Almost all the dentists we’ve talked to say electric toothbrushes are actually better for your overall oral health than manual brushes (there’s just some places those OG bristles can’t reach). 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.
That’s not to say the shiny new toothbrush you bought from an Instagram ad won’t clean your teeth. In fact, dentist Jonathan Levine points out that in one independent study, all types of powered toothbrushes outperformed manual ones in reducing plaque and gingivitis. “I’m a person who doesn’t sit there in the mirror and completely focus on brushing my teeth; I tend to be distracted and do other things,” says cosmetic dentist Amanda Lewis of Dallas-based Contemporary Family Dentistry. “The reason an electric toothbrush is great is that it continues to work while you’re not thinking about it.” Today’s toothbrushes will even tell you what corners need cleaning and time you so that you hit the two-minute mark, she adds. Plus, dentist Marc Schlenoff, vice-president of clinical development at dental office Tend, tells us that electric toothbrushes help lessen the force put into cleaning teeth and gums, reducing the risk of gum recession and wearing away tooth structure.
Electric toothbrushes tend to fall into two camps: rotating and sonic. “A rotating brush oscillates in circles and pulsates to remove plaque, while a sonic one vibrates at a high speed,” explains dentist Dan Di Cesare of Ironbound Dental Center. Some dentists said that one isn’t necessarily better than the other, while others appreciate the power of sonic slightly more. The most important thing to remember is that any toothbrush you buy should feature the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance. “The seal of acceptance says that a product does what it says and says what 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 21 dentists to break down their picks for the best electric models right now, below.
Best rotating, oscillating electric toothbrushes
Identifiable by their small, round brush heads, Oral-B toothbrushes both rotate and vibrate (or oscillate). These brushes can rotate 44,000 times per minute — which Levine says causes “a lot of disruption of plaque” — and one study shows that rotating and oscillating toothbrushes have a small edge over comparable ones that simply oscillate. Orthodontist Janet Stoess-Allen, who is also a fan of this Oral-B brush, says that because teeth are curved, “rotating heads are more effective in getting to all sides of them.”
This basic, rechargeable model offers the three main features dentists recommend: soft bristles, a pressure sensor, and a timer. “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. Brushing too hard can do the same, 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.” Finally, the two-minute timer, which vibrates every 30 seconds when it’s time to move to the next quadrant of your mouth, ensures you brush for enough time.
Cosmetic dentist Lana Rozenberg likes that Oral-B brushes generally “have more features” and are “more advanced than the others.” Another cosmetic dentist, Leonard Umanoff of Brooklyn-based LuxDen, agrees, saying that he recommends all Oral-B electric toothbrushes that have a built-in timer, as this helps make sure you’re brushing long enough to adequately get rid of plaque.
Oral-B’s version of a tricked-out toothbrush, the 7000 Smart Series, has all the standard features plus six cleaning modes (including one for your tongue), a light-up pressure sensor, and even Bluetooth connectivity, so you can track your brushing habits on your phone. Dentist Hemita Klose of West Village Dental Studio recommends the 7000 model because of the external clock that lets you keep an eye on how long you’ve been brushing. “Two minutes is a lot of time,” she says. “A lot of people don’t realize that.” Although she says the standard brushing mode is adequate for most people, she does like that the brush has a sensitive setting which she’ll recommend to patients who’ve had gum grafts, are under periodontal care, or just have very tender gum tissue. And while you don’t need an expensive electric toothbrush to get a good cleaning, Klose adds that the higher-end models tend to have a longer battery life, which is convenient if you’re traveling and don’t want to bring the charger along.
Because of their small brush heads, Chern says Oral-B brushes are a good pick “if your mouth is on the smaller side or you have gagging issues.” A smaller brush head makes it easier for some people to reach their molars, too, she explains. If you have braces or other orthodontics, you also might prefer Oral-B, according to Stoess-Allen, who recommends the brand to her patients because it makes a brush head designed to navigate wires and bands in the mouth. Klose agrees that the small Oral-B brush head “gets around the corners a little better” and lets you access hard-to-clean areas like the back molars, which she says are “usually where most people will miss things.”
[Editor’s note: This toothbrush is back-ordered on Amazon.]
Like the dentists above, Pia Lieb, founder of Cosmetic Dentistry Center NYC, prefers Oral-B electric toothbrushes because they combine vibration and rotation to “remove particles that you can’t even see with the naked eye.” She likes that the Genius Pro 8000, one of the brand’s most advanced models, features a pressure sensor that turns red if you’re brushing too hard and comes with a phone holder so you can follow guidance on the app while you brush. “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.
