Which electric toothbrush should I buy?
November 13, 2008 7:25 AM   Subscribe

Which electric toothbrush should I buy?

I've decided it's probably worth it to plunk down the money for an electric toothbrush. I don't have the best tooth habits (I always brush twice daily and floss once or twice a week, if that) and now that I'm done with college I'm prepared to start giving them a little more TLC.

I've got my first dentist appointment today in the last 15 or so months...this is probably something I should have done earlier, but too late now.

Anyways, after searching all morning (mostly Amazon) I think I've got it narrowed down to this and this. I'd like to buy something that's not ridiculously expensive, but at the same time I realize it's probably a worth investment. It seems I can get the Flexcare on eBay for about the same price as the Triumph, so between the two, price isn't really an issue.

I'm open to other suggestions as well.
posted by Tu13es to Health & Fitness (33 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I really loved my Sonicare toothbrush and plan on buying another.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 7:30 AM on November 13, 2008

I have a Triumph and I really like it. It is my first and only electric though, so I can't really compare.

I bought mine on eBay, new, for about $60 though.
posted by k8t at 7:31 AM on November 13, 2008

We've had an Oral-B for a few years now and it still works very well. I'd throw a recommendation behind the brand (my dentist did too), though I don't know about that specific model.
posted by csimpkins at 7:32 AM on November 13, 2008

Response by poster: I forgot to mention - if you have one to recommend, please be specific! There are eleventy billion electric toothbrushes out there. :)
posted by Tu13es at 7:37 AM on November 13, 2008

My parents have gone through a series of Sonicare toothbrushes over the year, so I think they're happy with them--they all seemed to last a while, too. I'm not sure which they have now, but I think any in the range should be fine.

I still use the hand-powered toothbrush, so I don't have a huge amount of experience with them myself.
posted by that girl at 7:43 AM on November 13, 2008

About two years ago, my dentist made me go to a periodontist because my teeth were starting to become a little loose because of my gums. The periodontist said "Okay, we can either do a deep gum cleaning at the cost of $700 that will not be covered by your insurance, or you can get a Sonicare toothbrush and try that."

I got the Sonicare Elite e7300.

At my last dentist appointment, my dentist said my gums were almost completely back to normal.
posted by Lucinda at 7:51 AM on November 13, 2008

I really love the Pulsar, essentially a disposable electric.
posted by zeoslap at 7:51 AM on November 13, 2008

I use and like the Flexcare you linked to, only i got the one with the little UV house on it because I needed a place to store two heads and I'm a sucker.
posted by The Bellman at 7:59 AM on November 13, 2008

I've had a Sonicare for years (my wife has one, too). We both love 'em.
posted by wheat at 8:01 AM on November 13, 2008

I use a Braun electric toothbrush - maybe $20 odd dollars for it? I haven't had a cavity in years so apparently it does the job just fine.
posted by COD at 8:02 AM on November 13, 2008

nthing the Sonicare. It feels really ticklish and impossible at first, but you get used to it. Mine even has a timer, the brush pauses for a split second every 30 seconds to remind you to move to a different quadrant of teeth. It keeps me brushing for the full 2 minutes when I'd otherwise be distracted.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 8:18 AM on November 13, 2008

I have the Sonicare E5500. Before I had one, I was skeptical of the benefit of an electric toothbrush, but after having bought that one in August, I've been very impressed by the "clean" feeling it gives my teeth.
posted by Trekoni at 8:23 AM on November 13, 2008

Apparently I wasn't getting quite the level of gum line cleaning I needed to with my manual technique. This resulted in having to do a few rounds of root planing and one root canal, which was expensive and not fun.

So I asked both my dentist (who is a fairly prestigious figure in dentistry, apparently) and hygenist (who is just really into her work) about this. The verdict was:

Best results: Any Sonicare product

Best bang/buck: The Braun product line

Generally acceptable: a manual toothbrush

Better than not brushing your teeth: Everything else

I'm normally more of a bang-for-the-buck kind of guy, but hey, you don't get a second chance with teeth, so I sprung for whatever random Sonicare product was available at Costco at the time. I like it quite a bit, but it has two bugs that are hopefully fixed in more recent firmware: After a full charge, you have to hold down the On button for a REALLY long time to keep it from turning itself off immediately. Also, the mode that is supposed to extend the timer slightly overall doesn't do anything at all.

