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The 7 Very Best Electric Toothbrushes

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

According to dentist and American Dental Association (ADA) spokesperson Dr. Ada Cooper, a manual toothbrush actually can deliver the same dental hygiene benefits as an electric toothbrush. But many dentists believe the latter to have a slight edge. One independent study, showed that electric toothbrushes are better at reducing plaque and gingivitis and, according to dentist and vice-president of clinical development at Tend, Marc Schlenoff, they help lessen the force put into cleaning teeth and gums, reducing the risk of gum recession and wearing away tooth structure. Though, both manual and electric toothbrushes have to be used correctly to be effective. “You just angle it at a 45 degree angle, sweep back and forth, and brush down covering all the surfaces of the teeth,” says Dr. Cooper. “With that degree of attention, brushing for two minutes twice a day, you’ll be just fine.” Using the right toothbrush is also key, and it’s the classic dental-care brands — think Philips Sonicare and Oral-B — that often earn our experts’ stamp of approval. The brushes have years of research behind them, and it shows, but within those brands and beyond, the once simple electric toothbrush has now become a more complex tech product. You’ve got your choice of rotating and oscillating and sonic technologies; rechargeable and battery-operated models; bluetooth connectivity, and so much more.

You can’t really go wrong so long as it has the ADA Seal of Acceptance. “The seal of acceptance says that a product does what it says it does and is safe and effective when used as directed,” says dentist and ADA consumer adviser Matt Messina. After that, you shouldn’t really stress — at least not when it comes to picking among dentist-approved electric options. Sonya Krasilnikov, a dentist and co-founder of Dental House, says, “Choosing between Sonicare and Oral-B is like picking between a Mercedes and BMW. It’s mostly personal preference.” Since the differences can be so subtle, we asked 16 dentists to break down their picks for the best electric models — all ADA approved — below.

Best overall | Best less-expensive | Best app-enabled | Best Sonicare | Longest battery life | Nicest-looking | Best for kids

What we’re looking for

Brush Movement: Electric toothbrushes tend to fall into three camps: rotating, oscillating, and sonic. “Rotating or rotary toothbrushes have small circular heads that rotate back and forth to clean each tooth, and there’s sonic toothbrushes that have vibrating brush heads that move the bristles side to side at really high speeds, sometimes up to frequencies of 50,000 movements per minute,” says Dr.Cooper. Sometimes you will hear oscillating and rotating used interchangeably because they both refer to the actual movement of the bristles — unlike sonic which refers to the vibration of bristles — but rotating indicates movement in a circle while oscillating refers to a side to side motion. Some dentists say that one isn’t necessarily better than the other, while others appreciate the power of sonic slightly more. Dentist Sharon Huang of Les Belles NYC explains that sonic toothbrushes use a sonic wave to dislodge debris all on its own, which she likes because it requires less force to get the job done. “The rotation mechanism, you actually have to touch the tooth and it’s rotating and it’s helping you clean it,” she says. “The sonic toothbrush has a sonic wave. So if you’re in the vicinity, and you’re not even touching your tooth, it’s supposed to be dislodging bacteria.” The sweet spot is a toothbrush that does it all, but orthodontist Janet Stoess-Allen, says that because teeth are curved, “rotating heads are more effective in getting to all sides of them.”

Soft Bristles: “Hard-bristled toothbrushes are wonderful if you’re going to clean the grout from your bathroom tile, but they’re not for use in the mouth,” says Messina, who explains that harder bristles can damage gums and enamel. Every expert we spoke with said a soft-bristle brush was the way to go in all cases, but especially if you have sensitive teeth and gums.

Pressure Sensor: Brushing too hard can be just as damaging as brushing with too hard of bristles, which is why dentist Inna Chern likes brushes with pressure sensors that beep or stop moving when you’re being too aggressive to “eliminate the possibility of overzealous brushing.” A pressure sensor shouldn’t make or break your decision when deciding on what brush to go with, but Huang does think it’s a good idea for people switching from a manual brushes to an electric one for the first time who might be used to be putting some extra umph behind their strokes, which electric toothbrushes don’t require.

