If you’re like most people, you probably don’t look forward to your twice-yearly visits to the dentist, but love how your teeth and gums feel afterward. Craving that ‘just cleaned’ feeling at every day? Electric toothbrushes have been gaining popularity in recent years for their ability to clean thoroughly (cleaning those hard-to-reach molars, fighting plaque and keeping tartar at bay), and they can even let you know when you haven’t brushed long enough. If you haven’t made the switch from manual to electric brushing, Pronto’s Electric Toothbrush Buying Guide can help you determine which electric toothbrush will put—and keep—a smile on your face.
Electric toothbrushes can help users in a variety of ways, from providing timers to indicate when brushing is complete, to advanced cleaning abilities that most people are unable to achieve with manual toothbrushes. Studies have proven that electric toothbrushes are effective at drastically reducing plaque and gingivitis.
Ultrasonic, counter-oscillation and rotation-oscillation are more expensive, but also more effective than brush motions that are side-to-side or circular (but all electric toothbrushes clean more effectively than traditional manual brushes).
You’ll pay for the electric toothbrush handle or base unit up front, but measure lifetime cost by the price of replacement brush heads. For families, one handle with multiple-colored brush heads is a cost-effective way for everyone to reap the benefits of going electric.
For the ultimate convenience, choose an electric toothbrush that recharges on a base unit. If you opt for a model with batteries in the handle itself, always choose rechargeable batteries to save money and save the planet (batteries may need to be changed anywhere from every two weeks to two months).
Look for an electric toothbrush with a timer to get in the recommended two full minutes of brushing or quadpacers, which alert you every 30 seconds to move onto the next quadrant of your mouth. Pressure sensors are a must for folks with sensitive teeth and gums as are adjustable speeds so you can scrub your molars and baby your bicuspids.
The handle of the electric toothbrush is where the motor or electrical equipment is located, as well as the battery. The base, in units with a built-in rechargeable battery, is the station upon which the handle rests as it recharges.
The brush head is the section of the toothbrush containing the bristles. It is usually detachable from the handle for cleaning, and should be changed at least every 6 months.
Sonic or ultra-sonic technology uses vibrations to break down plaque and help stimulate saliva production for extra moisture and plaque removal.
In counter-oscillation toothbrushes, some of the bristles rotate in one direction while other bristles rotate in a different direction.
In rotation-oscillation toothbrushes, all of the bristles rotate first in one direction, then in the opposite direction.
A quadpacer is a timer which typically functions in 30-second intervals, alerting you when it is time to switch to a new section of your mouth.
Electric toothbrushes help take the guesswork out of brushing our teeth. While experts agree that we should brush our teeth for at least two minutes at least twice a day, studies show that most manual toothbrush users brush for only 30 to 60 seconds, and that we may not be reaching all of the teeth or brushing vigorously enough to reduce plaque and gingivitis (or worse, we’re brushing too hard and damaging our gums).
Electric toothbrush users have significantly fewer incidences of gingivitis, gum infections and other gum diseases. These benefits not only add up to good dental health, but they may make your dentist visits more pleasant (because you’re in good oral shape) and may help you avoid major dental problems later.
While all electric toothbrushes operate on the same general principle, how they brush differs from manufacturer to manufacturer. Electric toothbrush motion can be side-to-side, circular, ultra-sonic vibration, rotation oscillation or counter-oscillation. Side-to-side and circular motion are self-explanatory, while ultra-sonic toothbrushes vibrate at high speeds, breaking down plaque and loosening it while the brush head scrubs it off. Manufacturers of ultra-sonic toothbrushes claim additional cleaning power by increased saliva production, but there is no independent data to back up this claim. Counter-oscillation electric toothbrushes have bristles that rotate in different directions at the same time (clockwise and counterclockwise). In rotation oscillation models, the brush head rotates in alternate directions; first one direction, then the other.
More relevant is the question of which electric toothbrush motion is most effective. Unfortunately, the studies out there that focus on this topic are conducted primarily by manufacturers and thus the data may not be inclusive or complete. Generally speaking, electric toothbrushes that use ultra-sonic vibration, rotation oscillation, and counter-oscillation are all more effective than designs that use the more simple side-to-side or circular patterns, but they’re also more expensive than the side-to-side and circular models. If price is a concern, start with a side-to-side or circular motion electric toothbrush—general dental health studies conclude that brushing with an electronic toothbrush is more effective than brushing manually, so you’ll still reap the benefits of going electric. Electric toothbrushes are gentler on your teeth and gums than you are when you brush manually—you don’t need to apply significant pressure because the rotation of the bristles does the cleaning for you.
Electric toothbrush handles are what cost you up front, but lifetime cost is best judged by the cost of replacement brush heads. Just like regular toothbrushes, experts recommend that you replace your electric toothbrush head regularly to avoid bacterial growth and ensure you’re not brushing ineffectively with worn bristles. Be sure to factor in the cost of replacement brush heads when you’re shopping for an electric toothbrush. Another way to get the most out of your investment is to buy an electric toothbrush base and handle for your entire household and then purchase different colored brush heads for everyone in the family.
Because your electric toothbrush is a handheld device, you’ll have to worry about battery life. High-end electric toothbrushes often feature rechargeable batteries that automatically charge when you put the electric toothbrush back on a base unit—the only choice for people who don’t want to be bothered swapping batteries on a regular basis.
Other electric toothbrushes don’t, but it’s our recommendation always to use rechargeable batteries whether they come with your electric toothbrush or you purchase them separately. Electric toothbrush batteries may need to be replaced as often as every two weeks to two months, depending on features of the brush, making rechargeable batteries more cost-effective (not to mention eco-friendly).
Most of us don’t brush our teeth for the recommended two full minutes, but knowing—and brushing—for that amount of time is critical for good dental health. You’ll find timers on almost all models, but higher-end electric toothbrushes may also come with quadpacers, which are timers that function in 30-second intervals to alert you when it’s time to move on to a different section of your mouth. Another great feature to look for—especially if you’re purchasing your first electric toothbrush—is a sensor that alerts you or shuts the bristles off if you’re brushing too hard. Pressure sensors are also good for folks with sensitive teeth and gums as is the ability to set your electric toothbrush at different speeds so the areas that need gentle care always get it.