Saturday, May 18, 2024

How to Choose the Best Power Toothbrush

Updated March 2014

Buying Advice: Power Toothbrushes

Despite regular home care, a lot of us still hear that our teeth aren't as clean as they could be when we go to the dentist. The issue usually results from ineffective manual toothbrushes and the fact that not many of us actually brush as well as we should. Dentists recommend brushing in a circular motion for at least two minutes, spending equal time in each quadrant of our mouths. For optimal oral health, dentists suggest that most of us brush with a power toothbrush. These power toothbrushes are significantly more expensive than manual toothbrushes, and they don't all necessarily guarantee the same results. However, an effective power toothbrush with advanced cleaning technology will help improve your brushing habits and is the best way to reduce plaque buildup that can cause cavities and gum disease, such as gingivitis. They are an investment in better overall dental health and could save you from costly and painful trips to the dentist in the future.

Power toothbrushes come in electric models that are either battery-powered or utilize an external power source that makes them rechargeable, which means that you don't have to buy batteries. Sonic toothbrushes are another type of power toothbrush that are advertised as providing the deepest cleaning possible with the help of enhanced technology that greatly increases how many brush strokes it can perform per minute.

What to Know Before You Buy

Types of Power Toothbrushes

Power toothbrushes on the market are categorized according to the type of cleaning method they use. The only added benefit of a battery-powered toothbrush is that it vibrates. A simple, battery-powered vibrating toothbrush is the most similar to a manual toothbrush and requires the same brushing technique, so purchasing this type of toothbrush won't do much to improve your oral health unless you already have good brushing habits. For this reason, these types of toothbrushes are the least expensive on the market and, depending on the brand and model you choose, you may or may not be able to change the batteries or the brush head. This can be a waste of money for a product that is only slightly more effective than manual brushing. If you choose to buy them, basic disposable toothbrushes with built-in batteries can start at as little as $10.

Rechargeable toothbrushes, on the other hand, go beyond simple vibration to rotate and even oscillate. A rotating and oscillating toothbrush is more expensive but offers enhanced cleaning capabilities, making it more forgiving if you have poor brushing technique. The extra movements in the brush head make it such that you only have to move it over each tooth, and the toothbrush will do the rest of the work. At a rate of 3,000 to 7,500 brush strokes per minute, rechargeable toothbrushes clean your teeth better with less effort. They accomplish this by massaging your gums and removing plaque in hard to reach areas of your mouth. By comparison, brushing with a manual toothbrush only averages about 300 brush strokes per minute, but most users don't even brush for that long. Because rechargeable toothbrushes are more advanced, they also cost more than their battery-powered counterparts. But, they will last much longer. Rechargeable toothbrushes with replaceable brush heads cost about $40 to $80 and come with minimal features. If you want more than simple timers and prefer more complex cleaning features, then be prepared to pay around $100. And, don't forget to factor the cost of replacement brush heads into the equation. They can cost anywhere from $15-$30 per replacement pack or more.

Sonic toothbrushes are being marketed to consumers as the latest enhancement to power toothbrushes. They do have faster brush stroke speeds per minute, but that is only part of what manufacturers say makes them so effective. They are said to clean deep between teeth by agitating the fluids around them and creating small bubbles that remove plaque even when the toothbrush isn't physically touching your teeth. This allows cleaning slightly beneath your gum line and in other places traditional manual toothbrushes can't reach because they can only clean the areas that the bristles can touch. Not having to touch your toothbrush to your teeth and gums to get them clean also protects enamel and reduces irritation. With average brush speeds between 30,000 to 40,000 strokes a minute, they do boast impressive cleaning power. But, they are also the most expensive option among power toothbrushes and may be cost-prohibitive for some consumers. Prices for sonic toothbrushes start closer to $200, and that doesn't include the cost of replacement brush heads.


Certain power toothbrushes allow the user to customize their brushing experience by offering multiple brush head options. Brush heads come in various shapes and sizes and can perform a variety of functions, especially if they are detachable. When choosing a brush head, look for a size that is proportionate to your mouth. A person with a smaller mouth won't be able to get as deep a clean if their toothbrush head is too large. Alternately, someone with a large mouth and teeth to match will need a slightly larger brush head to cover all the areas of their mouth. When in doubt, opt for a smaller sized toothbrush head to ensure that it will comfortably fit in the back of your mouth and around your teeth. Also, look for soft bristles that won't irritate your gums or harm tooth enamel. Brush heads should be replaced about every three months or when bristles start to get soft and misshapen. Although the size of your brush head matters, the configuration of the bristles is equally important. A lot of power toothbrushes feature heads with different layers of bristles that can perform various functions. This is especially true of rechargeable toothbrushes that both rotate and oscillate.

Because not all mouths are created equal, various cleaning modes make it easy for you to get the experience that is right for you. More advance power toothbrushes will offer modes for daily cleaning, polishing and whitening, massaging for people who need extra attention on their gum line, deep cleaning for more in-depth coverage combined with extended brushing times, and even modes for people with sensitive teeth or for children.

In addition to offering different brushing modes, power toothbrushes can come with other features that aim to improve your brushing habits. Brushing your teeth too hard is a common issue, and it can damage your enamel and your gums. Therefore, some power toothbrushes are equipped with sensors that alert you if you start to push too hard, usually in the form of a light-up button. Dentists recommend brushing for two minutes, so many power toothbrushes feature a two-minute timer with some even offering a quad-pacer that breaks down the brushing cycle into 30-second increments for each quadrant of your mouth. Some power toothbrushes even come with a built-in UV brush head sanitizer that kills bacteria and viruses on the brush head. Most rechargeable power toothbrushes will remind you when you need to charge the base and some even have special indicators that help you to remember when it is time to change your brush head.

Power toothbrushes also have larger, more comfortable bases to improve the gripping surface for your hands, which helps those with dexterity issues and children with small hands who might have trouble holding a manual toothbrush, which usually features a narrower handle.


Power toothbrushes are much more effective when it comes to cleaning your teeth and gums than manual toothbrushes, and investing in one up front can save you time and money in terms of expensive dental work down the road. While sonic toothbrushes are touted as the best on the market, this type of toothbrush is the most expensive, and independent research has not been able to wholly substantiate the benefits claimed by manufacturers. For this reason, a rechargeable power toothbrush offers the best cleaning capabilities at the right price for most consumers. Also, be sure to check with your insurance provider to see if they offer preventative dental health discounts to offset the cost.

Since power toothbrushes are a considerable investment and come with moving parts, it is important to get one with a good warranty in case anything breaks and you need a replacement. Some high-end models may come with lifetime warranties, but one to two years is average. Also, warranties are usually limited, meaning that they will cover manufacturer defects but not accidents at home that cause your toothbrush to break, so take care with your toothbrush at home and when you travel.

Ultimately, most users will benefit from switching from a manual to a power toothbrush, but they aren't for everyone. They should not be used with very small children, and people with serious dental issues should consult with a dentist before making the decision to purchase one.