Timer:  Built-in timers are more standard than pressure sensors and a little more essential. Leonard Umanoff of Brooklyn-based LuxDen, recommends toothbrushes that have a built-in timer, as this helps make sure you’re brushing long enough to adequately get rid of plaque. Some will just run for the recommended two minutes,  while others have a quadrant timer that will alert every 30 seconds when it’s time to move to the next quadrant of your mouth.

Brush Head Size: The consensus is that the smaller the brush head the better. Chern says it’s a good pick “if your mouth is on the smaller side or you have gagging issues.” It also makes it easier to reach your molars, a hard to clean area that people often miss, according to Dentist Hemita Klose of West Village Dental Studio. There are a few cases where a larger head might be better. Orthodontist Heather Kunen reminds us that a toothbrush is only as good as it’s operator, so for brushers who are less meticulous about moving a small brush around every corner of each tooth, they’ll benefit from a broader head.

Best overall electric toothbrush

Rotating, Oscillating, and Sonic | Soft Bristles | Pressure Sensor | Timer | Small Brush Head

Cosmetic dentist Lana Rozenberg likes that Oral-B brushes generally “have more features” and are “more advanced than the others.” They have a slight edge over other popular electric toothbrushes because they rotate, oscillate, and pulsate (or vibrate) combining all three technologies. This brush specifically can rotate 44,000 times per minute, which dentist Jonathan Levine says causes “a lot of disruption of plaque.” According to the brand’s website, all their round toothbrush heads rotate 45 degrees to the right  and back, to 45 degrees to the left, as well as oscillate back and forth. Oral-B brushes are also known for their small round heads which allows them to get around each tooth, which is only aided by the rotation of the brush head.

While this is a pretty basic and affordable entry-level electric toothbrush (high end models could run you upward of $300), it still has all the main features dentists recommend.  It has soft bristles, a pressure sensor that stops the pulsation if you brush too hard, and a built-in two-minute quadrant timer that vibrates every 30 seconds when it’s time to move to the next corner of your mouth.

Best less-expensive electric toothbrush

Rotating and Oscillating | Soft Bristles | No Pressure Sensor | No Timer | Large Brush Head

If you want to try out an electric toothbrush without dropping a lot of cash, this is one of the few ADA-approved models you’ll find in the drugstore. It has no timer or pressure sensor, but Levine says it’s “a good starting point, good for travel, and better than manual.” The brush head moves in two directions: The top part rotates in a circle while the bottom bristles oscillate up and down. You’ll have to keep track of your brushing time on your own, and make sure you aren’t brushing too hard, but the bristles are at least soft. They also change color when it’s time for a new head.  This brush is battery-operated, which certainly has its cons, but, as opposed to others on this list that will just be dead when their internal battery dies, this toothbrush’s AA batteries are at least replaceable. That might be the only thing you can fix though. Low-cost brushes tend to be “disposable in the sense that you’ve got plastic mechanical parts … and those will wear out,” Messina says.

Best app-enabled electric toothbrush

Rotating, Oscillating, and Sonic | Soft Bristles | Pressure Sensor | Timer | Small Brush Head

If you’re willing to spend a little more and are interested in features beyond the basics, this is one of Oral-B’s most advanced models that I think is worth the price. It features a pressure sensor that turns red if you’re brushing too hard, which is a little more noticeable than just a vibration stopping, and the  sensor will also slow the brush speed to protect your teeth and gums. This toothbrush has Bluetooth technology to connect to an app on your phone where you can get real-time feedback on your brushing habits,  help you know where you’ve brushed so you don’t miss a spot, and coaching to get you through the recommended two minutes. You can easily see this diagnostic report using the included phone holder that suctions on to the mirror. This brush also comes with a charging case, and has six different cleaning modes. It also has a charging dock that has room for additional brush heads. All of these features made this toothbrush a standout to Pia Lieb, founder of Cosmetic Dentistry Center NYC. She’s particularly  a fan of the app. “Having the app really does work because it makes you self-conscious of really brushing for two full minutes,” says Lieb, who says that most people don’t come close to the recommended time on their own.

