Are Electric Toothbrushes Worth the Cost?

by Lee Doppelt
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We know taking proper care of our teeth can save us tremendously in dental costs. So are electric toothbrushes worth the cost? And which brands do the ADA recommend?

You brush twice daily or more, you floss, you visit your dentist for the recommended semi-annual cleaning and scaling; but your check-ups are just so-so and your teeth seldom have that just-back-from-the-dentist fresh feeling. And those stains from green tea and blueberries, foods that folks say are good for you, leave telltale signs on your teeth, especially the front teeth most visible when you smile.

Are you just not brushing properly? Or do you need a better toothbrush? We explore whether the cost of an electric toothbrush is worth the investment.

What does the American Dental Association recommend?

The ADA stamps a seal of approval on many, but not all, commercial toothpastes and toothbrushes. Colgate and Crest brand products typically carry the ADA seal, but some of the bargain brands that you’re tempted to purchase simply based on price may not actually be ADA recommended. Look for their seal before buying any of these oral health products.

You may have already searched online and experimented with different toothpastes. Though, interestingly, read the small print on the back of the toothpaste tube and you’ll quickly discover that most seem to have the same ingredients. Baffling indeed, some claim cavity-fighting, and others promise to reduce plaque and tartar, while some toothpastes are recommended for whitening. You’ve even experimented with some of the natural whitening techniques at home such as baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. But the results seem minimal and short term.

You’ve tried different toothbrushes, too. Your dentist or periodontist may have sent you home with a complimentary soft or extra soft toothbrush. You assumed that came with his or her endorsement, but that may not necessarily be the case. But that brush isn’t really keeping your pearly whites pearly white either. So what other options are there?

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An electric or powered toothbrush may or may not give you cleaner, healthier teeth.

One woman, during her regular dental check-up, chatted with the hygienist about reasons for using a powered toothbrush. The hygienist stated that her mouth simply felt much cleaner when she switched to an electric toothbrush from using a manual one.

The dentist confirmed that there is no real disadvantage to using the powered toothbrush, besides cost, and that for some of his elderly patients with dexterity problems in their hand, the electric toothbrush was a great alternative.

What does it actually cost to switch from a manual to an electric toothbrush?

Though there are some brands of powered toothbrushes that appear to be a good deal, dentists typically recommend one of the two main brands.

The Philips Sonicare electric toothbrush is very popular with many users. Your dentist may tell you that it’s great that this device vibrates but that some patients complain that it “tickles.” Buy a basic Philips Sonicare at Amazon or Walmart and pay as little as $50 or up to approximately $190.

Oral-B sells some very popular and effective electric toothbrushes. Purchase their basic model for about $50 or spend as much as $300 if you like more features. People claim its circular movements make their teeth look whiter and feel cleaner.

So what “bells and whistles” could possibly be added to an electric toothbrush to increase its price 6x? All of the electric toothbrushes, even the least expensive models, charge the brush when not in use, so that you can brush your teeth “untethered”, as one dentist stated, sitting in front of the TV, for example, to brush the recommended 2 minutes.

Beyond the basics, you pay extra if you get more than one brush and some of the electronic gizmos, such as a pressure sensor, Bluetooth connectivity, and even a case should you want to take your electric toothbrush travelling with you.

Just as you would replace your manual toothbrush about every three months as recommended by the ADA and by your dentist, especially when the bristles look frayed, the head on your electric toothbrush will require that same attention. A replacement brush is about $4 or more, not too much more than a high quality manual toothbrush.

Is a Waterpik a smart purchase for you?

While chatting with your dental professional about powered toothbrushes, also ask about Waterpiks, sometimes referred at as water flossers. For about $35 to $95 or more, you can buy one from any of the same retailers that sell electric toothbrushes. The real question is whether they do much more than you can already do with good oral hygiene practices at home.

If your dentist already praises you on your successful brushing and flossing at home, simply keep doing what you’re already doing.

Reviewed August 2022

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