Best electric toothbrush 2021: for whitening, clean teeth and healthy gums

Find the best electric toothbrush for whitening, clean teeth and healthy gums

Best electric toothbrush: for whitening, clean teeth and healthy gums
(Image credit: Philips)

The best electric toothbrush is more effective when it comes to reducing plaque, freshening breath and keeping gums healthy. For those with more serious matters in mind, they're WAY better for whitening than manual brushing. Owning the best electric toothbrush you can buy is an essential not a luxury, in our 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' electric toothbrush guide.

Of course, if you want to fully upgrade your grooming routine, you'll also want to check out our buying guide to the best electric shaver and best beard trimmer to keep your facial hair in order.

For the hair on top of your head, we also have guides to the best hair dryer, to make sure your locks are dry, shiny and frizz-free, as well as the best hair straighteners, for enviable straight, sleek hair.

How to choose the best electric toothbrush

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 to 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).

The best electric toothbrush you can buy now:

Best electric toothbrush: Philips Sonicare Prestige 9900T3 Awards 2021 winner badge

(Image credit: Philips)

1. Philips Sonicare 9900 Prestige

The best premium electric toothbrush

Reasons to buy
+New 'all-in-one' brush head+Automatic intensity settings+Luxe travel case+Easy to keep clean+USB charging base
Reasons to avoid
-Premium price tag

The Sonicare 9900 Prestige is Philips' most advanced electric toothbrush yet. It features the brand's SenseIQ technology for a personalised brushing experience, and, as you brush, the SenseIQ technology senses pressure, motion, and coverage up to 100 times per second, adapting the intensity if you push too hard, providing effortless care and better brushing over time. It really simplifies the brushing experience and means you don't need to select different settings every time you want to brush your teeth.

The brush pairs perfectly with the Philips Sonicare app, powered by artificial intelligence for real-time guidance and recommendations. Perhaps best of all, this toothbrush is a truly premium device, with a gorgeous, seamless design, which stops the build-up of gunk, and a luxury leather travel case.

The Philips Sonicare 9900 Prestige also comes with a new premium all-in-one brush head. Philips claims it removes up to 20x more plaque and 100% fewer stains in just two days vs manual brushing, for a whiter, healthier, effortless smile.

Best electric toothbrush: Oral-B iO Series 9T3 Award

(Image credit: Oral-B)

2. Oral-B iO9

Ridiculously premium Oral-B brush with vibrating AND rotating head

Reasons to buy
+Cleans very well+Easily the best looking Oral-B brush+Multiple cleaning modes
Reasons to avoid
-Tooth tracking is still a fail-Insane RRP-Hard to keep clean

This was released with preposterous fanfare, with a (cancelled) launch event scheduled for Mobile World Congress. Months after that, journalists received their free samples via drone – although not me as apparently my part of London is just too urban and dangerous for such things.

The reason for this is that the RRP for the iO Series 9 is an entirely ridiculous £500. Needless to say, it is not worth that.

The good news is that discounting has now kicked in, and you can often get the iO9 for half that. £250 is still not exactly cheap, clearly, but it's a bargain compared to the original price. 

The Series 9 has one very major thing going for it: it is brilliant at actually cleaning your teeth, and it's also very stylish and well made for an Oral-B brush. They are usually the poor relation to Philips' best Sonicare brushes when it comes to slick styling, but this is a match for any Philips brush when it comes to slimline design, nice materials and quiet operation.

Using a magnetic motor gives the Oral-B an interesting new twist: it is still a rotary head, but it now has a vibrating mouth feel, more like a Philips brush. Cleaning results are excellent and there are some great sensitive, whitening and deep cleaning programmes for those who like to stray away from the Daily Clean setting.

There are, however a few problems with the iO that are hard to ignore in a product that is meant to cost £500. In order to justify that price, Oral-B has packed the brush with superfluous features. So there's a colour touchscreen on the handle. Who is going to use that for anything other than turning the brush on and off? You can't watch a tiny screen while brushing your teeth.

Then there's '3D TEETH TRACKING with A.I. to monitor brushing'. This has been tried by Oral-B and Philips before and it didn't work. And guess what? It still doesn't! Brush your upper left teeth and the Oral-B mobile app shows you beavering away on your lower right teeth. Result: you end up having no idea what parts of your mouth you have or have not cleaned 'correctly'.

Another long-term flaw in Oral-B brushes is also still present. Namely that the rotary action causes a mixture of toothpaste and saliva to collect in the brush head, then drip down the side when you stand it upright after brushing. This, I feel, reduces the stylish and premium feel of the dental cleaning experience.

Finally, the iO9 uses a new type of brush head. So if you are an existing Oral-B customer with some leftover brushes, that is tough luck. With an RRP of £500, you'd expect to get a good quantity of additional brush heads in the box though, right? Wrong. You get one.

On the upside, battery life is very good – although some people on Amazon seem to have units with faulty batteries, judging by the complaints – and I like the small, chic and magnetic charging dock supplied. 

As ever with these more premium electric toothbrushes, wild price fluctuations make it hard to recommend one over another, but at the moment, even at £250, I'd put the Oral-B iO Series 9 quite a long way down the list. In fact, I quite literally have put the Oral-B iO Series 9 quite a long way down the list, as this is #7 on the chart.

