Have you ever tried an electric toothbrush? If you haven’t you don’t know what you are missing. The change from a manual toothbrush to an electric toothbrush is amazing. I had used manual brushes until right before hygiene school, when I switched to a spin brush. I felt the difference from the manual to the spin brush. I was sold…until I went to hygiene school and the company representatives came knocking and giving out samples. I was lucky to be given a couple of different ones to try in the hopes that I would someday recommend them to my patients. A free brush for me, free publicity for them. I did learn a lot from trying different types of electric toothbrushes. First they are amazing. They make you feel so much cleaner than a manual brush. Second, there is no one perfect electric toothbrush for everyone.
There are three main brands of electric toothbrushes on the market. I know there are others, but they aren’t as popular. The three that I will discuss are Oral B, Sonicare and Rotadent. Each brand has more than one model and it can be pretty confusing. I will lay out the main features of each and how to find the best match for you. Make sure to read all the way to the bottom where there will be side by side comparisons of these brush types
Models: Rotadent Legacy and Rotadent Plus
Most of my experience with the Rotadent has been with the Legacy. The Rotadent Plus has recently come on the market. I have one coming soon and I can’t wait to play with it. The Rotadent is the brush I use at home.
The Rotadent Legacy and Rotadent Plus both have a life time warranty. Rotadent heads spin 360 degrees. Three different types of replacement heads are available for both models. A flat hollow head, a short pointy head and a long pointy head. The long pointy head is useful for cleaning under bridges, in between roots of multi-rooted teeth (furcations) and in between teeth. The short pointy and flat hollow tips are both types of universal heads. The bristles of are much finer and softer than any other brush on the market which makes it great for patients with periodontal disease or for patients with receding gums. The Rotadent is technique sensitive. It is not difficult. Visit my Rotadent article for instructions and scientific literature supporting the use of the Rotadent.
As you can see, Sonicare offers many different models at different price points. Sonicare has been presented as the most user-friendly of all the electric toothbrushes. They do not as technique sensitive as the Rotadents and have a head shape that is equivalent to manual toothbrushes. Sonicare electric toothbrushes use a back and forth motion and sonic technology. For patients that prefer the rectangle shape of the manual brushes this would be an excellent choice. Also patients with reduced manual dexterity from arthritis or Parkinson’s disease an electric toothbrush that is simple to use and hold is very important. Sonicare toothbrushes do feel rougher than the other electric toothbrushes and are not ideal for patients who dislike a strong vibration in their mouth. The brush does not reach as far in between the teeth as the Rotadent but clinical research has shown that biofilm (plaque) is removed 2 mm past where the bristles actually touch due to the sonic technology.
Another thing that Sonicare offers with may of its models is a UV sanitizer which studies have shown kill up to 99% of the bacteria that they tested for. They even tested the sanitizer on other companies brushes with the same results. Heads from other toothbrushes do not fit well into the sanitizer, I tried with some of the Oral B heads in the past.
Sonicare toothbrushes have a two-year warranty. They have been around since the late 80′s and have many clinical studies to back up their sonic technology. All Sonicare toothbrushes are not the same, the clinical research mainly focused on the flexcare models with a smaller amount of studies on other models. For a more in-depth look at the clinical research I will be writing an article that picks apart the differences between models and the studies on each.
Models: Professional Care 1000/7400, Professional Care 2000/8850, Professional Care Smart Series 4000, Professional Care Smart Series 5000, Vitality Dual Care, Vitality Floss Action, Vitality Pro White, Vitality Sensitive, Pulsonic (sonic brush)
Oral B electric toothbrushes (except the pulsonic) use oscillating/rotating heads. Extensive clinical studies on this technology have been performed over the last 20 years. They are easy to use, have compact heads with many head types. They have a two-year warranty and are effective for most patients. They are not as technique sensitive as the Rotadent and do not have the strong vibration associated with Sonicare toothbrushes (except the Pulsonic, Oral B’s sonic electric toothbrush) The Oral B electric toothbrushes fall into 3 categories: The Professional Series which used to be called the Triumph, The Vitality series and the Pulsonic. the Professional Series have elliptical heads that research has shown to remove more plaque than round heads and lots of clinical studies support this brush, the Vitality is a line of brushes that are more effective at plaque removal than a manual brush. Each brush in the line has a replacement head with a specific purpose. The floss action reaches between teeth better, the pro white has a polishing cup, the sensitive model has extra soft bristles and the dual clean head has two distinct brushing motions during use. The Pulsonic uses sonic technology and a back and forth movement.
One great thing about the Oral B replacement heads is that they fit on just about all the Oral B electric toothbrushes. If you buy one brush that doesn’t commit you to the type of replacement head that came with the brush when you bought it. If you bought a Vitality dual care and absolutely hated the head you can just go buy a different type, like a floss action, precision clean, pro white, sensitive clean, power tip, or even an ortho head for braces. It is so much less confusing when you have to go out and buy replacement heads. The Pulsonic does have its own heads that are not interchangeable.
Other Electric Toothbrushes
30 Second Smile
This odd-looking contraption made waves on television. I have never seen one in person or used one. I could not find any clinical data supporting its use. If you find anything different please let me know.
This was the first rotary toothbrush on the market in the 80′s. The company still makes a couple of models, one plug in, one using AA batteries. This is the brush that others were compared to in clinical research. Technology has come a long way since this puppy first came out but we should be grateful that it did!
Battery Operated Toothbrushes
You probably noticed I didn’t mention the battery-powered brushes that you see lately. They don’t work as well as the plug in rechargeable electric toothbrushes so I don’t feel that they fall into the true electric tooth-brush category. They are a category of their own, in between manual brushes and electric toothbrushes. I will devote time to them at another time.