The Best Electric toothbrushes of 2017 for Gums and the Money
Which electric toothbrush is the best? We bought and tested 8 of the best models available on the market and put them through a series of head-to-head tests to see which toothbrush swept away the competition. We spent close to 80 hours testing these products, evaluating everything from their plaque-removal prowess to battery life to determine the scores. We even sacrificed our own dental health, consuming as many sugary foods as we possibly could, to build up all that plaque to clean off — all in the effort to find out which electric toothbrush is the best. Keep reading to see which model is the best fit for your pearly whites.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Best for Cleaning Performance
Oral-B Genius Pro 8000
Read full review: Oral-B Genius Pro 8000
]Best Overall Electric toothbrush
Brio SmartClean Sonic
Read full review: Brio SmartClean
Best Bang for the Buck
Oral-B Pro 1000
Read full review: Oral-B Pro 1000
Analysis and test Results
We spent almost 2 months researching the features of these products, directly analyzing performance relative to each other, and comparing results to determine awards and overall scores.
We broke our testing process up into four weighted metrics: Cleaning, Comfort, Ease of Use, and Battery Life. We conducted over a dozen individual tests spread across these metrics, with each toothbrush receiving a subscore for each metric. Our results are detailed in the sections below.
Just to be clear, we aren't dentists nor dental hygienists, and reliance should not be placed on this review for medical advice. Everyone's teeth are different, and you should always consult your dentist first and foremost when making decisions regarding your periodontal health.
Cleaning is arguably the most important aspect of these products — manual or electric — and is really the entire point of brushing your teeth. Most of us have had a twice-daily tooth brushing ingrained into us from as far back as we can remember, to promote good dental hygiene, prevent tooth decay and gum disease, to get that nice, clean feeling on your teeth, and to keep your pearly whites — well — white. We started off by doing extensive research, talking to dental hygienists, dentists and toothbrush experts to figure out what is really necessary to get the most out of your toothbrush and to find out what features and functions are important to have in an electric toothbrush.
Each tester would refrain from brushing for a period of 12-16 hours, eating as much sugary food and soft drinks as possible in that time period, and would then use a plaque disclosing tablet , following the manufacturer's instructions. these tablets will turn any plaque on the surface of your teeth red and are usually used by dentists to show what parts of the teeth they are missing when you brush. Documenting the entire process with before and after photos, we compared the performance of each toothbrush across the board to determine our scores. You can see how each brush scored in the chart below.
the top performers in our cleaning test were the Oral-B Genius Pro 8000 and the Oral-B Pro 5000, both earning a score of 9 out of 10. the Pro 5000 comes standard with the Oral-B CrossAction head and is marketed as having up to 48,800 movements per minute. As you can see, there is a noticeable difference between the visible plaque, before and after brushing.
the Pro 8000 also removed practically all of the visible plaque, as shown in the photo below.
Following these two top scorers, the Oral-B Pro 1000 scored an 8 out of 10. this model removed almost as much plaque as the previous two but our testers were a little more prone to missing spots with this model. All three of the top scoring models in our test use a rotation-oscillation brush head, with the bristles actually rotating back and forth in a scrubbing motion, rather than just vibrating in a side by side motion.
Brushes with a rotation-oscillation method of cleaning scored the best throughout our test, and while our test was not a clinical trial, we did find some that aligned with our results. In 2009, the Cochrane Library published a review of Manual versus powered toothbrushing for oral health . this review found that:
this review has found that compared with manual toothbrushes, powered toothbrushes whose action is rotation oscillational reduce plaque and gingivitis by 11% and 6% respectively in the short term and gingivitis by 17% at greater than 3 months. the clinical significance of these reductions is not known.
the trial states that it was too short to determine if this would cause a reduction in destructive periodontal disease.
the Philips Sonicare HealthyWhite+ earned the third highest score in our cleaning test, with a 7 out of 10, and was the highest scoring brush that utilized a side to side cleaning motion. this model of toothbrush is listed as having 31,000 movements per minute. the remaining four electric toothbrushes — the Brio SmartClean, Phillips Sonicare DiamondClean, Phillips Sonicare Essence, and the Waterpik Complete Care 5.0 — all scored a 6 out of 10, as well as — to our surprise-- the manual toothbrush. these electric toothbrushes all use a side to side motion as their main cleaning mechanism, substantially more similar to a manual brush than the oscillation-rotation style.
these results surprised us, as we initially thought the manual toothbrush would score much lower, but upon consulting the Cochrane Library review again, we found an interesting comparison:
there was no statistically significant difference between powered toothbrushes whose action was side to side and manual brushes with regard to the removal of plaque or reduction of gingivitis for both time periods.
