Best electric toothbrush for a family of four with only one outlet?
July 23, 2021 6:13 AM   Subscribe

One of the more minor ways that capitalism is stressing me out right now is that there are too many choices for electric toothbrushes. If you love yours, can you tell me what you have?

The orthodontist read me the riot act and now I need to buy an electric toothbrush. There are too many choices at wildly varying price points! I would like:
—something not battery-operated, but rechargeable (so says the ortho)
—something with four different colored heads (family of four)
—something that doesn’t need to be plugged in all time, if possible, as we have only one outlet in the bathroom and it’s in an awkward location.

Any suggestions? Thank you!
posted by Ollie to Health & Fitness (20 answers total)
Just so you know, rechargeable toothbrushes run for about two weeks on a charge and take a few hours to recharge, so that isn't a tight constraint. You can even recharge them outside the bathroom!
posted by adamrice at 6:16 AM on July 23 [11 favorites]

We have a family of four with the Philip’s toothbrushes, and use one charger between them.
posted by nickggully at 6:18 AM on July 23 [3 favorites]

We don't have four people, but echoing the others, we share one charger between the two of us, and we don't even have it plugged in all the time (because small bathroom). Our Sonicares go weeks without needing a charge. When someone's does, they get the charger out, charge it for the day (probably doesn't even need a whole day, but I've never watched it closely), and then put the charger away. It would be easy for four people to get by with one charger. My only tip is to make sure that the toothbrushes are well-marked so you can tell whose is whose.

We've had a few different Sonicare models over the years, so I won't recommend a specific one, but as far as I can tell they are pretty much all the same at basic cleaning. The more expensive ones come with specialty modes we never use and accessories we don't need.
posted by primethyme at 6:21 AM on July 23

I have an Oral-B Pro 3000, I haven't experienced it, but some people say the batteries inside dies in a year. It has Bluetooth but that's an overkill. Some say the 1500 is a better model if you don't need the app.

The authentic Oral_B heads do not come with different colored heads, but the 3rd party "generic" heads do come in different colors, but only in a tiny band, not the full head.
posted by kschang at 6:25 AM on July 23 [1 favorite]

Oral-B electric toothbrushes are the most popular ones (at least in this part of the world). The charge lasts a week or two of daily use. You certainly don't need to leave them on the charger.

There are many models to choose from. If it were me, I'd go for two of the lower-price models, rather than a single higher-price one. I'm pretty sure after having owned many different models that the cheaper ones perform the task of actually cleaning teeth just as well as the expensive ones. I've never felt the need to use any of the different brushing modes on any toothbrush.

I've had a couple of the Pro 3000 brushes. The battery life drops a bit after a year or two, but I've found mine will still hold at least a week's charge after that time.
posted by pipeski at 6:28 AM on July 23 [2 favorites]

We've been very happy with this Aquasonic. It comes with extra brush heads. Two people in our house and we only charge it every month or so, overnight. It saved us during the pandemic, as I always used to have cavities and went to the dentist after over a year...perfect teeth. Whew!
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:34 AM on July 23

I have had a couple of Oral-B Bluetooth-enabled models die out on me after a year or two (although for me that basically meant "need to charge every couple of days"). I'll probably still buy another Oral-B though, I like them a lot and I have a lot of brush heads. I will not get another Bluetooth-enabled one, though - I'll go for the 1000 next time most likely.

I charge mine in the bedroom, about once a week.
posted by mskyle at 6:56 AM on July 23

Also have an OralB. Fwiw, my dentist says the important think is the built in 30 second timer for each quadrant, not the model. Electrics are good because it's easy to brush long enough.
posted by bfranklin at 7:13 AM on July 23 [2 favorites]

Wirecutter recommends Oral B over Sonicare, but we just switched from Oral B to Sonicare and I like it better. Really, they are all decent.

They are cheap compared to what you're paying an orthodontist, even when you are overpaying for replacement heads, so get two that use the same charger, plug in one charger, and rotate them onto the charger every couple of days. (Also, the Target brand Sonicare replacement heads are cheaper than the name-brand and work well for us.)
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:26 AM on July 23 [5 favorites]

Yes - the tip for healthy long-term battery is to not always leave them on the charger. I get about 10-days on my OralB, even after 6-years. Charge it fully, then use it completely until it wants another charge. That does mean that sometimes, at the tail-end, I will have to manually brush if it dies during mid-brush, but...
posted by rozcakj at 7:35 AM on July 23 [1 favorite]

I have a VERY small bathroom, the toothbrush charger was the thing that had me finally put in an outlet shelf thing. It is nice to have it up off the counter and it's big enough to hold the toothpaste too.

