Electric toothbrushes review and compare

An electric toothbrush can be a good option for a sometimes tedious chore.
 
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01 .Introduction

Toothbrush

It’s been some time since CHOICE trialled electric toothbrushes, so we decided to find out what’s changed on the market. We conducted a user trial of nine new models with a broad range of prices and features.

Since our last test the Cochrane Collaboration conducted a review of manual versus powered toothbrushes for oral health. It concluded that using “powered toothbrushes with a rotation oscillation action reduces plaque and gingivitis more than manual tooth brushing” (all but the Colgate models have this action).

In brief

  • Rechargeable toothbrushes were the pick of our user trial
  • Money does equal quality, but there are still bargains to be had.
  • Regardless of whether you’re using a manual or electric toothbrush, dentists still advise at least a two-minute clean.

How we tested

Twenty trialists were recruited trial the 10 electric toothbrushes.

  • User trial While brushing with each toothbrush, trialists were asked to note how easy it was to use, how comfortable it was to grip and the effectiveness of the toothbrush at cleaning their teeth. Once they had used the toothbrush for a minimum of two days, they were asked to fill in a survey to rate the product.
  • Electric toothbrushes We chose all models available on the market at the time of our user trial.
  • Battery tests Prior to the user trial, the CHOICE laboratory assessed the electric toothbrushes to determine their battery power, the electrical safety and energy consumption of the rechargeable units and the number of days before each toothbrush would require recharging, or for the battery-operated products, when the batteries would need replacing.
  • They also did shower and immersion tests, which all passed.

We tested the battery powered toothbrushes with alkaline batteries, but despite the low initial and recurring costs in purchase, none of the battery powered models had good scores compared to most of the rechargeable models. It’s also worth considering the environmental impact that throwing alkaline batteries away incurs. See our test on rechargeable batteries.

Models tested

  • Abode QSQ-22101 (A)
  • Braun Oral-B CrossAction Power Max
  • Braun Oral-B Professional Care 5000
  • Braun Oral-B Professional Care 8500 (A)
  • Braun Oral-B Professional Care 9500 Triumph (with Smart Guide)
  • Braun Oral-B Vitality Precision Clean
  • Colgate Actibrush Multi-Action
  • Colgate Motion
  • SpinBrush Pro-Clean

(A) Discontinued, but may still be available in some stores.

 
 

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The following models scored the best results in our test

What to buy
Brand Price
Braun Oral-B Professional Care 8500 (A) $150
Braun Oral-B Professional Care 9500 Triumph (with Smart Guide) $200
Braun Oral-B Vitality Precision Clean $40
(A) Discontinued, but may still be available in some stores.

Results table

Full results for all models are shown in the table below. 

  Performance
  Features
Brand/model (in rank order) Overall score (100%) Effectiveness at cleaning teeth score (50%) Ease of manoeuvrability score (20%) Comfort of grip score (10%) Attaching head score (10%) Removing head score (10%) Measured uses per charge Price Charging unit wall mountable Charging indicator light Timer Speeds
Braun Oral-B Professional Care 8500 (A)
www.oralb.com/au
90 90 90 75 95 95 40 $150 2+
Braun Oral-B Professional Care 9500 Triumph (with Smart Guide)
www.oralb.com/au
90 95 80 75 95 95 38 $200 2+
Braun Oral-B Vitality Precision Clean
www.oralb.com/au
90 85 95 70 95 95 28 $40 1
Braun Oral-B Professional Care 5000
www.oralb.com/au
85 85 90 75 90 90 25 $100 1
Colgate Actibrush Multi-Action
www.colgate.com.au
60 50 65 65 85 80 83 $16 na 1
Colgate Motion
www.colgate.com.au
55 45 55 55 65 70 255 $11 na 1
SpinBrush Pro-Clean
www.spinbrush.com
55 50 50 55 75 65 275 $14 na 1
Abode QSQ-22101
www.woolworths.com.au
45 25 70 55 70 70 278 $5 na 1
Braun Oral-B CrossAction Power Max
www.oralb.com/au
45 55 45 65 15 10 40 $26 1
 

