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Why are electric toothbrushes so expensive?

electric toothbrushes in holder on bathroom sink - why are electric toothbrushes so expensive

Wondering if an expensive electric toothbrush is worth the cost? We break down power, speed, materials and more

It’s no surprise that electric toothbrushes are more expensive than their manual counterparts. However, what can be confusing is the sheer range in prices. With electric toothbrushes costing anywhere from £15 to £300 – or more – it can be tricky knowing what you’re actually paying for, and whether you really need all the bells and whistles.

But seeing as two-thirds of adults in the UK have now made the switch to electric, it’s worth knowing why electric toothbrushes are so expensive in the first place. We spoke to Dr Mani Bhardwaj at The Smile Studios dental group, who told us that, while electric toothbrushes can come with a higher price tag when compared to manual options, he still recommends that people make this investment for their oral health. That’s because “years of research and development have gone into the development of electric toothbrushes, including the design of the brush heads and the engineering of the motor mechanism.”

So is it worth buying an expensive electric toothbrush? We’ve investigated below, taking into consideration the cleaning power, usability and overall health benefits of using an electric toothbrush.

Are electric toothbrushes better than manual brushes?

Electric toothbrushes are the safest and most effective method of cleaning and protecting teeth and gums. They’re able to cover more areas for effective plaque removal and, when compared to a manual toothbrush, prevent the kind of abrasion that causes irreversible enamel damage. As a result, any electric toothbrush will be better than a manual toothbrush at cleaning your teeth, but this comes at a price.

woman in shop choosing an electric toothbrush - why are electric toothbrushes so expensive

There are more materials used in an electric toothbrush than a manual one, all of which add to the cost. Along with a motor, circuit board and charging base, many electric toothbrushes also feature:

  • Multiple brushing modes
  • Integrated timers for the requisite two-minute brush session
  • Pressure sensors
  • Speed control
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Differing bristle strengths for a range of dental conditions

You’re also making a long-term investment by purchasing an electric toothbrush. After that initial spend, you’ll only have to buy replacement brush heads for the next few years, instead of an entirely new toothbrush. However, more importantly, the well-documented cleaning capabilities of electric brushes over manual brushes mean that, by improving your overall oral health, you’re reducing the likelihood that you will need costly dental treatments in the future.

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What’s the difference between a cheap and expensive electric toothbrush?

All electric toothbrushes have a replaceable rotating brush head. This design makes brushing much easier for the user, allowing for better access to all teeth, particularly the rear ones.

Beyond this, the differences between a cheap electric toothbrush and an expensive one begin to add up – materials, durability and battery life, as well as the brush’s power and speed all vary between models. For instance, an entry-level Sonicare electric toothbrush, like the Sonicare 1000, has fewer settings and cleaning modes, lower speeds and older battery technology than its more advanced counterpart, the Sonicare DiamondClean, and this is reflected in the price.

Battery life

Expensive electric toothbrushes will typically last three days before needing a recharge, and the charging time is usually quite short – around three hours. If the brush uses a lithium battery it’s likely to hold its charge longer.

In comparison, the battery of a cheaper electric toothbrush can diminish quite quickly and might take between 12 to 18 hours to fully charge.

Brushing power and speed

Most electric toothbrushes achieve a speed of between 2,500 and 7,500 brushes per minute. The technology used in an expensive brush is generally more powerful, allowing for higher speeds and, thus, a more intense clean.

woman in towel brushing teeth with electric toothbrush - why are electric toothbrushes so expensive

A cheap electric toothbrush with less power usually means weaker vibrations, slower speeds and fewer cleaning modes.

Smart features

Most electric toothbrushes have a built-in timer that pauses, beeps or vibrates every 30 seconds to encourage you to spend equal time on each quadrant of your mouth. But an expensive electric toothbrush is more likely to have pressure sensors that will alert you if you’re exerting too much pressure, helping prevent you from abrading your teeth and gums, and the most expensive brushes even come with downloadable apps for your phone that can help track your brushing style and habits and suggest ways to improve your technique. However, this does require you to have your smartphone with you while brushing.

A cheap electric toothbrush is unlikely to have any smart features beyond the integrated timer and, maybe, a pressure sensor.

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How much should I pay for an electric toothbrush?

Though the most expensive option can be tempting, it’s not necessarily the best suited for you. It’s better to look for models from a reputable manufacturer – like Philips’ Sonicare brushes or the Oral-B iO series – and to keep your budget in mind while you choose.

High end (£200+): If you’re keen to splash out on your dental hygiene, the Philips Sonicare DiamondClean 9000 (£190) is a fantastic high-end option, offering sonic cleaning with a smart app to provide all sorts of insights into your brushing habits.

Mid-range (~£70): A great middle ground is the Oral-B Pro 3 (£39). Packed with useful features that don’t go overboard, the smooth, streamlined brush includes three cleaning modes, a smart pressure sensor, a 30 second quadrant pulse and fantastic two weeks of battery life.

Basic (~£30): Budget brushers will be more than happy with the BitVae D2 Ultrasonic (£19), which has five cleaning modes and eight brush heads included with the brush itself.

As long as you pick an electric toothbrush that effectively cleans bacteria and plaque from your teeth and gums, it will be sufficient for keeping your oral health in tip-top condition.

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