I also use the target brand sonicare heads, they are perfect. Not sure if it's changed but I found the sonicare charger a little sturdier than the oral b one, that was my main reason, it felt like I was going to knock the toothbrush off the oral b charger.
posted by magnetsphere at 7:35 AM on July 23 [2 favorites]

Sonicare here. Kiddo has a kid version with a different charger but she’s now old enough she could do a regular size probably. Hers has stickers on it and my husband and I wrote our initials on the bottom of our brushes with a sharpie.
posted by amanda at 7:45 AM on July 23 [1 favorite]

I charge my old Sonicare so rarely that I can't even remember how often it happens...I want to say I only have to charge it every three months. My bathroom is so small that I can't fit the charger in there and have to get it out each time, but it isn't really an issue since it's so infrequent.
posted by pinochiette at 8:30 AM on July 23

We share a toothbrush base in our family. We find it helpful to have a stand that holds the charger + toothbrush, and each of the heads — that way we have spatial memory to help us tell the heads apart, not just color.

Something like this.
posted by wyzewoman at 8:37 AM on July 23

Instead of using the tiny indicator rings on the brush heads, maybe it's worth it for you to specifically choose a model that comes in a bunch of different body colors, like this Sonicare that comes in six body colors.

Most of the other toothbrushes come in two or three colors max. Some models look close enough that they might be able to use the same charger, even so there's usually only white and black colors.

I have a preference towards Oral-B because the heads are smaller (and can fit in smaller mouths/crevices) and much cheaper than Sonicare, but that was for the previous generation of the latter.
posted by meowzilla at 9:25 AM on July 23 [1 favorite]

I have a Waterpik toothbrush + water-flossing station, with an induction charger on the flosser. As others have said, the base doesn't need to be charged very often, though if you're all going to share a base and use your own brush heads, it'd probably be weekly at least (and you might as well just keep it on the charger when not in use). Amazon has a wide array of brush head holders.

My husband is a quip user, and those run for three months on a battery. You get a fresh brush head every 3 months (recommended by dentists) and can choose to use a rechargeable battery of your own instead of having them send you a disposable. His dentist and endodontist are pleased with the quality of his brushing.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:31 AM on July 23

I'm a dentist, and I always recommend sonicare as a product that actually does as advertised. Rotating or reciprocating bristles don't work as well as the tiny vibrations of the sonicare head, especially when there are brackets and wires involved.
I can't answer as to which model best suits your family's needs, but I notice a difference in patients who use a sonicare.

I don't have any financial ties to the product or the company, and IANYD, of course.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:05 AM on July 23 [3 favorites]


I work in the oral care industry, and have worked for a few manufacturers. I'd like to shed some light on what the studies actually say, and what might be impacting your dentist's opinion.

First, dental-related studies are notoriously bad. They are almost all run by companies, not interested unbiased parties, and that means the data is always looking for the story. Second, the studies are usually general and not blinded. Third, the results from the studies are relatively random, so often the improvements shown are reading signal from a noise of low numbered data points. (IE, this group of 300 people had 2 cavities after 3 months, and this group had 1. A 100% improvement!).

So, what do we really know?

We know that brushing your teeth removes plaque and debris. (The white stuff left in your mouth after eating). And, in a lab, that plaque feeds bacteria that eats your teeth and causes cavities.

We also know, that many people don't brush their teeth for long enough, or brush their gum line enough. This is known through timing people and also analyzing their teeth before and after.

We know that in a study, people that have a timer on their toothbrush tend to brush their teeth longer, and thus, better.

But That's IT. There has not been a study that shows that power toothbrushes actually clean any better than manual toothbrushes, penetrate deeper, clean better. The only study that supports power toothbrushes is that timers help in a study (lab) setting. I know many people that use power toothbrushes, but don't follow the built in timer, so they possibly brush their teeth LESS effectively than a non-power toothbrush and using a clock.

So, my recommendation is to use a kitchen timer by your sink. Reward kids for brushing the whole two minutes. But what they brush with is not as important as the length of time.

If you are still looking for a toothbrush, I've found that sonicare toothbrushes are quieter, which allows you to multitask slightly more, but they are often more expensive.

Don't get me started on floss/waterpicks - Waterpicks are awesome, but only if you hook them up to your sink/shower, the countertop ones are terrible and expensive.

One last note, while many dentists are not paid, many are. They get free displays or giveaway products, and all the latest "education" by phillips and crest. Sometimes they even sell the power toothbrushes themselves. I'd personally be wary of dentist advice (especially after all the flossing nonsense).

Hope this helps!
posted by bbqturtle at 10:08 AM on July 23 [2 favorites]

An electric that doesn’t get charged is just a manual anyway. It’s not like it becomes unusable. They also usually make a beep when the battery is low and don’t just die. We use sonicare. Replacement off brand heads from online are helpful budget wise. Agreed they only need a charge every couple weeks. I’ve heard Costco is good for pricing. Otherwise look for some coupons or deals.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:09 PM on July 23

Sonicare, for sure. I had an oral-b for a while but the sonicare is obviously just a better brushing experience. I've had the same one for years now and it still works great.
posted by ch1x0r at 7:54 PM on July 24

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