  Features Specifications
Costs
Brand/model (in rank order) Pressure sensor Indicator bristles Battery type (A) Full charge time (hours) Type of clean Brush heads supplied Annual power / Battery cost (B) Replacement cost for 2 heads Annual running cost (C)
Braun Oral-B Professional Care 8500 (A) www.oralb.com/au  R 16 Rotation / Oscillation 4 (1) < $3 $32 for 4 $32
Braun Oral-B Professional Care 9500 Triumph (with Smart Guide)
www.oralb.com/au
R 12 Rotation / Oscillation 2 (1) < $3 $23 $46
Braun Oral-B Vitality Precision Clean
www.oralb.com/au
R 16 Rotation / Oscillation 1 < $3 $32 for 4 $32
Braun Oral-B Professional Care 5000
www.oralb.com/au
R 12 Rotation / Oscillation 1 < $3 $32 for 4 $32
Colgate Actibrush Multi-Action
www.colgate.com.au
AAA na Vibration only 1 $27 $10 $47
Colgate Motion
www.colgate.com.au
AAA na Vibration only (2) 1 $9 $10 $29
SpinBrush Pro-Clean
www.spinbrush.com
AA na Rotation / Oscillation and Translational 1 $8 $9 $26
Abode QSQ-22101
www.woolworths.com.au
AA na Rotation / Oscillation 1 $11 ns ns
Braun Oral-B CrossAction Power Max
www.oralb.com/au
R 16 Rotation / Oscillation 1 < $3 $10 $20
 

Table notes

na Not applicable.
ns Not stated.
R Rechargeable.

(A) Alkaline batteries were used for testing, however rechargeable batteries could be used for powering these toothbrushes.
(B) We found none of the rechargeable ones would cost more than $3 per year in power.
(C) Total cost for 4 brush heads and battery replacement if battery powered.

(1) Different uses for each head.
(2) The brush heads of the Colgate Motion are no longer manufactured, but can be replaced by the Colgate Actibrush heads.

Features

Measured uses per charge are based on how long the toothbrush battery lasted; each use is based on a two-minute brushing of the teeth.
Charger indicator light is useful in case you are going away on a trip and need to know the toothbrush is fully charged.
Timer is an indication of when to change quadrants – each 30 seconds – or when you have passed the recommended two-minute clean.
Speeds are useful for personal preferences – some people may prefer either a fast or slow speed.
Pressure sensor can prevent gum damage by reducing the movement action of the toothbrush if you press too hard.
Indicator bristles show when it’s time to replace the toothbrush head. The bristles slowly fade to white, losing their colouring.

Scores The overall score is made up of:

  • Effectiveness at cleaning teeth (50%)
  • Ease of manoeuvrability (20%)
  • Comfort of the grip (10%)
  • Attaching the head (10%)
  • Removing the head (10%)

Price Recommended retail, as of November 2008, or the price we paid.

Profiles - what to buy

Braun Oral-B Professional Care 8500 (A)

Professional care 8500Price $150

Trialist comments

  • “The timers are great – means I don’t have to concentrate when brushing.”
  • “Teeth felt cleaner, cleaning feels a little more in depth.”
  • “It was a bit too strong so couldn’t brush for long.”

 (A) Discontinued, but may still be available in some stores.

Braun Oral-B Professional Care 9500 Triumph (with Smart Guide*)

Professional care 9500Price $200

Trialist comments

  • “My teeth feel cleaner than they ever have.”
  • “A good shape for a comfortable grip.”
  • “I love this toothbrush; it has an interactive timer that smiles when you complete the cycle.”
  • “Kept pressing the options button rather than On/Off.”
  • *The smart guide is a wireless screen that shows when you have finished cleaning for the dentist-recommended minimum of two minutes and warns you when you brush too hard.

Braun Oral-B Vitality Precision Clean

VitalityPrice $40

Trialist comments

  • “Great for cleaning teeth in a fast and effective way.”
  • “Cleaned teeth very thoroughly. Massaged gums.”
  • “A really good brush – the thing that would make it excellent would be a 30-second timer.”
  • “Small circular head requires the brush to be moved around more, but is better for access to back teeth.”

