Users of electric toothbrushes see themselves as superior to people who have to move their wrist backwards and forwards each morning and evening. Today’s smart toothbrushes – which interact with mobile apps – are the new premium home dental cleaner, and you’ll find excellent examples from major brands such as Oral-B and Philips, and newcomers such as Kolibree. We tested a range of products to find the best electric toothbrush - paying particular attention to the smart, app-connected brushes.
The currently available smart toothbrushes aren’t a giant leap forward in dental hygiene just because of the app integration. Other less smart but still technological advances in brush handles and brush heads have moved mouth cleaning on far more than using an app while you’re brushing, but what we like about these smart brushing apps is that they focus the user on properly cleaning his or her teeth and other areas of the mouth.
The vast majority of electric toothbrushes aren’t “smart”, in that they don’t come with a dedicated app. You can, however, easily download an app and use it alongside a non-smart toothbrush. This certainly makes sense for kids, who need a bit more fun than most smart brush apps allow.
Superior electric toothbrushes feature a brushing timer that helps the user brush for the recommended full two minutes. Most dentists suggest you spend 30 seconds per quarter of the mouth (upper left, upper right, lower left, and lower right). A good brush timer will alert you every 30 seconds so you know when to move on to the next quarter.
The more-sophisticated electric toothbrushes feature different modes for specific mouth areas. Most will have a standard clean setting and a deep-clean mode. Some will have a special setting for brushing the tongue (see below) or sensitive teeth, while others have a range of speed or intensity settings that can be used in a similar way.
They should also boast a pressure sensor to prevent you pushing too hard against your teeth, which can actually damage both the tooth and the gum.
When I first used an electric toothbrush with a pressure sensor I was amazed how wrong (and damaging) my brushing technique was. I was brushing far too hard. Vigorous over-brushing can wear down the enamel on the teeth, and lead to sensitive teeth and receding gums, exposing the sensitive root area.
Many of us neglect to clean our tongue as part of our dental regime, and this is a mistake. As much as half the bacteria in your mouth reside on your tongue. Look for white areas or desquamation (skin peeling) for signs of tongue ill health. Having a healthy tongue could improve your sense of taste and reduce bad breath.
The Oral-B Genius 9000 has a special tongue-cleaning mode, which is gentler than that which you use for brushing your teeth. This will eliminate the need for a separate tongue scraper.
Brush head replacement
Most of us probably don’t change our toothbrush heads often enough. Both the Oral-B and Philips smart brushes claim they know when you need to switch to a new brush head, although we suspect this is calculated merely by time since the previous replacement. If you can’t work this out – or have a scheduling system – then a gentle reminder from the connected app should help you keep your brush heads from wearing out.
Almost all the handles reviewed here are recharged via the usual two-pin charger. We'd love to see more toothbrushes charge via USB like regular devices (and there's one in this list) – but currently most manufacturers, despite their apps, still think about bathroom charging points only.
In terms of battery life the clear winner is the Philips Sonicare FlexCare Platinum, which can keep going for up to three weeks between charges (on a twice-a-day two-minute regime). Others typically range between one and two weeks of battery life.
The smart brushes we test here connect with a smartphone app to help you perfect your tooth-brushing routine, collect data on each brushing session, and point out errors in your technique.
In practice we found these apps to promise more than they actually achieved but using the apps for a few weeks really did focus the mind to improving our dental hygiene regime. We expect such apps to get smarter and more accurate but for now you should use them to perfect your routine rather than be a surrogate dental hygienist.
- Reviewed on: 1 January 2017
We were impressed with the Oral-B Genius 8000 and 9000 for many reasons: excellent plaque cleaning, comfortable brush and handle, brush-head options, travel case, and long battery life. However, we found the app’s functionality didn’t live up to its promise. The Position Detection is a great idea, but we found it tricky to get right. When used just to advise and monitor mouth-quadrant brushing it was more successful but not as sophisticated as it thinks it is. But as a premium electric toothbrush both the Genius 8000 and 9000 certainly live up to the hype. Neither is cheap but you can find significant discounts online (see those listed here), and, compared to the cost of a visit to the dentist, using a quality toothbrush is a wise financial as well as healthy decision.
- Reviewed on: 2 January 2017
The Philips Sonicare FlexCare Platinum does its job really well, performing its principal task of removing plaque with ease, and also gently teaching you a better oral hygiene regime: less pressure and less scrubbing. Let the toothbrush do the hard work. And it does that work without needing a charge every few days like some electric toothbrushes. This one goes on for weeks. The Sonicare app is intriguing because it looks great but was a little too confusing for us and we weren’t sure the smart sensors were as smart as they thought they were. With a high RRP you should definitely hunt around for the best price online. Find it at a good price and you’ll be happy with spending on such a premium electric toothbrush.
- Reviewed on: 18 June 2015
The Philips Sonicare DiamondClean is a stylish electric toothbrush with some really handy smart features including automatic timing so you don't need an awkward app, five different cleaning modes and wireless charging. At list price it's not great value for money but you can pick it up much cheaper online. If you want to use a connected app you should consider the Philips Sonicare FlexCare Platinum.
Read our Philips Sonicare DiamondClean review.
- Reviewed on: 11 August 2017
The Kolibree Ara does a lot well - it's just not quite the revolutionary A.I. brush it claims to be. There's nothing here you can't get elsewhere, but don't let that put you off buying it. This is a very solid smart toothbrush that's half the price of its rivals, and that alone is worth celebrating.
Read our Kolibree Ara Smart Toothbrush review.
- Reviewed on: 8 June 2014
The Oral-B Pro 6000 and Pro 6500 SmartSeries electric toothbrushes use wireless technology to sync with a neat smartphone app. The most important thing is to brush each section of your mouth without too much pressure and for the right length of time. The brushes are top quality, but the price is maybe too high for most pockets, whatever the potential savings at the dentist – although you'll find them cheaper via online retailers. You can use the app (or others) with cheaper quality brushes. We'd also love to see the app get a bit smarter about brushing techniques, as opposed to just duration and frequency of brushing. The 6000 and 6500 are still available but we prefer the better-value Oral-B Genius 9000 smart toothbrush now.
- Reviewed on: 3 October 2017
£125/$155 is a lot to pay for a toothbrush that doesn't offer any smart functionality at all, but for a certain user the slick design and USB charging will be enough to outweigh those concerns. Those features mean the Bruzzoni brush is not only convenient, but also one of the best looking toothbrushes around - you've just got to decide how much you care about Instagramming your dental routine.
Read our Bruzzoni electric toothbrush review.