The latest addition to Oral-B’s lineup comes recommended by two dentists, Di Cesare and Steven C. Cohen of Livingston Smiles, who says, “It leaves your mouth feeling as clean as the day you leave the dentist after your cleaning — every time you use it.” Like the other Oral-B toothbrushes above, it has different smart modes (including one just for tongue-cleaning), expert-recommended small brush heads, a two-minute quadrant timer, and it can connect to an app so that you can see your brushing habits. Unlike those models, this toothbrush maps out each tooth’s surface and features an interactive color display to coach you through a clean. These bells and whistles are a hit with Di Cesare’s teen patients: “With this generation, anything that integrates with one’s phone seems to hold their interest a bit better.”
Best oscillating sonic electric toothbrushes
While they don’t rotate, Sonicare toothbrushes are known for their large, flat brush heads and oscillating motion. Levine says they “use more of an ultrasonic vibrational energy to disrupt the plaque.” Chern likes that “the sonic power helps to shake off plaque and tartar, aiding in the removal of these gingivitis-causing, bacteria-holding compounds.” Even without a rotating head, this Sonicare brush will definitely give you a good cleaning. 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. Some patients love the feeling of the vibrations, but others think they’re too ticklish.” This model also features a timer, a pressure sensor, and dentist-recommended soft bristles.
One of the newer members of the Sonicare family, this brush comes recommended by Chern and has three cleaning modes, including one for gum health, and an app that’ll follow along with your brushing. “It has sensors that report back to the app, giving a progress report and feedback to improve patients’ hygiene,” says Chern. “Like a mini-hygienist in a brush.” The 14-day battery life is great for travel, and the brush also has an indicator that’ll display when it’s time to change your brush head.
If you know you like the feel of a Sonicare, this high-end version offers the same deep clean with more bells and whistles, like five different brushing modes, including “sensitive” and “gum care.” Plus it’s a longtime Strategist favorite: Senior editor Simone Kitchens says, “It’s the closest approximation to that thorough, just-back-from-the-dentist squeaky clean,” and writer Stephen Haskell says, “brushing feels like a mouth massage, gentle while still providing adequate pressure.” According to dentists, you’re not necessarily getting a better cleaning experience with a more expensive brush, but Chern says pricier models offer more “creature comforts,” like the little glass the DiamondClean sits in to charge.
Plus, at higher price points, “the internal mechanicals are better made and will hold up over time,” adds Messina. Cosmetic dentist Stephanie Dumanian of Park Lex 60 Dental calls it “the Ferrari of electric toothbrushes,” and Siama Muhammad of Brooklyn Oak Dental Care loves how powerfully its ultrasonic vibrations remove plaque. Dentist Ben Elchami, a co-founder of Dntl Bar, says he’s seen his patients’ oral hygiene improve after using both Oral-B and Sonicare toothbrushes. Personally, he is a Sonicare fan and uses the DiamondClean at home. “I like it because it forces me to brush the full two minutes,” he says. “It also flashes and vibrates when I press too hard, which is something that I subconsciously do. In that sense, it helps me improve my technique to preserve my gums and teeth.”
Orthodontist Heather Kunen, co-founder of Manhattan’s Beam Street dental office, tells us she “swears by” this midrange Sonicare. It’s got five brushing modes and a two-minute timer like the DiamondClean Smart but no app or pressure sensor. “The toothbrush bristles are soft,” she says, “and the brush comes with a variety of features that are useful for optimal cleaning.” While Kunen agrees with other dentists that small, round brush heads allow for a more thorough cleaning, she says any toothbrush’s efficacy depends on user technique, and brushers who are less meticulous about moving a small brush around every corner of each tooth will benefit from the Sonicare’s broader head.
Philips Sonicare’s DiamondClean 9300 model is dentist Mahvish Ahmed of Smile Design Manhattan’s personal favorite and the one she recommends to patients the most by far. According to Ahmed, it’s particularly user-friendly because of its easy-to-store glass holder that doubles as a charging station, its included travel case, and its real-time app feedback on how you’re brushing. And the brush’s bristles are longer, meanwhile the brush’s head is shorter, allowing you to deep-clean the back of your mouth and making for a “squeaky clean and refreshed” feeling after brushing, she adds.
Dentist Sharon Huang of Les Belles NYC in Manhattan approves of this brush for those transitioning from manual brushes to electric ones as the pressure sensor can help “overzealous brushers.” She also points out that the smart toothbrush allows you to set goals, track progress, and get tips on brushing patterns for a better clean.
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.” Dentist Yuliya Rabinovich of Dental Muse family dental practice points out the adjustable settings on this brush, which comes with five brush heads, each with five brushing speeds.