I'd imagine these bugs are fixed in current versions of the product, and the only reason I'd hesitate to recommend it at all is the fairly high price compared to the competition.
posted by majick at 8:23 AM on November 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I am not a dentist, but I searched through the peer-reviewed dental literature a few years ago and found that a rotary toothbrush performed better than a sonic toothbrush. I just checked again and a more recent possibly independent study that says the Sonicare is better. The studies sponsored by Philips and Proctor and Gamble always said their own toothbrush was best, of course.

I might buy a Sonicare if I weren't convinced I would have to buy another one within a couple of years due to the disposable battery wearing out. There's not been enough of a difference shown to convince me that it is worth forking that much money over to Philips every few years. I also don't like the increased risk of bacteremia.
posted by grouse at 8:25 AM on November 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have had a Braun Oral-B 9400 for less than a year and an old Philips Sonicare Advance for about six years (I sort of live in two different cities right now). I honestly like the Sonicare a lot more.

  • With Sonicare, my teeth feel significantly cleaner, every single time. It takes much longer than the recommended 2 minutes to get a comparable "squeaky clean feeling" with the Oral-B.

  • The Oral-B is unexpectedly loud, as in, I would avoid walking around the house while brushing my teeth with it after everyone else has gone to sleep. Sonicare is much quieter by comparison.

  • Sonicare doesn't hurt my gums (it a couple of weeks to get used to the Oral-B before my gums stopped bleeding every time I brushed, but more gum stimulation might be considered a good thing by some).

  • The Sonicare battery charges way, way more quickly than the Oral-B and lasts forever. I'm repeatedly surprised by how quickly the Oral-B battery drains.

  • If you travel a lot, the Sonicare is much easier to pack than the Oral-B. The Oral-B has a sharp metal bit sticking out when you take it apart, and it has pierced through my toiletry bag in the past (my Oral-B travel case snapped the very first time I attempted to use it).

    Also, consider that Oral-B tends to be more expensive, but the replacement brush heads are cheaper ($18 for three as opposed to $25 for two with Sonicare).

  • posted by halogen at 8:37 AM on November 13, 2008

    Oh, boyfriend and I share the Sonicare brush and just switch brush heads in the bathroom (they come with very strong magnetic bases, so it's become a very part of my day to look around the bathroom and find out what ridiculous place he has stuck it for me to find in the morning). Anyway, my point is that I've had it for many years, moved into boyfriends house with it, and now we both use it daily (sometimes even twice a day) and the battery still lasts as long as it did when I first had the toothbrush.
    posted by halogen at 8:43 AM on November 13, 2008

    Costco had 4-5 electric toothbrushes when we went shopping for ours. There were a couple of OralB models, but our dentist had advised against those. There were a couple of Sonicare models, and then the Ultero, which is what the dentist used in their office.

    We went with the low-end Sonicare package that came with two handles and four heads because it was the cheapest of the ultrasonic options. There was another sonicare package with sleeker looking, multi-speed handles, (like the one you linked to) but neither seemed important. And the UV toothbrush sterilizer just seems ridiculous (unless you live with untrustworthy people, in which case, you have bigger problems)

    We've been very happy with our choice. I like how clean my teeth feel, and it only takes 2-3 minutes.
    posted by Good Brain at 9:09 AM on November 13, 2008

    I bought a sonicare when I went off insurance, and then 2 years later after poor flossing and mouthwash habbits but regular brushing (no different than normal) I returned to a dentist to find no cavities! For me that's suprising, so I am very happy with my sonicare.
    posted by Large Marge at 9:25 AM on November 13, 2008

    I've been using a low end Oral B (the one that uses AA batteries) with rechargeable batteries for six years now. Considering I paid $20 for it, I'd have to say that's pretty good bang for the buck. I never considered getting any of the ones with proprietary batteries because I never had anywhere in my bathroom to leave the charger. I've had no dental problems in that time other than getting my wisdom teeth out, and wear from grinding. Brushheads for any of these are going to quite a bit more than manual toothbrushes, so be sure to take that cost into account.
    posted by Calloused_Foot at 9:46 AM on November 13, 2008

    Sonicare! Love the super clean feeling. We bought whichever model they had for cheap at BJ's.
    posted by robinpME at 9:47 AM on November 13, 2008

    I have bought only one electric toothbrush, and it was a Braun Oral B (sorry, don't know the exact model - it was ~5 years ago). Don't know which one, but it was on sale. And I love it. But I've never tried any others, so take it for what it's worth. Also, my dentist recommends the Oral B (she might be a shill, who knows).

