Electric toothbrushes, often called automatic toothbrushes, are available as battery-powered units or rechargeable plug-in models. They move at high speed, providing from 3,000 to 40,000 brush strokes per minute. Some come with adjustable modes, timers, sensors and other neat things that make brushing entertaining rather than just a chore. Despite all those bells and whistles, you still want the one that will do the most efficient and safest job of cleaning your teeth.
Look at the options for each model, including the length of battery life in battery-powered models and options such as a sanitizer, a pressure sensor or a two-minute timer. Some timers can also beep at 30-second periods, one for each quadrant of the mouth. The pressure sensor can be valuable for people with sensitive teeth or who brush too hard, while the timer may be particularly desirable in a toothbrush for a child.
Look for warranties on the products, clinical trials and expert recommendations. Also, look for the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance on any dental product you are considering buying. Don’t be dazzled by advertising or manufacturer’s claims. Always ask your dentist or periodontist for toothbrush recommendations. If you have gingivitis – bleeding gums -- or periodontal disease, your periodontist should be able to recommend the best electric toothbrush for your condition.
Compare the power sources. Battery-operated units are all-in-one and eventually need to have the battery replaced. The battery models are relatively inexpensive, so if the brush head on a battery-operated brush is worn when the battery dies, the whole brush can be discarded and replaced. The plug-in varieties come with a recharging stand and cord and extra brush heads, usually with tags to identify the brushes for all family members. If you travel a lot, you may want to buy a plug-in rechargeable toothbrush for home use and a low-cost battery-operated model for your trips.
Consider the cost. As of 2012, electric toothbrushes range in price from less than $10 for battery models to $250 or more for plug-in sets. Plug-in models require replacement heads, generally after six months of regular use. The toothbrush should last several years, so figure the cost over a long period of time. An investment now could save big bucks dentist bills in the future.