What the best electric toothbrush has

  • Good performance. When upgrading from a manual toothbrush, increased efficacy in reducing plaque buildup and preventing gingivitis is top priority. Some upgraded brushes also add additional brushing modes that offer whitening and/or gum care.
  • Simple operation. Brushes should be comfortable to hold and easy to use. The brush heads' movement and size should make them easy to manipulate in the mouth.
  • Helpful features. Features like timers, travel cases and charging stands differentiate electric toothbrush models. The features you need will depend on your lifestyle.
  • Affordable cost of ownership. Durability is extremely important when it comes to electric toothbrushes, which already include added expenses for replacement brush heads -- that should be changed every three months.

Know before you go

What kind of power source do you want? Electric toothbrushes are usually rechargeable, but some operate on standard AA batteries. Battery-operated models are usually less expensive and more portable, but rechargeable models are typically better reviewed.

How often do you travel? If you travel a lot, a travel case may be necessary. Uncovered toothbrushes can be a target for germs and may be inadvertently turned on in transit. Battery longevity and the portability of a brush's chargers are also important considerations for jet-setters.

Do you need a compact brush? Children, in particular, require small brush heads, but some adults also have trouble maneuvering large brushes inside their mouths. If this is the case, look for a compact brush.

Which brush settings are a must-have? Many brushes have several brushing modes. Decide before shopping whether you require a setting for sensitive teeth or for whitening.

Does design matter? If your toothbrush's charging stand will be sitting out on your bathroom counter, looks probably matter. Decide how much a compact or stylish stand is worth to you.

Value expectations: The dollars and cents of it

The least expensive electric toothbrushes (up-front, at least) are battery-operated brushes. However, these can have hidden costs, including replacement batteries -- and for brushes that don't have replaceable heads, replacing the whole brush every three months. When you upgrade to a rechargeable brush, you typically get added quality and durability in addition to eliminating battery replacement costs, though the up-front costs can be tenfold or more. Additionally, replacement brush heads can be very expensive -- $10 or more for some models. In some cases there are generic brush heads compatible with brand name brushes, but not always.

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