    Also, I feel I should reiterate what halogen said, that cheaper brush heads are worthwhile. I replace about once every 2/3 months.

    And lastly, DON'T buy "off-brand" replacement heads (CareOne, I think?). They suck because; 1) they "pinch" at random times, and 2) don't stay locked in, and fall out often. So at $5/pack of three, they're not worth it!
    posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:53 AM on November 13, 2008

    I am obsessed with my Sonicare. I have the Elite model and cannot do without it. If it ever dies, I'll just buy another. And another.

    In addition to its amazing cleaning properties, after three years mine still keeps a solid charge for 2 weeks worth of brushing when leaving on extended trips without the charger.

    I should also point out that I've never had any problems taking it with my carry-on luggage on planes in North America, though YMMV.
    posted by smitt at 10:12 AM on November 13, 2008

    I attribute my nearly-painless, first-time-in-twelve-years dental visit to the Sonicare brush. I hadn't been to a dentist in so long, and I was scared of how it was going to result. I only had one small cavity, and the dentist and hygienist were surprised that I hadn't been professionally cleaned in so long. I had purchased the Sonicare about 9 months earlier with the idea that I was catching up on years of neglect (neglect = not seeing a dentist, not total lack of dental care)

    Apparently, a Consumer Reports piece on toothbrushes recommended the round-head style of electric brushes over the Sonicare, but I really love the Sonicare. It takes a little getting used to, and I think some people never get the hang of it so they stop using it.
    posted by glycolized at 10:49 AM on November 13, 2008

    SonicCare makes a cheap model that runs on AA batteries which is a perfect way to try one out. If you like it and tire of replacing batteries every month or two then you can upgrade to the more expensive rechargeable models. I have not had cavities or gum disease and my dentist always said my teeth were in excellent shape and clean when I just used a regular toothbrush. I think I was doing a good job. I had to get the SonicCare when I developed golfer's elbow; it just hurt to brush with a regular toothbrush. Now I am hooked. It does a better job than I could do with a manual brush. I have seen, but not used, the Oral B and it does not impress me. It just does not seem like it could do a great job, but then again I have not actually used one.
    posted by caddis at 10:59 AM on November 13, 2008

    My old Braun Oral B basic model finally died, after at least 9 years!!!!!!! I liked it a lot, the round bush was great for a little mouth. Did NOT like how it gets all scummy where it rested on the charger. Replaced it with sonicare flexcare with UV cleaner. I love the UV cleaner concept, no gumminess around base, mouth feels really clean with the sonic thing going on. I do not like the Sonic brush shape as much and I do not like it turning off after 2 minutes since I sometimes like to brush for longer. Also (embarassing) lots of toothpaste drool with the sonic care, annoying to have to lean over sink or have to go change my pajamas after brushing! I think this is from the larger brush head, but I have learned to reduce amount of toothpaste I use. I do not get the beeping that is supposed to happen after times up for each quadrant, it might be turned off, but I really don't want it so I haven't tried to get it to work. I agree with the previous respondant who said the cycle for longer brush time (added gum massage) doesn't do much if anything. So, ideally I'd like a sonicare with round head, but since not available, I have to say the sonicare UV cleaner makes it worth giving up the braun. BTW, check out Costco, Bed bath and Beyond (great deal with 20% off BBB coupon and $10 rebate currently being offered on sonicare website)
    posted by Lylo at 11:05 AM on November 13, 2008

    My conclusion was that both the Sonicare and the Oral-B line does the job fine (as you can see from all the comments above). So my decision point was essentially the price of the disposable heads. In that case, Oral-B wins since you pay about $6 per brush, versus about $12 for Sonicare. So, considering that you should switch to a new brush every three months or so, that's about $25 a year difference. So over the long run (years!), the Oral-B ends up being significantly more cost effective.