Also worth considering: The iO9 is not alone on the shelves. The iO Series 8 is the same brush but without the (non-functional) 3D teeth tracking thing. The iO Series 7 is the same brush but with no 3D teeth tracking, a black and white screen and fewer cleaning programmes. 

Now in a normal market, this would make either of these brushes a better purchase than the iO9, as you get the same great cleaning without a bunch of 'premium' features that you probably don't need. However, since this is Planet Electric Toothbrush, the more downmarket versions are often more expensive than the range-topping iO Series 9. It is utterly baffling.

Best electric toothbrush: Philips Sonicare DiamondClean SonicT3 Award

3. Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Sonic

Best electric toothbrush for most users

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

This slightly older, still excellent Sonicare lacks any of those largely pointless 'smart' elements found in some newer brushes but still 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, and way cheaper than the T3 Award winning 9000 Series.

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. 

Best electric toothbrush: Oral-B Pro 2 2500T3 Award

(Image credit: Oral-B)

4. Oral-B Pro 2 2500

Best cheap electric toothbrush

Reasons to buy
+Affordable but well made+Has all the really important features
Reasons to avoid
-Only 2 cleaning modes

At the other end of the price scale – although not the quality scale, if we're talking core functionality – is the affordable Oral-B Pro 2 2500. This only has 2 cleaning modes and no 'smart' functionality to speak of, but ask yourself… do you really care? What this excellent and widely-recommended brush does have is a timer that reminds you to move to the next quarter of your mouth every 30 seconds, a buzzer that goes off if you are pressing too hard on your delicate gums and excellent 'cross-action' rotary cleaning that is not noticeably any worse than the Philips brush at #1.

Clearly the Pro 2 2500 feels somewhat less plush than the Sonicare brushes here – and the more expensive Oral-B ones, come to that. The battery life is also shorter –and I suspect the battery may not have as long an overall life, either. However, it comes with a nice compact charger that you can put it on after every use if you want to, so it's not like it's ever going to run out of juice mid clean.

Best electric toothbrush: Philips Sonicare DiamondClean 9000T3 Awards 2020

(Image credit: Philips)

5. Philips Sonicare DiamondClean 9000

A premium electric that packs a cleaning punch

Reasons to buy
+Excellent cleaning+Looks and feels very premium+Has the best whitening mode

If you're the kind of person who must have the best of everything, behold the DiamondClean 9000: your search is over. A refinement even over the very classy DiamondClean at #1, the 9000 adds an app that is actually quite useful – it'll let you know if you're not brushing frequently enough, and tells you when the brush head needs changing. So long as you use compatible 'smart' brush heads anyway. If you just want to chuck the head out every 3 months or so, as most people who aren't total skanks do, you can use cheaper, non-smart brush heads.

The good thing about the 9000 Series app is that it doesn't get bogged down in trying to detect where in your mouth you're cleaning – a highly frustrating feature that some other recent 'smart' brushes have tried, unsuccessfully, to implement.

Everything about the Series 9000 feels high-end, from the slim and tactile design to the softly glowing display and the minimal button clutter. Your programme options here include deep clean and an excellent whitening mode, and there are three intensity settings to suit your mouth just so.

Call me impressed by small things if you will but my favourite feature is that, unlike older Philips brushes and all Oral-B ones, the Series 9000 divides you mouth up into six sections, with a little buzz telling you when to move on to the next. I don't know why, but this makes brushing feel like 25% less of a chore.

Best electric toothbrush: Oral-B Pro 9000T3 Award

(Image credit: Oral-B)

6. Oral-B Genius 9000

Best premium 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…

Alternatively, 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.

Then there's the Genius X, which is another smart brush, with different technology – but again it totally fails to accurately judge where you are brushing. If you ignore that it is, again, a very good electric toothbrush.

Best electric toothbrush: Philips Sonicare 6100 ProtectiveCleanT3 Award

7. Philips Sonicare 6100 ProtectiveClean

Best cheaper Philips electric toothbrush

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.

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…

Best electric toothbrush: Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart SonicT3 Award

(Image credit: Philips)

8. Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart Sonic

Sonicare 'smart' 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 another excellent Philips Sonicare brush but unless it's on sale at a really good price, there's no particular reason to buy it, over the Philips models above. 

Part of the reason it's always quite pricey is, I assume, the inclusion of Bluetooth, a smartphone app and 'smart' features that supposedly analyse your brushing. 

As with the Genius 9000 and 8000 above, and the Oral-B iO below, I just don't feel like the 'brushing analysis' is reliable 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.

Best electric toothbrush: Oral-B Pro 7000 Black SmartSeriesT3 Award

9. 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.

Best electric toothbrush: Oral B Pro 6500 SmartSeriesT3 Award

10. 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'.

Best electric toothbrush: Emmi DentalT3 Award

11. 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. 

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Duncan Bell
Duncan Bell

Duncan has been writing about tech for almost 15 years and fitness ever since he became middle aged and realised he could no longer rely solely on his boyish good looks. He used to be on telly loads, but an unfortunate incident put a stop to that, so he now largely contents himself with telling people, "I used to be on the TV, you know."
Pre-lockdown Duncan was widely regarded as the best-dressed man ever to work for T3 – admittedly not saying much. Post-lockdown he is looking forward to wearing clothes other than shorts and hoodies again very soon, assuming he can still fit into them. He currently writes about cycling, fitness tech that isn’t too heavy, and all things kitchen and home related.