The Best Electric Toothbrush
The Oral-B Professional Care 1000 is our pick for best electric toothbrush because it removes more plaque than sonic brushes and doesn't have too many bells and whistles.
It’s been 52 years since the first electric toothbrush debuted and there’s still no conclusive evidence that they’re really any better than your standard manual one. What dentists and the ADA do agree on is that maintaining overall oral health and hygiene is ultimately about diet, flossing regularly and how you brush, not what you brush with. That said, some newer electric toothbrushes do offer distinct advantages over your standard bristle stick–advantages that, depending on what you’re looking for, can justify the higher price you’ll inevitably pay.
For instance, some (the oscillating kind) have been shown to remove slightly more plaque (7 percent) than regular toothbrushes. Other studies have concluded that people tend to brush longer when they use an electric toothbrush, as the experience is generally easier and more enjoyable. Because of their smaller heads, many electric toothbrushes can also access harder-to-reach areas in your mouth, a good thing if your manual brushing skills are lacking.
What to Look for in an Electric Toothbrush
The trick these days is figuring out what features are actually useful and what’s needless filler. If you just want a solid electric brush, but don’t care about things like built-in and UV sanitizers (which are total BS, according to the ADA), smiley face icons, and LCD screens, the Oral-B Professional Care 1000 is a fantastic choice.
The 1000 is on the cheaper end of the seven-brush Oral-B lineup, but that’s mostly a result of eschewing the frivolous features everyone seems to be cramming into their higher-end electric brushes these days. Going up in the Oral-B lineup gets you largely needless bells and whistles, like a separate wireless smart guide that communicates with your toothbrush and tells you how to brush or a bulky extra head storage unit built into the charger base, which is very annoying when it comes to traveling, and extra vibrations, which don’t do much for cleaning. Going down any further, however takes away legitimately important features like a vibrating brush head.
To reach the optimal two-minute brush time goal, the 1000 sends out a vibrating pulse every 30 seconds with a longer pulse at two minutes. Ideally, you can use these intervals to clean each of the four quadrants of your mouth. There’s even a pressure indicator that stops the brush when you’re brushing too hard.
As far as reviews go, the 1000 gets a recommendation from Consumer Reports (subscription required). They tested 10 electric toothbrushes, rating each on comfort, convenience, ease of use and plaque removal. The 1000 finished with a respectable 3rd place score of 71/100. It was bested only by a Phillips Sonicare brush that costs twice as much, and it’s older (more expensive) brother, the 4000, which garnered the highest ratings of any electric brush (82). Their tests showed that the 4000 removed more plaque than the 1000 with the former receiving an “excellent” rating and the latter a “very good”. One possible explanation for this could be the difference in pulsation rate between the two models. While both the 1000 and 4000 oscillate at 8800 RPM, the 4000 pulsates at a much faster 40,000 pulses per minute compared to the 1000′s 20,000. When we tested both models side by side, there was definitely a noticeable difference in the amount of vibrations, the end result was the same in our tests. It is also worth noting that both of these tests were based off of the previous Triumph Professional series models so the results might not be directly analogous.
Another feature you lose by going with the 1000 is multiple cleaning modes. The 1000 has only one mode of operation (daily clean) whereas both the 4000 and the slightly cheaper 3000 have three: daily clean, a slow and gentle “sensitive” mode, and a “whitening” mode, which supposedly polishes your teeth by varying the bristle speed. Our tests showed the multiple modes to be more annoying than helpful. That’s because the button on the 3000 does not click like it does on the 1000. A simple slip of the finger can cause it to change modes, requiring you to reset the toothbrush and mess up your brushing timer. On the other hand, the 1000 has only one mode, and its power button has a satisfying click that keeps you from accidentally activating it.
It is also worth mentioning that many Amazon reviews of the 1000 complain that the pressure sensor did not stop the spinning when they felt it should have, we also found this to be the case so hamfisted users beware. When testing the 3000, we were unable to locate, let alone activate any type of visual pressure warning either. Moral of the story: try to brush more gently, not too difficult.
How We Tested
Which brings us to Oral-B’s main competitor: Philips’ line of Sonicare brushes. While many of these brushes also garner high ratings, almost all of them have vibrating heads. Unlike the Oral-B’s triple-action brushes, Sonicare’s heads simply vibrate back and forth at a high rate of speed. Some users claim this is gentler on the gums, but the evidence also seems to show it’s not quite as effective at cleaning. Another bonus? Oral-B replacement brushes tend to be cheaper (not cheap though), on average about $5 less for a four pack than Sonicare replacement brushes.
No one has yet tested O-R brushes against the new Deep Sweep style, so without evidence that it’s superior, we won’t recommend this as the main pick. As we mentioned above, Oral-B’s O-R line of brushes have consistently been lab-proven to be superior to Sonicare and other sonic brushes (not to mention vastly better than manual brushing). Same goes for the Triaction: the American Journal of Dentistry (PDF link) found it far better than your ordinary toothbrush, and, in another study, found it reduced plaque and gingivitis more than a sonic brush. That’s all very promising, but without a study directly comparing it to O-R brushes, we can’t make it our primary pick.
If you don’t like the way the Oral-B 1000′s rotating brush feels and want the feel of a manual toothbrush—but with far superior cleaning power—the Triaction is a great pick. It’s also good if you’re on a tight budget or if you can find it on significant discount. For everyone else, however, we recommend the Oral-B 1000.
Wrapping it Up
One thing is certain: You’re going to pay more to use an electric toothbrush. Once you buy the brush itself, you’ll be replacing the brush heads every month or two. But, hey, if buying one helps prevent a couple of cavities and extra trips to the dentist’s chair, going electric can certainly be justified.
Additional research and reporting by Bryan Gardiner and Jamie Wiebe. This post was originally published on The Wirecutter.
Oral-B Professional Care 1000, Consumer Reports (Subscription Required)Rated: 71/100, "Very Good"
Oral-B ProfessionalCare SmartSeries 4000, Consumer Reports (Subscription Required)Rated: 82/100, "Excellent"
A comparison of the plaque removal efficacy of two power toothbrushes: Oral-b Professional Care Series versus Sonicare Elite., US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, June 2005,
Manual versus powered toothbrushing for oral health (Review), Cochrane Report (PDF), 2009,