One key thing to remember is that every toothbrush that we tested scored at least a 6 when it came to cleaning, and as we previously mentioned, all of these toothbrushes, when used correctly, can do an adequate job of maintaining good oral hygiene. As stated by the Cochrane Library:
Individuals who prefer to use a powered toothbrush can be assured that powered toothbrushing is at least as effective as manual brushing and that there is no evidence that it will cause any more injuries to the gums than manual brushing.
While cleaning performance is one of the most important aspects of purchasing an electric toothbrush (earning the highest weighting of our rating metrics), there are other aspects that should be considered. For example, an extremely uncomfortable toothbrush may not be used, and an unused electric toothbrush can't clean anything. Keep reading to see how each of the brushes stacked up when it came to comfort, as well our analysis of ease of use and battery life.
An electric brush is something you most likely will be using on a very regular basis, making the comfort and ergonomics of the brush important components. this rating metric comprised 30% of our overall score, second only to the cleaning test. Comfort is so important, as you really want to look for a toothbrush that will make it as easy as possible to maintain good habits and a model that is awkward to hold, annoyingly loud, or feels uncomfortable to use while brushing will definitely discourage them.
We split this rating into three categories: holding, brushing, and comfort. Our toothbrush testers, a mixed group of ages and genders, (coincidentally matching the ages and genders of the techGearLab Review team) were blindfolded and handed pairs of toothbrushes. the testers had not seen any of the toothbrushes previously and selected which of the pair was the more comfortable to hold. this was then repeated for each tester until a definitive order had been established. Each tester also commented on what specific attributes stood out to them that influenced their ranking of the comfort of each brush. the brushing comfort, as well as how loud the toothbrush felt while brushing was rated throughout the cleaning test, as well as with sequential, side by side comparisons with each brush. You can see the results of our tests below.
the Brio SmartClean and the Waterpik Complete Care 5.0 tied for the top score when it came to comfort, both earning a 7 out of 10 in the overall rating. We especially liked that both of these brushes felt very quiet while brushing, and were easily maneuverable to reach all of your teeth, even for people with smaller mouths. When it came to comfort while brushing, the Brio and the Waterpik were our favorites, helping them earn the top scores in this category overall. these models come standard with soft and extra soft bristles, respectively, and both clocking in at 31,000 movements per minute, and solely relied on vibrating bristles for cleaning action and had a brush head that measured about 0.5" deep. Following the top scorers, the Sonicare DiamondClean and the Sonicare HealthyWhite+ both earned a 6 out of 10 overall. When it came to just the comfort of holding the toothbrush, the Sonicare DiamondClean, came out on top, with the unanimous approval of our panel of the slim, matte finish and feel of this brush.
this model is by far the most expensive of all the models, and it is clear that a significant part of the increased cost is due to the additional thought and design put into the look and feel of the brush. However, the DiamondClean was a little louder and a little less comfortable to brush with than the top scoring models. the HealthyWhite+ wasn't quite as comfortable to hold as the DiamondClean but was much more comfortable to brush with — just barely being beat by the Brio and the Waterpik. Rounding out the bottom of the group, the Sonicare Essence, Oral-B Genius Pro 8000, Oral-B Pro 1000, and the Oral-B Pro 8000 all earned a 4 out of 10 for comfort. the Sonicare Essence was average to brush with in terms of comfort but was a little on the loud side. the Pro 5000 felt nice to hold — better than both the Pro 5000 and the Pro 1000 — but all three of these models ranked below average in terms of brushing comfort. All of the Oral-B models have a brush head measuring about 0.75" deep — about 0.25" deeper than the side-to-side models — contributing to the fact that they were the least liked when it came to brushing comfort.
this is an important aspect to consider if you have a mouth on the smaller side, or have a limited range of jaw motion, as the deeper brush head can make it more difficult to reach the back molars. We also found that the deeper brush head made drooling much more likely, something to keep in mind if you will have an audience while brushing. All three of the Oral-B models, being of the rotation oscillation type, were substantially louder with a more mechanical noise, compared with the buzzing of the other models. Below is a chart of the sound level taken at 2" away from the mouth while brushing.
these values don't necessarily correlate to which models feel loudest for whoever is brushing but would show what another person would hear. this would be an important factor to consider if you are worried about irritating or waking someone else while brushing your teeth.
Ease of Use
this metric is closely connected with comfort, as both of these scoring categories help to encourage good brushing habits. this category encompasses many different aspects of electric toothbrushes, from the visual appeal of each model to the ease of cleaning and replacing a brush head. Most of the models that we reviewed feature a one-button interface, and all of the products we looked at scored well in this category, but there were a few differences that stood out. You can see how these toothbrushes ranked for ease of use in the chart below.
the first thing we looked at, was, the look of the toothbrush, essentially judging how these products would look on the bathroom counter. Each tester ordered the brushes in terms of visual appeal, and then these scores were combined to reach the final for this section of this metric. this is a very subjective opinion, and some people may explicitly disagree with us on the visual aesthetic of each brush, but the members of our panel independently came to very similar conclusions. Next, we assessed the standing stability of each brush, both on and off the docking base. We set each toothbrush up on a table, and bumped it, increasing the magnitude of each impact until we could determine the last brush standing. We also looked at ease of maintenance, such as cleaning the handle and replacing the brush head. Finally, we looked at the interface of each toothbrush, as well as the number of brushing modes each model had and the ease of switching between them.
