Electric toothbrushes could help you to clean your teeth better than manual brushing and clean teeth could even help you live longer, not just smile brighter. Recent research found that gum disease can speed up mental decline – such as the progression of Alzheimer’s – by as much as six times, while poor oral health can also lead to an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, dementia and male sexual health problems (and we’re not just talking bad breath).
WIRED has tested a dozen electric brushes from leading brands and start-ups to whittle it down to those that offer the best clean for your buck. And as with everything battery powered these days, many brushes now come with companion apps and Bluetooth connectivity to help you track your brushing and even identify potential problems.
The biggest decision you’ll need to make is whether you go for an oscillating or sonic brush. Oscillating-rotating brushes have a small, circular brush head that targets individual teeth, while the brush head of a sonic toothbrush (Philips Sonicare the leading brand) is similar to that of a manual toothbrush.
Oscillating designs (read: Oral-B) rotate at between 2,500 and 7,500 brushes per minute in comparison to around 300 manually. Sonic brushes, on the other hand, manage an estimated 30,000 brushes per minute.
So sonic wins by a mile? Well, in 2013, a test concluded that the oscillating-rotating toothbrushes performed better, but in 2010 a similar survey favoured sonic models, while many trials rank them equally good at removing plaque. One thing dentists wholeheartedly agree on however is that an electric toothbrush is significantly better than a manual toothbrush.
WIRED recommends you make the most of the various money back guarantee trials – typically for a month – and decide for yourself which works best for your teeth and gums.
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What’s the best electric toothbrush in 2020?
From the build quality and battery life to the charging case, app guided features, huge number of brushing modes, pressure sensor and how clean our teeth felt after just a few days use, Philips’ Sonicare DiamondClean Smart 9500 (£200) is a clear winner for the best electric toothbrush right now.
If you’re looking to learn more about your oral health and like the idea of AI helping you to brush better, the Oral B iO Series is for you. If you really want to spend loads, the Oral B iO Series 9 – the best smart toothbrush – will definitely impress, but the Series 8 (£180), and Series 7 (£150) are significantly cheaper and still come loaded with features to do the basics brilliantly.
The best flosser we’ve tested so far is Waterpick’s Cordless Plus Water Flosser WP450 (£48). It does a nice job of getting between teeth with four tips to choose from plus it’s brace-friendly.
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Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart 9500
WIRED Recommends: If money is no object, this is the best electric toothbrush available today
It’s expensive, but your mouth will thank you for the investment if you go for Philips’ Sonicare DiamondClean Smart 9500 (£200). The combination of five cleaning modes, three intensity settings and four different brush heads meant we spent ages brushing, whitening, polishing and even tongue cleaning. And that’s even before we got to the smart App features and neat touches such as the brush head replacement alerts. If you want to discover more about how you brush, and improve upon it, this is the brush for you.
The five modes and three intensity settings are clean, for everyday use; white, to remove surface stains; deep clean and gum health, with the idea being you treat your teeth to some extra attention once in a while, rather than hammering at them every day with the most intense setting.
The app syncs over Bluetooth and tracks your brushing and with the help of a mouth map, highlighting if and where you need to brush more, the brush itself vibrates and lights up if you press too hard. Once you’ve finished the two minute clean it will also show you which teeth to go back to for a more thorough cleaning.
As you’d expect, the app tracks your brushing routines so you can look back on your progress – like a Fitbit for your first molars – plus remind you when they need replacing, and even buy brush heads for a seamless on-brand experience.
But like virtually anything with a companion app, be that noise cancelling headphones or kettles, the novelty wears off pretty quickly. After about four days we simply couldn’t be bothered to open the app, click on the right bits etc. Instead we just let the superb toothbrush do its thing and tell us when to move to a different part of the mouth and if we’re pressing too hard.
The build quality here is also worth a mention, being leagues ahead of anything else, feeling solid and expensive, with a good (14-day) battery life, stylish glass charging stand and practical travel case that can be charged via built-in USB cable, not two-pin shaver socket.
