If you’re buying an electric toothbrush, there are certain features you should look out for.
It’s all too easy to forget how long you’ve been brushing, which is why the best electric toothbrushes will have a brushing timer. Dentists recommend two minutes, which feels much longer than it sounds. These brushes will do the hard work for you by letting you know when you can (eventually) stop.
They’ll also alert you to move onto a new section of your mouth every 30 seconds. Most people spend longer on certain parts of their mouth and neglect other areas. Typically, they’ll focus on the front of their teeth and the easier-to-reach sections of their mouths. This can lead to gum disease and tooth decay in other areas.
A timer may be the most important feature on your electric toothbrush, except perhaps for a pressure sensor.
We mentioned it above but a pressure sensor is one of the key reasons to buy an electric toothbrush over a manual one. It’ll stop you pressing too hard when you brush. This bad brushing habit can damage teeth and gums.
Over-brushing is often a substitute for brushing well. It can wear down the enamel on the teeth, leading to sensitive teeth and receding gums.
If you check your toothbrush and find that the bristles tend to part in the middle, palm tree-style, it’s a sign that you’re brushing too hard. To protect your teeth, buy a brush with a pressure sensor.
When you brush your teeth with an electric toothbrush, let the brush itself do the work. Move it slowly over your teeth – there’s no need to do a brushing up and down motion to keep your teeth clean.
More sophisticated electric toothbrushes feature different modes. They’ll usually have a button on the handle that’ll allow you to toggle between deep cleaning, whitening, tongue care, polishing and gum care.
Some may have a setting for sensitive teeth, while others may have a range of intensity levels that can be used in the same way.
If you suffer from sensitive teeth or bleeding gums, a brush with different options could make a real difference to how comfortable and effective your brushing is.
Being able to charge your brush easily is really important, particularly if you travel often. Some brushes, including the the Sonicare DiamondClean 9000 and the more expensive oral-B iO brushes, will include a USB charger as well as a standard two-pin bathroom plug connector. The DiamondClean 9000 combines USB charging with a travel case, which is ideal.
An average battery life is now around two weeks, so bear that in mind when you read our reviews.
Most brushes feature standard nylon bristles but a few are coming on to the market with silicone brushing heads. Silicone is naturally bacteria-resistant and is much gentler on gums than nylon, so it could be a good option for people with gum sensitivity.
There have been promising studies on the virtues of silicone bristles but it’s really too early to say. Some dentists have cautioned that as the bristles are wider, they won’t have the same reach as nylon bristles.
Smart brushes connect with a smartphone app to collect data on each brushing session. Depending on the app, they may also discover and flag errors in your technique and help to change your brushing habits.
The best app we’ve found for overhauling your brushing technique is the one used with Oral-B iO electric toothbrushes. Depending on the brush you get, you’ll get more or less feedback when you brush.
The higher the iO model number, the more feedback you’ll get. The iO9 and iO10 will give you real-time, detailed brushing feedback. If you’re interested in an iO brush, read our round-up of the best Oral-B electric toothbrushes to see which one is right for you.