brushes and Oral-B's Genius 9000 SmartSeries performed best, with the Emmi Dental giving very similar results and the Panasonic and Colgate ones (perhaps not coincidentally the cheapest brushes) being the worst. That's not to say either of them was bad, however. They're decent value for money.

With electric brushes, you don't scrub at your teeth and gums. In fact that can be bad news, dentally speaking. All you need to do is press the brush lightly to your gob, hold it in place and manipulate gently, then move on to your next tooth.

Most of these brushes signal after every 30 seconds of brushing; the idea being that you spend 30 seconds on each quarter of your mouth, giving a dentist-recommended two minutes in total.

Although replacement brush heads may seem overpriced, in fact, they do last a long time. A pack of four should last most people for nine months or so, and you could probably eke it out to a year, if you're a skank.

What's arguably more an issue is the availability of said brush heads and Philips and Oral-B win out here as well. We've only ever seen Panasonic and Emmi Dental heads online, and please note that the latter brand also requires you to buy a specific brand of premium-priced toothpaste for it to work properly. Which seems a bit cheeky, to be honest.

We found things to like about all of these eight electric toothbrushes and depending on your requirements. There can only be one winner though, and by a the breadth of dental floss, it's Philips' slightly older range topper.

The newer 'smart' brushes from Philips and Oral B claim to track your brushing, using sensors or the camera on your phone, but I found they didn't deliver on this promise. However, if you ignore the tracking and smart functions entirely they are still hugely effective at cleaning teeth. 

The very kid-friendly Oral-B Pro 7000 is best if you have children (although not toddlers; keep them on a manual brush).

• Jump back to the electric toothbrush top 8