If you listen to electric toothbrush manufacturers, picking up a manual toothbrush is as antiquated a practice as using a horse and carriage to get around town. Battery-powered toothbrushes promise to remove more plaque than their analog counterparts thanks to their high-speed scrubbing—and the gentle nudge that encourages users to brush for the correct amount of time.
While using proper technique with a manual toothbrush will help you maintain your dental health, many people prefer to leave the nuances to a gadget. The problem is one of choice: With literally hundreds of models available, deciding which electric toothbrush is the best fit for your mouth can be as agonizing as an extraction.
To help you decide, in 2019, Mental Floss asked two practicing dentists which electric toothbrushes they recommend to their patients, as well as which models they actually use themselves. As their answers varied depending on a person’s individual cleaning needs and preferences, we’ve narrowed it down to a few options. Check out the best electric toothbrushes that could earn you compliments the next time you see your hygienist, including the best options for adults, kids, those with sensitive teeth, and people who never remember to swap out their brush heads.
1. Best All-Around Brush for Most Users: Philips Sonicare DiamondClean; $220
Philips Sonicare has emerged as one of the most dominant brands in the electric toothbrush industry, for good reason. The two dentists we spoke to voiced their preference for Sonicare toothbrushes, both for their own personal home use and as the brand they recommend most often to patients in their practice.
“For me, the Sonicare is much gentler and not as aggressive as the Oral-B,” Gabija Revis, a dentist who practices in Frisco, Colorado, told us in 2019. While Oral-B’s small brush head uses an oscillating action—similar to the tooth polisher used during cleaning appointments—the Sonicare’s up/down vibrating motion tackles more teeth at one time. The DiamondClean model also sports many of the features of power brushes that dentists favor most, including a timer that notifies users that they’ve brushed for the recommended two minutes.
“I find [the DiamondClean] is tailored to all dental needs,” Sheri Doniger, who operates a general dentistry practice in Lincolnwood, Illinois, told us in 2019. “It has several settings, from Clean, White, Polish, Gum Care, and Sensitive. I switch between Clean, which is a two-minute set timer, to White, which is a three-minute timer." The toothbrush notifies users when they've spent the recommended 30 seconds for each quadrant, making sure that they spend an equal amount of time on all of their teeth.
(Note: Sonicare also sells much cheaper toothbrush models than the DiamondClean that offer the same basic two-minute timer and up/down vibrating motion dentists recommend, albeit with fewer settings and slightly different brush heads. The Sonicare 1100 retails for just $20 on Amazon.)
Revis also approved of the Sonicare’s DiamondClean brush heads, which are slightly smaller than most power brushes and can make positioning the toothbrush along the gum line easier.
Buy it: Amazon
2. Best for Sensitive Teeth: Philips Sonicare ProtectiveClean; $120
One of the biggest mistakes users make while brushing manually is attacking their teeth with an overzealous scrubbing technique, which can damage enamel and contribute to gum recession. If you notice your brush bristles are splayed out, you might be an offender. “It’s crazy to think you can brush too well and cause damage, but I see it frequently in my practice,” Revis said.
To combat this, some powered brushes come with a pressure sensor that alerts users when they’re pressing the brush against their teeth too hard. The Sonicare ProtectiveClean goes a step further, offering three intensity settings that reduce the vibrations for people with sensitive teeth. (If you have gum recession or are prone to over-brushing, make sure to ask your dentist if an electric brush is suitable for you.)
And remember that an electric brush is doing the work for you, so there's no need to do anything other than hold it against your teeth and toward your gum line. One option to reduce aggressive cleaning habits, Revis told us, is to hold the powered brush in your non-dominant hand.
Buy it: Amazon
3. Best for Kids: Philips Sonicare for Kids; $30
There’s more to a toothbrush meant for kids than brush or handle size. Doniger said the Sonicare for Kids incorporates a number of high-tech features that can prove useful for children who are reluctant to brush or do a poor job. “My grandkids use the Sonicare for Kids,” she said. “I recommend that to all my families with children. The brush has fun stickers, two cleaning modes, and is connected to an interactive app that helps to motivate the kids to brush longer. Since it is Bluetooth-enabled, parents or guardians are able to keep track of brushing time even when the brush isn't connected to the app. This is a great feature. When the little ones say they brushed, this app will let them see if they did and for how long.”
The Sonicare for Kids is also designed so that parents can manually assist in brushing if necessary, and comes with a timer that urges kids to keep going.
Buy it: Amazon
4. Best for the Absent-Minded User: quip; From $40
Whether you use a manual or powered toothbrush, dentists recommend changing the brush heads every two to three months. When your brush heads are beginning to wear out, they’re not doing as good a job of cleaning your teeth.
Quip is a subscription service that automates this process, sending you new brush heads every three months for $10, which are designed to fit their proprietary electric toothbrush handle ($40). The brush handle opts for a simple design free of the bells and whistles of other brushes. “It’s really popular among younger adults,” Revis said. “I’ve found that patients really like the [brush service]. It’s also gentle on teeth.”
5. Best for Germaphobes: Philips Sonicare FlexCare with UV Sanitizer; $130
While not all the features offered by high-end electric toothbrushes are useful, UV sanitizing functions (which sterilize brushes between uses) can come in handy, especially if you have a small bathroom. Doniger told us you might want to consider one if your bathroom set-up makes it more likely germs will collect near your sink, or if your toilet is less than 6 feet away from where you keep your toothbrushes. “Since [6 feet] is geographically impossible in some bathrooms, the UV sanitizing feature is nice,” Doniger said. “I have a separate UV sanitizer for my brushes.”
For a toothbrush with sanitizing features, we recommend the Philips Sonicare FlexCare Platinum that comes with a UV sanitizer.
Buy it: Walmart
This article was originally published in 2019. It has been updated for 2022.