Pros: Great build quality; good battery life; superb clean
Cons: Expensive; app is slightly overkill
Price: £200 | Check price on Amazon
Oral B iO Series 9
The smartest of toothbrushes?
When launched in late spring 2020, this toothbrush cost £500, which is preposterous. But, like buying perfume on a market stall, toothbrush pricing rarely stays fixed for long, which means this superb brush has finally drifted into the, ‘if it’s really that good, I’ll invest’ bracket.
Headline features on the Oral B iO Series 9 (£250) include 3D Teeth Tracking using AI – via the smartphone app – to monitor brushing, seven brushing modes including sensitive, ultra-sensitive, whitening and tongue cleaning, it knows when you’re pressing too hard, and when you’re not exerting enough pressure, there’s a colour screen, countdown timer, effort-based emojis and fast charging. Phew.
It’s a slick proposition, but is it all really necessary? Firstly, the AI. This app-based option 3D tracks your teeth as you clean front, top, and back. There are 16 zones in all, and the app will guide you, ensuring each gets a thorough once-over. Chances are, you’ll do this a few times and be very impressed with the results, before forgetting your phone and never opening the app again.
Thankfully, even without the ‘smart’ features it’s great at cleaning teeth. The Daily Clean mode is surprisingly vigorous and if your gums can take it will leave your teeth squeaky. We preferred the Sensitive mode for general use – the results were also superb. We also really appreciated the Smart Pressure Sensor, which flashes red when you’re brushing too hard and white when you’re too soft. Get it to green and you’re applying the ideal pressure. It’s a simple, and logical extension to existing toothbrush tech and works a treat.
Oral B has also gamified – or guiltified, maybe? – the two-minute brush with a countdown timer, and the threat of a moody emoji if you don’t hit the full 120 seconds. That’s right, if you fail on your brushing quest, the LED display will show you just how it feels about your performance. Hit the two-minute goal though and prepare for a rush of endorphins as your toothbrush smiles at you. We jest, but it works, just.
What doesn’t work as well however is the countdown timer. We know it’s there, and it’s nice to have at the end, but to read it, you need to either take the brush out your mouth and spray toothpaste all over the place, turn off the brush to check, or read the tiny text back to front in the mirror.
Battery life is great, though, with a magnetic charger – either a stand or in a travel case – taking three hours to give two weeks’ worth of brushing. The iO Series 9 is leagues ahead of the rest in terms of tech and if you need someone to tell you how to clean each zone of your mouth twice a day, it’s a must buy.
Also consider: That said, Oral B’s iO Series 7, which lacks AI, has a black and white display and five cleaning modes costs offers excellent cleaning and features for just £150.
Pros: Deep, thorough cleaning; green light means good brushing; AI like a dental hygienist on tap
Cons: Cheap travel case; countdown timer hard to read; do we really need emojis?
Foreo ISSA 2
An electric toothbrush with great battery life
Available in blue, black, lavender and mint, Foreo’s ISSA 2 (£104) is a stylish alternative to the traditional toothbrush, with bristles and body made from hygienic silicone. There’s only has one cleaning mode, but it has an impressive 16 power levels and two brush heads – one that is completely made of silicone and one that combines silicone and soft bristles for a very gentle clean.
Using a silicone brush head feels extremely odd, and after the onslaught of an Oral B, you can feel a little short-changed in the squeaky-clean department but give it a chance and the supersonic 11,000 brush strokes per min does get your teeth clean. It won’t be for everyone, but if you suffer from sensitive gums you may really appreciate the softly-softly approach here.
It can be charged using USB and it will warn you when the battery is running low instead of just running out of steam mid-brush, although that won’t be an issue all that often, as the battery can last an entire year on a single charge.
