A regular old manual toothbrush can easily cost less than a dollar. You might have one in your bathroom right now, ready to tackle the plaque, and the coffee stains, and the bad breath that make its existence integral for modern living. But in our 21st-century society, it’s easy to spend much more on an electric toothbrush that does the same thing. Why on Earth would anyone want to do this?
On a quest to improve my dental hygiene, I recently tested a cheap electric toothbrush against the most expensive one I could find. It should be no surprise that the expensive one was better. I was personally appalled, however, by the fact that I think it’s worth it to splurge on a super nice toothbrush. You use it twice a day. It helps keep your teeth from falling out. And, perhaps most importantly, the cheap ones suck.
My quest to improve my oral hygiene began in a predictable place: my dentist’s office. Without going into too many details, she recommended I switch to an electric toothbrush, lest my gums give out and hasten the demise of my entire mouth of teeth. I really like my teeth, so I agreed to this and went shopping for the right device.
There are two basic kinds of electric toothbrushes on the market: the vibrating kind and the spinning kind. I decided to take the vibrating route, because it seemed like those brushes would be easier on my gums, and this led me to Philips Sonicare, the market leader for the vibrating kind. (Oral-B is the top brand for spinning toothbrushes.) Philips Sonicare is also a brand name that’s been blasted into my brain by the company’s aggressive marketing team. Perhaps as a result, all my friends who have electric toothbrushes have Philips Sonicare. They like their toothbrushes, so I figured I’d give them a try.
At the top end of the Philips Sonicare line is something called DiamondClean. There are no diamonds involved, but the toothbrushes are expensive as hell. I tested the DiamondClean Smart 9500 electric toothbrush with four brush heads and and a wireless charger. This thing has a list price of $270, though you can easily find one online for about $200. At the bottom of the Philips Sonicare price bracket is the 2 Series, a basic brush that lists for $70 and sells for around $40. Assuming you’re going with the online shopping figures, there’s a huge price difference between the two. After spending a couple of weeks with both, I’m here to tell you that there’s a huge quality difference, too.
Put simply, the more expensive Sonicare DiamondClean is a joy to use. The vibration is intense but not unpleasant. (Philips claims that these toothbrushes create sound waves that clean your teeth, which, sure, yeah, ok, great.) More important to me was the fact that the device has some heft, a signal to me that it will last many years—which is important to me because I have the same hope for my teeth. By contrast, the Sonicare Series 2 felt like a toy. Sure, it buzzed and brushed my teeth, but if I pushed too hard, it would get upset and stop working. The crappy sensation felt like every other electric toothbrush I’d tried and hated. The expensive DiamondClean, by contrast, felt like a new way of brushing my teeth, and I liked it.
There are plenty of cheap products that I love. Usually, the cheap version is good enough for most people. I love a cheap T-shirt. I also love a cheap TV. Through listening to my dentist and trying something different, however, I learned that I do not love a cheap electric toothbrush.
So if you’re shopping for an electric toothbrush, I say splurge. While I can’t speak to the Oral-B models or those ones that are over-marketed on the subway, I can say that spending the extra money on the Cadillac version of a Philips Sonicare is a good move. The cheap Series 2 will do the job just fine—don’t get me wrong. But the DiamondCare does live up to its fancy-sounding name. It’s classy. It’s sturdy. And in my opinion, it’s worth the splurge.