After the culmination of all of that testing, and the aggregation of the subscores, the Sonicare DiamondClean and the Pro 8000 received the highest score in this metric, both earning a 7 out of 10 on our tests. the DiamondClean scored highest across the board when it came to visual appeal, its sleek, matte finish and recessed button having the most polished appearance of all the models that we looked at. this would be a model to consider if you have a strong emphasis on the decor of the bathroom, especially as it has the most color options of all the models that we reviewed. It is also clear that this model's charging base has the most emphasis on design but definitely comes at a cost (MSRP of $220).
the Pro 8000 was a close second in terms of visual appeal but had the most brushing modes of any models and a very easy to use interface. We liked the app that pairs with this model, except for the position sensing feature, which we found to not be the most accurate.
Next were the Philips Sonicare HealthyWhite+, Brio SmartClean, Oral-B Pro 1000, and the Waterpik, all earning a 6 out of 10. All of these models were pretty standard in terms of visual appeal, with the HealthyWhite+ and the Waterpik scoring slightly higher than the Brio and the Pro 1000. the same trend continued for brushing modes, with the Brio having fewer than the HealthyWhite+ and the Pro 1000 having even fewer than the Brio.
the Brio, DiamondClean, and the Waterpik Complete Care 5.0 all performed the best when it came to on base stability, proving the hardest to knock over. this was somewhat obvious, as the Waterpik has an integrated water flosser in the base, and is substantially larger, and the DiamondClean has a heavy, glass that it charges in.
Finishing out the back of the pack were the Sonicare Essence and the Oral-B Pro 5000, both meriting a 5 out of 10.
the Sonicare Essence was the most stable off the base, being substantially larger than the other models. this model is also the only model that requires you to screw on a replacement brush head, with the other models simply snapping on. this model is limited to 1 brushing mode, as well as lacking the quad timer. this is in comparison to the 5 cleaning modes of the Oral-B Pro 5000 and the DiamondClean, or even the 6 of the Waterpik. While the Pro 5000 did have plenty of brushing modes, it was a little wobbly both on and off the charging base and a little harder to clean, dropping its score.
None of these electric toothbrushes are terribly difficult to use, with the lowest score in our test being a 5 out of 10, but there are some small distinctions that can make the difference between your daily brushing routine being nondescript to mildly irritating.
technology in electric power has come an extremely long way over the past half-century, and the development of electric toothbrush definitely highlights this. One of the first powered toothbrushes, the Broxodent actually plugged directly into the wall, running on line voltage of either 120 or 240 volts.
For most of us (and the FDA), that many electrons in our mouth is a little unsettling, and modern day toothbrushes run on much much lower voltages. Each model of toothbrush we tested now has an internal, not replaceable, rechargeable battery. these are all sealed, and charged through an inductive, or wireless charger. the main benefit of having a long battery life is the ability to travel without the charging base, or for some people, leaving the charging base stored and only charging the toothbrush when necessary.
to test the battery life, we repeatedly ran each toothbrush on standard mode until the battery died. We also noted if there was a low battery indicator, and when it turned on. We were pleasantly surprised, as each toothbrush we tested ran a significant amount of time. You can see how long each brush ran in the chart below.
the top performer is this category was the Brio, earning a 10 out of 10 and lasting for an astonishing 340 minutes. this would translate to 85 days or about 3 months with the typical brushing regimen. However, this model was the only one that did not have a low battery indicator but did last almost 200 minutes longer than the closest product. the model that had the shortest life was the Oral-B Pro 1000, lasting for 44 minutes, or 11 days. these day estimates do NOt take into account the power draw when the toothbrush is on standby, so these will be reduced in actual practice. All in all, these toothbrushes will all make it on a short trip without needing to be recharged, but the extensive travelers should make a particular note of the top scorers in this category: the Brio, scoring a 10 out of 10, and each of the Sonicare models, all scoring 7 out of 10. the Oral-B models, with their rotation-oscillation brushes all, had a shorter battery life.
All of the toothbrushes we tested (as well as any ADA-approved manual ones) are more than capable of keeping your pearly whites nice and shiny. It's much more important that you brush regularly and consistently for the recommended amount. these products make it easier to maintain this in our opinion, and we could recommend getting one that is comfortable for you and fits in your budget.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer
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