An electric toothbrush is not a modern invention –invented in 1954 as a toothbrush which plugged into the electrical outlet directly – and continues to be useful today.

Standard electric toothbrushes work by using fast, bristle motions over the teeth and gums, in either a circular or back and forth motion, to provide the cleaning action. An internal motor within the brush provides the power to move the brush head during use.

Modern electric toothbrushes come with internal rechargeable batteries or with an option to replace batteries periodically. Originally toothbrushes used metal connectors and sat in a base to recharge, but now they use induction charging which makes it simpler to charge them. The toothbrush sits in the base and charges from that position, rather than needing to be precisely slotted into place.

The number of oscillations by an electric toothbrush falls into the 2,400 to 2 million range per minute. The oscillations are barely audible, but the motor is likely to emit a sound during use.

Most electric toothbrushes are now sonic toothbrushes, with the technology having improved since the early beginnings of the product in the 1950s. Sonic brushes use a sweeping motion, which is different from other types. The number of oscillations is between 12,000 to 24,000, and there are models with 24,000-48,000 motions each minute. The sweeping motion is wider than with standard electric toothbrushes. Sonic toothbrushes are perceived to be an improvement over earlier models.

Ultrasonic toothbrushes are less common but are the next step up in innovation. Initially, the product only used ultrasound, but they now use ultrasonic waves on a 20,000 Hz frequency. Ultrasonic cleaning tools are authorized to operate at a 1.6 MHz frequency in the USA, which creates 192 million movements every minute.

The ultrasonic effect works by using sonic waves to break up bacterial chains present on the surface of the tooth and up to 5mm below the gums too. The vibration shakes the chains of bacteria from staying connection and destroy them. A newer sweeping motion has also been incorporated into some sonic toothbrushes because this has been found to get rid of remaining stubborn bacteria and bits of food.

The more advanced ultrasonic toothbrushes have not taken off in the marketplace as much as their sonic counterparts because the technology is patented which has prevented it being marketed widely. Ultimately, several major companies now focus on oral care products to compete with their lines of sonic electric toothbrushes.

What’s Included with The Best Electric Toothbrush

Each rechargeable electric toothbrush comes with a toothbrush unit, one or more affix-able heads, and a base to perform the conductive charging. The higher-end models sometimes include a USB charging option for frequent travelers.

A convenient travel case is provided to ensure the toothbrush stays hygienic.

Depending on the toothbrush brand, there are replaceable heads that snap on with different designs (standard toothbrush rectangular head, circular head, etc.) included in the package.

An oral care guide is usually provided in the box too.

What to Know Before Making a Purchase

For most consumers, they’re choosing between 2-3 major brands in the marketplace. Up to 6 times more plaque gets removed with an electric toothbrush, and less decay is found following prolonged use. More advanced models from the major brands tend to offer improved cleaning heads and multiple cleaning modes (clean, polish, sensitive, gum care and white.)

Some models come with a smart timer feature that times the use to ensure people brush their teeth for longer enough to get the most benefit from it.

Ergonomic handle designs make it easier to grip the toothbrush during its operation.

Does the unit have a battery charger LED indicator letting the user know when it is time to recharge? Battery life is up to two weeks for individual users.

Other Considerations

The curved bristle heads can reach different parts of the teeth and gums than a flat surface brush. Whether choosing to use a circular bristle head or a more rectangular one, look for heads that have uneven surfaces for a better overall teeth cleaning experience.

Best Brands

Phillips makes their SoniCare electric toothbrush range. The company has been involved with these products for decades now.

OralB is a brand that is synonymous with oral care or oral hygiene. Part of the P & G Group of companies, it makes sense that they have a fully electric toothbrush line, to complement their other products. They also have battery-powered toothbrushes for times when a power supply isn’t readily available.

What Consumers Say

Taking a look at consumers’ reviews, these are a few of the opinions most often voiced by buyers:

Smaller brush heads: People with smaller mouths prefer the small, circular brush heads. Individuals who can accommodate a larger brush head usually prefer this option.

Drop-able: Electric toothbrushes have little protection from accidental drops. The toothbrush slipping in the sink is probably okay, but should it fall to the floor; this will cause severe damage.

Replacement Heads: The heads should get replaced either every three months or when the bristles are starting to bend and be less effective. There non-branded compatible alternative heads, but the quality is usually suspect.

Hard bristles: Some of the supplied default brush heads feature hard bristles. For anyone who finds they use soft bristle toothbrushes, there are replacement heads available with softer bristles to protect the gums more.

Waterproof: The toothbrush is sealed and waterproof. Units that use replaceable batteries are also waterproof after the battery flap is closed properly.

Pulsing handle: Some models have a timer that pulses every half minute to let the user know to move the head to a different part of the mouth. For anyone whose dentist tells them that they’re not brushing their teeth properly, these models are a good choice.

Pressure sensors: Advanced models feature sensors that stop pulsing to indicate the user is pushing down too hard when brushing.

Noise: Electric toothbrushes are noisier than first-time users would probably expect.