Look after your teeth and gums with an electric toothbrush.
Brushing with an electric toothbrush can help you keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy. Which models can clean well and hold a charge?
The main advantage of electric toothbrushes is they do the main brushing movements for you so you can concentrate on how and where to put the brush. They also have some useful features, such as timers, so you know you’ve cleaned your teeth for the recommended 2 minutes.
According to clinical trials you’re more likely to achieve good oral health with an electric toothbrush than a regular one. A Cochrane Review, updated in 2014, assessed 56 studies and concluded there was an 11% reduction in plaque at 1-to-3 months, and a 21% reduction after 3 months of using an electric toothbrush. There was also a reduction in gingivitis, which can lead to gum disease.
But there’s more to perfect pearlers than just going electric. According to New Zealand Dental Association senior oral health educator Dr Deepa Hughes brushing your teeth correctly twice a day, for 2 minutes, with fluoride toothpaste, is more important than the issue of using a manual versus electric toothbrush.
However, there are some situations where an electric toothbrush might make brushing easier.
The novelty of an electric toothbrush can also motivate people who don’t regularly brush their teeth. The 2-minute timer is handy to ensure you brush for a full 2 minutes – it’s amazing how long a 2-minute clean feels! Some models also vibrate or pause every 30 seconds to tell you when it’s time to clean a different part of your mouth.
Others might be motivated to brush longer or correctly if they’ve spent money on an electric toothbrush.
Children should use a brush (manual or electric) that fits properly in their mouth, reaches their back teeth comfortably, and has soft bristles. Dr Hughes says that although an electric toothbrush can encourage children to clean their teeth, it isn’t a replacement for adult supervision – the most important thing for children is using the proper brushing technique.
Electric toothbrushes all have different brush actions that work in different ways.
There’s a big difference in how long each brush takes to recharge.
The fastest brushes charge in less than 12 hours – so they’ll be fully charged between each brush if you keep your brush on the charger. But the slowest brush takes 24 hours to charge!
Our tests also found large differences in how long each battery stays charged. They ranged from 34 minutes (or the equivalent of 17 two-minute brushes) to 108 minutes (54 brushes).
If you plan to store your brush on the charger and keep the battery constantly topped up, it’s less important to choose a model with a long-lasting battery. But if you prefer to keep the charger packed away, or you want to take your brush away without the charger, battery life is more important.
Gone are the days of picking a soft, medium or hard brush head. Most Oral-B and Philips Sonicare toothbrushes can be used with a range of brush heads which are marketed as having a specific clean – such as whitening, flossing or sensitive. However, when we tested different brush heads on the same handle, we found there wasn’t much difference in how well they removed plaque. The only exception was when we tested sensitive brush heads. We weren’t surprised by this as sensitive heads have softer bristles, which are less abrasive on teeth.
You’ll need to replace the brush head once the bristles are worn – manufacturers recommend every 3 to 4 months. But replacements can be pricey so factor that in when you’re choosing a toothbrush. The brush heads we tested range in price from $9 to $19 per head.
|Toothbrush heads||Price/brush head ($)|
|Oral B 3D White (2-pack)||10|
|Oral B Cross Action (2-pack)||10|
|Oral B Precision Clean (2-pack)||9|
|Oral B Sensitive (2-pack)||10|
|Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean (3-pack)||15|
|Philips Sonicare Plaque Control (3-pack)||13|
|Philips Sonicare Premium Plaque (2-pack)||19|
|Philips Sonicare Premium White (2-pack)||19|
|Philips Sonicare Sensitive (3-pack)||13|
If you’re thinking about buying an electric toothbrush, keep these points in mind.
Whether you use a manual or an electric toothbrush, these tips will help you look after your teeth and gums.
We've tested 11 electric toothbrushes.
Find the right one for you.