Best Sonicare toothbrush

Oscillating and Sonic | Soft Bristles | Pressure Sensor | Timer | Large Brush Head

Our best overall pick is an Oral-B, but for those who want to go with the other major player in the space, Sonicare, we’ve found the best option for you, too. Sonicare brushes are distinguishable from Oral-B brushes mainly by the brush head. It’s large and flat compared to Oral-B’s small round one, which is best for those who wouldn’t intentionally worry about getting into every crevice and can use the broader head to cover more ground mindlessly. It also doesn’t rotate, but instead moves the bristles from side to side and “uses more of an ultrasonic vibrational energy to disrupt the plaque,” Levine says. Chern likes that “the sonic power helps to shake off plaque and tartar, aiding in the removal of these gingivitis-causing, bacteria-holding compounds.” This specific model is a more entry-level Sonicare, but only one of two from the brand accepted by the ADA. It’s similar to the entry-level Oral-B above, our overall pick, as it has all the basics and few extras. It features a timer, a pressure sensor, and dentist-recommended soft bristles. Krasilnikov says, “While the bristles only sweep back and forth, the brush sends out vibrations that are designed to break up particles and debris and allow toothpaste and fluids to access hard-to-reach places.” The bonus? This brush also has a light that tells you when to replace the head.

Best electric toothbrush with long battery life

Sonic | Soft Bristles | No Pressure Sensor | Timer | Large Brush Head

This Pro-Sys toothbrush has a large long head similar to Sonicare’s brushes. It doesn’t have the name recognition of some of the bigger brands, but the Pro-Sys sonic brush is marketed to dentists and many sell it directly to patients in their offices, Levine says. “It’s a very good brush and half the price of the expensive ones,” he says. “It has very, very soft bristles and a very nice ovaline head, so it does a good job of getting way back into the mouth.” It comes with five different brush heads, all some variation of soft, making it safe for even the most sensitive teeth and dental implants. There are also five different levels of cleaning power, meaning there are 25 potential settings on this toothbrush, a selling point for dentist Yuliya Rabinovich of Dental Muse. The biggest standout feature to me is the battery life. While most toothbrushes on this list will last for about two weeks on one charge, this one can go for about a month. If you travel often, or just forget to plug yours in, you’ll rarely have to worry about the Pro-Sys toothbrush dying on you or traveling with your charger.

Nicest-looking electric toothbrush

From $85

Oscillating | Soft Bristles | No Pressure Sensor | Timer | Small Brush Head

For better or worse your toothbrush doubles as bathroom decor. Keeping it out might help you remember to use it twice a day, but a bacteria-collecting, sometimes clunky and in the way toothbrush is a permanent fixture on your countertop. Having one you won’t mind looking at everyday is a good idea. Cosmetic dentist Stephanie Dumanian of Park Lex 60 Dental says the colors of this toothbrush from start-up brand Goby are “like eye candy for your bathroom counter.” This moonstone line has an eye-catching iridescent look, but if you are looking for even more color, you can opt for a bold pink or blue. It’s not just nice to look at though: “The oscillating head provides a deeper clean than most entry level toothbrushes,” she says. “And the subscription service takes the guesswork out of when to change the toothbrush head out so you don’t have to worry about overgrowth of bacteria.” Even if you don’t opt into the subscription service, the Goby brushes’ power button lights up when it’s time to replace the head. It also has a small round brush head, similar to Oral-B’s, with soft bristles, and a built-in quadrant timer.

Best electric toothbrushes for kids