    My whole family uses Oral-B now and we are all very happy, including our dentist.
    posted by tuxster at 11:15 AM on November 13, 2008

    Also (embarassing) lots of toothpaste drool with the sonic care, annoying to have to lean over sink or have to go change my pajamas after brushing!

    Don't use too much toothpaste (contrary to the manufacturer's desires a pea sized dollop will suffice) and keep your mouth tightly shut. Aside from being neater I think with the rapidly vibrating SonicCare it will enhance the effectiveness a little bit by agitating all the liquid in there against your teeth and gums.
    posted by caddis at 11:28 AM on November 13, 2008

    After a visit to a new dentist in the Bay Area, who spoiled me with an ultrasonic cleaning (and laughing gas), I wanted to replicate as much of the experience as I could at home. I think that was the first time I actually looked forward to my next dentist visit!

    Anyhow, after quite a bit of web research, I picked up the Oral-B Triumph Professional Care 9400 about a month ago and have been very satisfied so far. I was raised on traditional brushes, and my parents are still die-hard users of their manual-power Mentadents, but I have to say - traditional brushing simply doesn't compare.

    I was deciding between this model and the Sonicare Flexcare. For me, it ultimately came down to price of replacement brush heads, because the quality of the two units was comparable IMO. The Oral-B base model was also slightly cheaper (~$65 when I purchased it). I picked up 3 more brush heads - the same kind that came with the toothbrush unit - on eBay for around $15. Not bad, and I've been using mine for almost a month now and it's still going strong. I've also heard, but not tested, that you can use many different types of Oral-B heads with the ProfessionalCare series.

    I find that the brush holds its charge for a long time - I leave it unplugged most of the time and usually only charge once a week, even though I brush twice a day. When it gets dirty, I simply wipe with a damp cloth. I do wish the brush head storage area was better designed, as it's a little awkward to reach back in there to remove/replace brushes, but no biggie.

    Whatever you decide, happy brushing - you will come to enjoy it with an electric, trust me. I now brush twice a day, 2 minutes at a time, happily =)
    posted by xiaolongbao at 12:05 PM on November 13, 2008

    We had a base Oral-B base model. Recently upgraded to another Oral-B. Neither my wife or I have had cavities in years and the dentist here in the US told me "you have good teeth.....for an English guy".

    That backhanded compliment tells me that the toothbrush (and flossing) is doing the trick. Only reason we didn't pump for a Sonic was the cost, and the Oral-B was on sale.
    posted by arcticseal at 12:31 PM on November 13, 2008

    Response by poster: Wow, thanks for the responses everyone! Makes me very glad I found and joined AskMeFi! :)

    While I was at the dentist today, I asked the hygenist what she thought about electric toothbrushes. She said she has both the Sonicare Flexcare as well as the Oral-B Triumph 9400. She said she uses both equally (depending where in the house she is) and that she really enjoys them both.

    She then told me that they had both for sale in the office. I ended up walking out with the Sonicare Flexcare with UV thingy for $125. Cheaper than anywhere I could find online. :)

    Again, thank you, everyone!
    posted by Tu13es at 1:03 PM on November 13, 2008

    Yay! That one would have been my advice had I seen this thread earlier in the day. And I was going to ask you if your dentist sold them, we sell them much cheaper than retail. I'm very glad you have one, after you get used to how much it tickles, I am sure you will love using it.

    Go very easy on the toothpaste as advised upthread, keep your lips closed around the brush to stop the splatter all over the mirror. I always feel rushed through the normal cycle, so I set the brush to it's longest time setting. I think it's a three minute run, instead of two.

    Sonicare is a very customer service oriented company, don't hesitate to contact them with any concerns about the brush, they stand behind their product and have a great return/replacement of defective product policy.
    posted by Jazz Hands at 6:55 PM on November 13, 2008

    Sonicare is great. My dental care habits are not the best - brush once a day, rarely floss - and I have been cavity/gum disease free for years.
    posted by clark at 4:16 AM on November 14, 2008

    Response by poster: I used it last night and again this morning and I'm pleased with it so far. A few have said it gives them that "dentist clean" feeling. I would agree, though I think the results are skewed by the fact that I just went to the dentist yesterday. :P

    Someone elsewhere said they just use it in the shower to avoid all the mirror splatter and drooling issues. I did this morning and it worked great.

    posted by Tu13es at 4:28 AM on November 14, 2008

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