Looking for an electric toothbrush that doesn't get disgusting
January 24, 2014 10:41 AM   Subscribe

That's pretty much my main criterion. I've had two different Sonicares with E-series brush heads (they look like this). I love that they get my teeth scrumtrulescently clean, but it's like a Dorian Gray thing going on where the cleaner my teeth get, the grosser the brush gets. Gunk makes its way down into the handle and it gets really disgusting in there, and the buildup also weakens the magnetic connection between the brush and handle, making the brushing less effective.

I've never had a cavity, have no fillings or crowns or anything in there besides my 28 teeth. I have no special needs or feature requests, just a toothbrush that gets them nice and clean while itself staying clean. Any recommendations? Note, I am buying a new toothbrush regardless (my Sonicare is burning through batteries at an unreasonable rate), so while I'm aware of retrofit options like these Sonicare condoms, I'd ideally rather get a toothbrush that doesn't have this problem in the first place.
posted by payoto to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
How often are you changing the brush heads?

When I change the brush head on my sonicare, I'll usually take a q-tip and rub out the inside magnetic area in the handle if it's grody. Wiping down the main body usually does enough.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:48 AM on January 24, 2014

Best answer: Sonicare has fixed this problem in it's new line. I'm still kind of peeved that the handles die over 2-3 years. I think if you can avoid keeping them in the charging base all the time they'll last longer.
posted by fontophilic at 10:52 AM on January 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

I find the Oral B handle stays a bit cleaner than the Sonicare one, but the easiest way to keep the grossness at bay on either is to soak the brush heads in hydrogen peroxide now and then. Then a bit of q-tip action on the inside, or just banging the thing against the sink to dislodge any crud.

I've got the cheapest model of rechargeable Oral B toothbrush. If available near you, a warehouse club (such as Costco) is easily the cheapest way to buy electric toothbrush heads and the savings on those alone nearly pay for the membership for the year. Should make it easier to change out the heads more often.
posted by asperity at 10:53 AM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

do you take the brush off when done brushing ? And rinse it all off ? (and change heads) ?

I unscrew the brush every time and rinse everything off before putting it on the counter until the next brushing. The inside of the brush might get gunky by the time I need to change brushes, but that's OK.

Also the manual says to clean/wipe down the outside regularly.
posted by k5.user at 10:58 AM on January 24, 2014

I take the brush head off after every use and rinse it (plus the base) which seems to really eliminate the nastiness.
posted by joan_holloway at 11:01 AM on January 24, 2014

Response by poster: To clarify: I am not looking for tips on how to clean the Sonicare. I am shopping for a new toothbrush and want one that does not have this problem to begin with. I do remove the brush head and leave it unattached until I'm ready to brush again, and periodically swipe inside the handle with a cotton ball, but the gunk is tenacious. The very existence of the Sonicare condoms tells me that I'm not the only one with this problem and I would rather have something that stays cleaner without a lot of special care and feeding.
posted by payoto at 11:02 AM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is the reason that I switched to the Oral B. I am very happy with it.
posted by Wordwoman at 11:04 AM on January 24, 2014

It's not very environmentally friendly, but I ended up just getting disposable electric toothbrushes. I've used a couple brands (whatever was on sale) and they've all worked well. They're cheaper in the long run if you look out for the sales.
posted by DoubleLune at 11:05 AM on January 24, 2014

I do not have this problem with my ~6 year old Oral B pro care. I try to remove the brush head after every use and rinse the entire thing, but if I forget, it's not a disaster.
posted by elizardbits at 11:12 AM on January 24, 2014

Tip for longer battery life: let the toothbrush run all the way down. Do this at least twice a year. I kept one OralB handle alive for 12 years using this process. Constant "topping off" of the battery is the usual pattern, but does not promote battery longevity. I finally had to replace the handle because the brushes had been redesigned and replacements would not fit. YMMV
posted by Cranberry at 11:16 AM on January 24, 2014

The Sonicare EasyClean doesn't have this problem - I used to have the kind you have and yes, it was nasty. It's been totally redesigned to not have that cavern that gets full of mildew and gunk.
posted by wondermouse at 11:26 AM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

The new line of sonicare toothbrushes took care of this problem nicely. I've had mine for about a year, and no gross junk/buildup at all. I used to have the old kind, and I'd just pop the neck off after brushing and wipe it dry with a paper towel.
posted by lovecrafty at 12:01 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I used to have the same sonicare as you and also had that problem. I don't have it with the new sonicare line. My boyfriend has an oral-b electric toothbrush and it doesn't stay any cleaner than mine.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 12:10 PM on January 24, 2014

Best answer: As the others have said, the new Sonicare line does not have this problem. I have the Philips Sonicare Flexcare Plus. The toothbrush heads don't have that big bell base which holds that disgusting sludge. They just clip onto the top of the toothbrush handle.
posted by barnone at 1:05 PM on January 24, 2014

I have a Sonicare with the new style heads linked upthread, that also comes with an ultraviolet "cleaning station". The newer heads are much smaller and quicker to dry than the old style. I always remove the head after brushing and generally rinse, dry with a towel and stick it in the cleaner.

A tip is to dry up inside the head with some toilet paper (cloth towels are too bulky to get in there) then leave the head lying on its back, with the base open to the fresh air. You're going to get mildew and gunk anywhere there is moisture for it to grow on.
posted by Solomon at 1:07 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thirding (I guess) Oral B. Gunk stays on the outside and is (within the limits given by the usual brands of toothpaste) entirely washable-offable.

Mine conked out only recently, after eleven years of daily use. That's pretty okay for a device with re-chargeable batteries, Delrin gears and a non-serveable motor.

I opened it all up and found that I shouldn't have stored it upright: after that long a period, it turns out, a tiny amount of gunk seems after all to make its way past an elaborate flexible rubber washer thingy which is located inside the metal ring at the top, and enters into the shaft channel. I had the whole thing disassembled, down to the gears (requires some grinding, since the motor is dot-welded to the gear frame. Curiosity. Yeah...). As gadgets of this kind go, this is a pretty decent machine, and as said: the washer does hold tight for a long time. So, don't store it tip-up, is all.
posted by Namlit at 1:11 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I know exactly what you mean; I'lll admit to being the person who asked about this anonymously before. I went with this Sonicare, as recommended above, and it doesn't have that problem.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:36 PM on January 24, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the solidarity and all the recs for the more expensive Sonicares and the Oral B. It seems like it's a tie between these, so because I'm a little annoyed at Sonicare, I'm going with Oral B (specifically the Pro Care 1000).

The corpse in the library, thanks for linking your previous question. I hadn't seen that one, and zenon's comment - "The sonic care is not mine, and not only would I NOT use it to brush my teeth, I wouldn't use it to clean the sink, and I actually resent it being in the same room as my oral b brush." - is pretty spot on!
posted by payoto at 6:05 AM on January 25, 2014

Hmmm. Just a note: I had this problem with an Oral B brush. I don't think switching to Oral B is necessarily the solution.

I think -- with no science to back me up -- that this is a problem some people have and some people don't, even if they use the same toothbrush. Is it our brushing style? How much toothpaste we use? If we get the brush wet before we apply the toothpaste? I don't know. But if people say "I've never had this problem with XYZ brush," that doesn't mean that you won't have that problem.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:19 AM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Until you get a new one try soaking the brush head overnight in hydrogen peroxide. The fizzy bubbles get all the gunk out from inside plus its grossly fascinating to watch. I do this once a week and my current brush head has lasted for over a year. Works great for regular toothbrushes too!
posted by platinum at 11:12 AM on January 25, 2014

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