Pros: 16 power levels; stylish design; hygienic silicone; gentle cleaning
Cons: Looks a bit like a sex toy; sonic action takes getting used to
A stylish, travel toothbrush
Designed as an antidote to the app-controlled whizz-bangery from brands like Philips and Oral-B, Quip decided to make an electric toothbrush that just worked without ‘over complex and confusing functionality.’ The result – Quip (from $25) – is an extremely simple brush that has one mode and a 2min timer with 30-second interval vibrations.
It’s basic but beautifully executed; the design is slim and the metal handle verges on the luxurious. (A cheaper plastic option is also available). The brush head is soft and has silicone bristles around the edge for gentle gum cleaning. Flip it over and there’s a small area of rubber designed for cleaning your tongue.
The slender body and case make it ideal for travel, the rubber strip on the case lid sticks to the mirror and once in place you can’t accidentally turn the brush on which means a: you don’t risk a flat battery when you arrive and b: there’s no chance of being mortified at check-in as your luggage vibrates.
The other interesting aspect of Quip is that it is sold on a subscription basis, with brushes starting from $25 (£20) and then a replacement brush head and AAA battery is posted out every three months for $5 (£4). They also do a kid’s version for the same price and have their own brand toothpaste to complete the set.
So, you finally look cool brushing your teeth, but how well does it clean? The sonic vibration is quite gentle compared to the other brushes on test and on first brush we weren’t convinced it was doing all that much, but after the allotted two minutes our teeth felt like they’d had a good clean. It wasn’t as satisfying as the Philips however, but given the gulf in price we’re not all that surprised.
Weighing only a little more than a traditional brush we found ourselves brushing manually in conjunction with the vibrations, which didn’t give great results. Patience is a virtue with this one, and it will take getting used to, especially if you’re a fan of firmer bristles.
Pros: Good clean; compact, slim design; simple to use
Cons: Bit of a learning curve; subscription won’t be for everyone
Price: From $25 (£20) | Check price on GetQuip
Oral B Genius X
A great oscillating electric toothbrush
This Oral B Genius X (£169) is packed with six independent cleaning modes – Pro Clean, Daily Clean, Sensitive, Tongue Cleaning, Whitening and Gum Care – plus timers to make sure you brush for long enough and pressure sensors to prevent you pushing too hard.
Like the iO Series 9 (above), the toothbrush connects to a companion app via Bluetooth and tracks how much time you spend on each tooth. Here, at the end of each session you get a score out of 100 on how well you brush. Hitting a perfect score is a good motivator, and the way the app tracks where and how much, and how much pressure, you put on each tooth is very impressive.
But as with the Sonicare, the whizz-bang features only make sense when you can be bothered to take your phone into the bathroom, open the app, sync and pay attention. Maybe it’s just us, but we managed four days before the app-appeal waned and we just used the toothbrush, especially last thing at night when all we wanted to do was fall into bed.
As a standalone brush, it is superb, though, with plenty of cleaning modes and a good quality case with USB charging, although good luck finding a USB to USB cable these days as one isn’t provided. The oscillating design cleans individual teeth and feels more vigorous than a sonic design, but our teeth still enjoyed an exceptional clean. The Philips Sonicare model did leave a more polished feeling, however.
Compared side to side, the Oral-B feels budget compared to the Philips Sonicare. It’s very light – you can argue this means it’s nicer to use – but it doesn’t feel anywhere near as robust or refined. A great brush performance with practical app, but it’s at an RRP of over £300, it’s only good value at the current promotional discounts.
Pros: Exceptional clean; practical app; light
Cons: Expensive at full price; AI?
Colgate ProClinical 250+
The best budget electric toothbrush around
Available in three colours (black, white and pink), this slender, understated design from Colgate, the ProClinical 250+ (from £18), hardly screams hi-tech, but with two sonic cleaning motions – up-down and side-to-side – and a frankly ridiculous £15.50 price tag, it cleans teeth and gums brilliantly.
It’s not much larger than a standard manual toothbrush making it great for travel, or just not cluttering up the bathroom, and after a few days use our teeth felt smoother than when using an old rotating brush head model. Any electric model will do a better job than a manual brush, but this almost kept pace with the market leaders without costing you a gold crown in the process.