Profiles - the rest 

Braun Oral-B Professional Care 5000

Braun Oral-B Professional Care 5000 Price $100

Trialist comments

  • “I felt it did a better job than my standard manual brush, was easy to use and comfortable.”
  • “It can make your gums feel a little tender the first couple of times you use it.”
  • “Would be really good if it had a 30-second timer and a container to store brush heads.”
  • “The vibrations were rather strong, but this meant it cleaned thoroughly.”

Colgate Actibrush Multi-Action

Actibrush

Price $16

Trialist comments

  • “Sometimes the smaller head got in the way.”
  • “Smaller head/brush preferred. Good that it could be taken in the shower.”
  • “Sometimes hit On/Off switch while brushing.”
  • “With two moving parts, I didn’t quite know which one to focus on.”
  • “It was okay. Good for battery operated.”

Colgate Motion

Motion

Price $11

Trialist comments

  • “The powered head is too weak – hardly noticeable when in use.”
  • “Very quiet, but cleaning wasn’t as good as others.”
  • “Rotations slowed on back of teeth.”
  • “The head was too big and kept hitting my teeth.”
  • The Colgate Motion no longer has brush heads available, so if you decide on this toothbrush, you’ll need to replace the heads with ones from the Colgate Actibrush Multi-Action.

Spinbrush Pro-Clean

Spin brushPrice $14

Trialist comments

  • “It has two moving heads which tend to work well.”
  • “Average cleaning and too noisy.”
  • “The slide button was easier than a button.”
  • “It was lacking in power – I didn’t feel the brush movement was doing much. Too hard to manoeuver.”

Abode QSQ-22101

Abode

Price $5

Trialist comments

  • “Vibrations stopped with any sort of pressure so it just didn’t clean.”
  • “Complete waste of batteries. Spun around and did nothing, felt like I had to clean my teeth with another brush after I’d finished.”
  • “It was very difficult to start – I had to press using my thumb nail very hard.”
  • “Lacking power, even sounds like it’s on its way out! Very poor.”
  • “I like the head – easy to reach difficult places.”

Braun Oral-B CrossAction Power Max

Braun Oral-B CrossAction Power MaxPrice $26

Trialist comments

  • “It was extremely noisy.”
  • “The double brush head was quite large and very difficult to get into the back of the mouth.”
  • “Didn’t like the shape of the handle. Out of the charger it wouldn’t stand up.”
  • “Pretty good generally, but sounded too noisy, like an electric razor.”
  • “Neither great nor poor, whilst it felt good in the hand, it didn’t feel as though it did much. What’s with the horrible colour?”

Rechargeable battery Half the toothbrushes trialled have a built-in rechargeable battery pack that you can recharge from its own AC adaptor.

Charge level display Shows when you should recharge your toothbrush – useful if you take your brush away on holiday or regularly unplug your charger.

Speed Different speeds easily accessed from the front of the brush can make it easier to choose your preference.

Brush head container Useful for families or couples who want to use their own brush heads to compensate for a soft, medium or hard brush head preference.

Range of heads Choosing a brush with a range of heads can help you give the best brush possible, with possible interdental, tongue cleaning and teeth brightening recently marketed.

Are they suitable?

Are electric toothbrushes suitable for people with:

Orthodontic bands?
Perhaps. Brushing is very important if you have bands on so an electric brush could help here, as long as you don’t dislodge the wires or brackets. The Australian Dental Association recommends discussing it with your orthodontist as it’s usually decided on a case-by-case basis.

Dentures?
Electric brushes can be useful for cleaning properly, particularly if you also have poor manual dexterity.

Implanted teeth?
A recent survey found rotation oscillation powered brushes were well-suited to cleaning implanted teeth, but still discuss your individual situation with your dentist.

Not sustainable – not recommended

The Colgate 360 Microsonic has a head that cannot be replaced, meaning you will have to replace the whole toothbrush four times a year – not a particularly sustainable practice. We included this model in our trial, but decided to exclude it from our results table. Given that our trialists also felt it was poor at cleaning their teeth, we would recommend giving it a miss.

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