Help me buy a toothbrush!
December 5, 2008 9:03 PM   Subscribe

Do I need to shell out for an expensive electric toothbrush?

After my latest dental cleaning, I've decided to switch to an electric toothbrush. Previous askmefi questions recommended Sonicares, but they are quite pricey. I'm wondering if there is any real difference in "cleaning quality" between some of the pricey toothbrushes like Sonicare and the cheap brushes like this one (a random example):

Cheap brush

Obviously it seems like the more expensive ones would be better, but I know that with some of these products you are just paying a lot for marketing and extra features that don't really make a difference. So, if I'm only concerned about getting a good clean, should I spring for one of the expensive brushes, or are the cheap ones just as good?

posted by btkuhn to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Previous AskMe questions also discussed this very question. My assessment is that a supermarket rotary toothbrush performs adequately. For further explanation and links to articles on the subject, see the previous postings.
posted by grouse at 9:08 PM on December 5, 2008

Best answer: Sonicares can be had for $35 delivered. That hardly seems pricey to me. Although admittedly at that price point, you will be replacing batteries every few weeks...
posted by kindall at 9:22 PM on December 5, 2008

You don't need to spend a lot - the thing about an electric brush is that it has the swirl motion, rather than the back and forth motion one usually uses which is bad for the gums, and it goes nice and quickly so it's effective at preventing tartar buildup. I have an even cheaper brush than you link to (just like this) and it works fine for me.

Remember that flossing is key to prevent plaque buildup and gingivitis, and mouthwash also helps. It's good to get your teeth clean but you don't want bits of food rotting away between your teeth while you sleep. The cheap mouthwash is just as good as Listerine (just check the medicinal ingredients list if you don't believe me - Life brand, for instance, has all the same stuff and is half the price).
posted by Dasein at 9:30 PM on December 5, 2008

A decent 'manual' toothbrush will cost $4 to $7 and last a max of 3 months. The electric ones range $25 to $55 and will last for years if you look after them but keep in mind the actual brushing heads still need to be replaced every 3 months. And they can be quite pricey.
posted by evil_esto at 9:33 PM on December 5, 2008

I have had the toothbrush you linked to for two years and I really love it. The only downside is the three pack of replacement heads cost more than the unit.
posted by shmurley at 9:46 PM on December 5, 2008

No, you don't have to get a Sonicare. The cheapest rechargeable Braun OralB, for around twenty bucks, does a great job, much better than I ever did with a manual toothbrush.
posted by exphysicist345 at 9:47 PM on December 5, 2008

Ooh! Batteries for the $35 option aren't so pricey if you buy rechargeables. I'm all about rechargables these days thanks to more and more wireless stuff.
posted by 2oh1 at 9:50 PM on December 5, 2008

Sonicare, Sonicare, Sonicare! Normal electric toothbrushes aren't even in the same species as a Sonicare. I mean seriously the difference between a Sonicare and the one you posted is about the same difference to me as between the one you posted and a manual toothbrush.

I love mine, but on a semi regular basis I'm forced to use a traditional electric toothbrush like the kind you posted, and a standard manual toothbrush (I used to work out of town, or when I'd visit my 'rents). And once I got used to the Sonicare I find I can really tell the difference in my mouth with the other types (and my reaction is, ugh! I used to use these every day, gross!).
posted by Jezztek at 10:18 PM on December 5, 2008

I have an Oral-B Vitality, and it's actually 95% the same as a more expensive Oral-B brush I had 5 years earlier (technology changed quite a bit). The Vitality runs for ~$15-20, and might be a good starting point (available at most places as well). True, the new ones are faster, and vibrate more etc... but I actually like this one because it doesn't vibrate as much... it's a little less intense.

Also, the replacement heads are easily found on eBay for cheap--about as much as a regular toothbrush ($2-3).

As far as how well it works... since using it, the dentist doesn't have to pick and scrape as much, and always comments on how clean/nice my teeth look. I can't say I'm even the best at brushing for a whole 2 minutes or flossing regularly either... so it works well for people that are slightly lazy.
posted by djpyk at 11:06 PM on December 5, 2008

If you're not sure what a difference a powered toothbrush will make and you don't want to shell out big bucks on an initial purchase, why not start with the Colgate Sonic Power. It'll cost you about $7 in CVS.

You'll get an idea from using that of the difference a powered toothbrush makes to your teeth, making the decision about whether to pay more for a Sonicare an easier one.
posted by essexjan at 11:30 PM on December 5, 2008

I've had both an oral-b rotary and a sonic-care and far prefer the oral-b. Either one is much better at keeping the plaque off than a regular toothbrush. The oral-b was a gift, but I think it was one of the more expensive ones.
posted by Manjusri at 12:08 AM on December 6, 2008

I agree with Jezztek. The Sonicare is in a different league IMO, and well worth the extra money. The difference is pennies when you factor in the life of the brush and the health of your teeth.
posted by gnutron at 12:25 AM on December 6, 2008

My dentist said that within the rechargeable models selection, there was little difference, but that the disposable battery models were not an improvement over manual.

I have the $20 Oral B rechargeable, which is just about the cheapest. The 3-pack of replacement heads costs almost as much as the toothbrush did, but it's still pretty reasonable on a cost basis. I prefer the round head over the round + fixed portion head. I like it, and it's definitely helped out, but I have to disclaim that I've never used the Sonicare, I'm just relating what my dentist said about the differences in models.
posted by clerestory at 2:18 AM on December 6, 2008

These answers (and other threads referred to here) have convinced me to get a Sonicare too, but is it likely that prices will fall in the after-Christmas-sales?
posted by SamuelBowman at 4:23 AM on December 6, 2008

My dentist told me to get the $15-$20 Oral B Vitality, which has worked great for me. I specifically asked about the Sonicare, and was told that the smaller brush head of the Oral B is better for getting behind your lower front teeth. You'll want a rechargable one, and this is the best value. You'll have no problem finding replacement brush heads, too.
posted by belau at 6:02 AM on December 6, 2008

I have a sonicare and find it to be Really Good (tm).

It was the model my dentist recommended - initially I ignored him and bought cheaper electric toothbrushes, but after a number of them lasted about 2 months each before mysteriously dying, I got the Sonicare and have had it for at least a year so far without problems.
posted by curious_yellow at 6:21 AM on December 6, 2008

The built-in batteries in Oral B rechargeables do tend to wear out after a couple of years; you go from charging every two or three weeks to charging every two or three days. I'm on my third one over an eight-year period. The more expensive models, aside from vibrating a little faster, don't seem to me to be a vast improvement over the cheaper models. So I'd agree with others and say go for a basic Oral B.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 6:59 AM on December 6, 2008

Wait! But which Sonicare model is the best?
posted by anniecat at 1:20 PM on December 6, 2008

Response by poster: OP here, again. I didn't realize that Sonicares can be had for $35; I think I'll spring for one of those and use my own rechargeable batteries, given the devotion some people have for these things. I'm a bit confused, though - I thought that the "good" electric toothbrushes use circular brushes and it looks like the Sonicare uses a standard-looking brush head. Is the standard just as good?
posted by btkuhn at 3:20 PM on December 6, 2008

The ones with circular heads typically rotate. The Sonicare doesn't really work like that, it's more a side-to-side motion (at audio frequencies, natch).
posted by kindall at 11:50 AM on December 8, 2008

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