Admittedly it lacks a lot of smart features, but you do get a practical two-minute timer with auto-off, and as we’ve come to expect, it will vibrate after 30 seconds to tell you to move to another part of the mouth. It’s refreshingly faff-free, and while the bristles do feel soft compared to a traditional brush, they do a great job and are designed not to do any damage to sensitive gums.
A choice of power settings would have been useful, we guarantee you’ll knock the brush off its minimalist charging stand, and a spare brush head would have been nice, but for the price it’s hard to complain.
Pros: Great value; compact; timer feature
Cons: No spare brush head; no power settings
The best electric toothbrush for kids
Ably assisted in our testing by a five-year-old with a Disney fixation, Oral-B’s Stages (£20) is an adult electric brush designed for kids 3+, with a shrunken brush head and extra soft gum friendly bristles. You get two power modes, a two-minute timer with 30-second vibrations to let you know when to move to a different section of the mouth and a replaceable brush head, which is not always the case with kid’s electric brushes.
Battery life is a reasonable five days and it comes with a standard charging stand, just like a proper brush. It’s also nice and light with a good grip that our juvenile recruit had no issues with. Be warned though, switching to an electric brush takes a bit of practice, so you will be cleaning the mirror, walls, faces and pyjamas plenty of times before they get the hang of it.
Being a Disney tie-in, you can choose from a bunch of popular characters including Princesses, Cars, Star Wars and The Incredibles which, will no doubt go down well, but the real incentive here is a tie in with the free Disney Magic Timer App (iOS, Android). As the name suggests this is a simple two-minute countdown timer that, as your kids brush, reveals a picture from their ‘favourite’ Disney film. Each themed brush comes with four handle stickers that can be scanned in to access exclusive images – in our case, pictures from the Cars franchise – and the more they use the app the more sticker rewards they get.
It’s a super idea and nicely executed, and revealing the images does help the time pass, but good luck if you’ve got more than one child and only one phone or tablet as you can only use it one at a time. It’s also worth remembering that the brush doesn’t connect via Bluetooth so can use any brush with it, manual or electric. They will just be limited as to the themed content they can reveal.
Even with the extra bathroom mess to deal with, we recommend this brush for your younger kids. The soft bristles and oscillating action do a much more thorough job than the tired and distracted hee-hawing of a small child with a manual brush.
Pros: Thorough clean; Disney app tie-in; good grip
Cons: One kids countdown at a time
Waterpik Cordless Plus Water Flosser WP450
Our flosser pick for healthier gums
So much less faff than traditional string dental floss, this automatic flosser squirts high pressure water to blast away food and help remove plaque. Waterpik claims the Cordless Plus Water Flosser (£48) removes up to 99.9% of plaque and is three times as good as dental floss and used regularly you’ll have healthier gums in two weeks.
It’s not the most stylish or seamlessly built of gadgets, but it does the job with minimal fuss, and, when you’ve mastered the technique, minimal mess. To start with however, you’ll spray water everywhere and make a real mess of the bathroom mirror, your face and the top you’re wearing.
But despite the splatter it does do a great job getting between teeth, and combined with a decent electric brush, will make significant improvements to your dental health. The tips rotate through 360 degrees, so you can get into all gaps at any angle, which really helps.
The flosser is especially useful if you have braces, veneers or tightly packed teeth, and comes with four different tips to accommodate. These include a classic tip for everyday use, the Plaque Seeker, which has been designed for those with implants, bridges and crowns, while the Orthodontic Tip is tweaked to tackle braces. There’s also a tongue cleaner to complete the set.
The battery life isn’t the best and there’s no indicator to warn you when to recharge and compared to more expensive options like the Panasonic EW1511 or Philips Sonicare AirFloss Pro it can feel slightly clunky, but at half the price we can’t fault its ability to keep your teeth clean and dentist happy.
Pros: Fuss free; versatile; four tips
Cons: Battery life could be better