The most significant divide in the toothbrush market is between manual and electric toothbrushes. There are those that see electric toothbrushes as gimmicks and are quite happy manually brushing, and plenty of others who believe that investing in an electric toothbrush was one of the best dental health purchases they’ve ever made.
Manual toothbrushes are perfectly capable of cleaning your teeth as well as an electric toothbrush – if you follow the right regime. Most of us don’t brush for the recommended 2 minutes, and most of us miss teeth – even when we think we’ve been diligent in cleaning right around our mouths. This is particularly true for children and can also be true for busy adults too.
By drastically increasing the number of motions per minute from the average 300 a manual brush can manage, to in some cases, tens of thousands from an electric toothbrush, the time the brush needs to be in contact with any single tooth is far smaller. This means even a quick swipe with an electric brush is likely to remove more plaque and bacteria than a manual one. The very latest models of electric toothbrushes, such as the Oral B iO9™ Electric Toothbrush, connect to your phone via Bluetooth, allowing you to track your brushing habits in an app and highlight areas where you should spend more time.
The other huge benefit of using an electric brush is motivation. If you find it hard to keep brushing for the full two minutes then an electric toothbrush, with a timer to tell you when to move to a different part of your mouth and when the session is over, makes it easier for you to develop good brushing routines. Children too may be more inclined to brush for longer if there’s less effort involved. Braces can be kept cleaner with certain models of electric toothbrush, although you should double check with your orthodontist before making a purchase.
Those with mobility issues such as arthritis or coordination problems may find it easier to use an electric toothbrush of the type where the brush only needs to be guided from tooth to tooth.
The downside to electric brushes is, of course, the cost but it’s possible to buy cheap electric toothbrushes from retailers such as Amazon and Argos for the price of an NHS check-up. The actual head of the brush needs regular replacement, just like a manual brush – toothbrush heads cost a similar sort of price to a manual toothbrush.
Features to look out for
Electric toothbrushes seem to promise a myriad of different features, but when it comes down to it often the same feature simply has a different name between different manufacturers.
The main difference is in how the head moves across your tooth and cleans your teeth. Toothbrush heads are either circular or the rounded-rectangle shape of most manual brushes. Circular brush heads tend to have rotating and oscillating actions, while long heads have a side-to-side motion. Bristles may be mounted straight or at an angle and rubber or silicone cups may be present for polishing and to help spread toothpaste evenly around your mouth.
The toothbrush head spins round at speed. It may be a straightforward circular motion, or may oscillate
|Oscillating||The brush head moves in alternate directions throughout the session. Counter oscillation allows individual tufts to rotate in the opposite direction to their neighbours.
Ionic - A small electric charge is developed during brushing which is intended to loosen plaque.
|Sonic/Ultrasonic||Sound waves are created while brushing to loosen plaque from the tooth surface. If a hum can be heard the toothbrush uses sonic technology. If no hum is heard, then it uses ultrasonic technology. Some toothbrushes, such as those made by Foreo, use sonic technology in conjunction with a manual brushing technique.|
|Cross-action||A specific type of brushing pattern found in Oral-B toothbrushes.|
|Side-to-Side||Toothbrushes that use this feature tend to have heads shaped more like manual toothbrush heads. The Philips Sonicare range uses a side-to-side motion.|
|Pulsing||The brush vibrates to force water and toothpaste between the teeth for better cleaning efficiency.
Another consideration is the physical attributes of the handle and motor. Some toothbrushes are quite slimline and light, while others are heavier and chunkier. A chunky brush may be more comfortable to hold if you have mobility issues but not if it is excessively heavy.
Battery life varies considerably from brush to brush and is, naturally, better in higher-end models. For example, the Oral b pro-2500 electric rechargeable toothbrush powered by Braun offers a battery life of around 2 weeks (based on one user, brushing twice a day for two minutes), whereas Foreo promises a whole year of use from their batteries.
Most rechargeable toothbrushes have their own purpose-built charging unit. Some, such as the Philips Sonicare Diamondclean, come with slimline, waterproof, chargers which fit into the supplied toothbrush travel case. Other manufacturers, such as Sonic Chic have opted for using a standard USB port to allow charging wherever you go.
The very cheapest electric toothbrushes take AA batteries, and you can read more about battery brushes in our handy guide to battery powered toothbrushes.
Brands to look for
There’s plenty of contenders for the best electric toothbrush UK and plenty of places to buy. Brands that you associate with dental hygiene such as Oral-B and Colgate make a range of electric toothbrushes at all price points, and big electronics manufacturers such as Philips and Braun Oral-B also bring their experience to produce high-quality products. Other brands worth mentioning include Sonic Chic and Foreo, which their ultra-portable rechargeable toothbrushes, and Waterpik which offers a professional level flossing action to blast plaque from your teeth.
Where to buy?
Electric toothbrushes are widely available. Amazon has a wide range that covers everything from cheap electric toothbrushes from unknown brands to the top-of-the-range Oral-B Pro’s. John Lewis stocks Philips Sonicare and Foreo toothbrushes, as does Boots, Argos (who also stock Sonic Chic) and Superdrug.
It certainly pays to shop around as different retailers may offer the same product but at differing prices. Once you have selected the models you are interested in you can read our product guides for impartial advice before you buy. For more information, please read some of our Electric Toothbrush Reviews here.