Electric toothbrushes clean better than manual
Think about it: How long do you brush your teeth? Thirty seconds? Maybe a minute? And how many times a day? Admit it: You're not always the most upstanding tooth brusher -- same here! So what does a good brushing routine entail? Dental experts say you should be brushing for two minutes at least twice a day, flossing and visiting your dentist regularly. Manual and electric toothbrushes are equally effective -- it's how you brush that is important, according to the American Dental Association (ADA), not necessarily what you brush with.
It's not that there is anything wrong with manual toothbrushes, it's just that people lack discipline when brushing. A number of reports say most Americans brush for only 30 to 60 seconds, which is half the time recommended by dentists, and that's not nearly long enough to enable the fluoride in toothpaste to do its job. Reviewers say the best electric toothbrushes come with a two-minute timer and are able to reach hard-to-clean areas better than most of us can manage with a manual brush. Many brushes also utilize lights or sounds to notify you to move to the next quadrant of the mouth every 30 seconds.
However, many clinical studies find that electric toothbrushes remove significantly more plaque than manual ones, likely because users brush for longer. One study published in the March 2000 Journal of the American Dental Association found that 80 percent of nearly 17,000 patients improved their dental health after brushing with an electric toothbrush. Some studies specifically look at how well testers adhere to the prescribed brushing regimens, and find that electric toothbrushes increase brushing time and effectiveness -- especially among children.
One differentiator amongst electric toothbrushes is the type of movement the brush head makes from rotating to sonic movements. Rotating brush heads spin 360 degrees around while rotating-oscillating heads oscillate from side to side not making a full circle. Sonic toothbrushesvibrate from side to side at a very rapid speed. There are mixed opinions on which brush movement is more effective; many of these studies are sponsored by brush manufacturers, so it's nearly impossible to find a neutral perspective. However, experts say that all types are effective, and the best one is ultimately a matter of personal preference.
Electric toothbrushes are expensive compared to manual toothbrushes. You can expect to pay upward of $40 for a good power toothbrush and more than $100 for a top-of-the-line brush. Brush heads need to be replaced as often as a manual toothbrush and usually cost more, sometimes more than $10 each. Despite the higher price tag, the most expensive toothbrushes don't always add valuable features. Higher prices are usually associated with more attractive designs or bonus features like multiple cleaning modes or pressure sensors.
In addition to electric toothbrushes for adults, we look at electric toothbrushes for kids and electric flossers. Kids' toothbrushes are essentially a mini version of the adults' (to better fit kids' mouths), with similar brush movements and timers, and the addition of bright colors and sometimes characters or music to make brushing more fun. We found that there are often more durability issues amongst electric toothbrushes for kids, though they're also typically less expensive.
Waterpik is to electric flossers as Kleenex is to tissues
The name Waterpik has become nearly synonymous with electric water flossers, but in recent years several toothbrush manufacturers have also entered this product category. Some provide an alternate head for their electric toothbrush which can be used to pick teeth, while others, like the Philips Sonicare AirFloss have created a version similar to a Waterpik that uses a stream of pressurized water to knock out particles from in between teeth. For those who don't like flossing or who have braces, this product can be extremely useful.
Our top choices for the best electric toothbrushes and water flossers are based on the consensus of professional reviews, scientific studies and user reviews. Criteria include the brushes' effectiveness at cleaning teeth, ease of use, features, durability and the cost of ownership.