Advertisement
Engadget
Why you can trust us

Engadget has been testing and reviewing consumer tech since 2004. Our stories may include affiliate links; if you buy something through a link, we may earn a commission. Read more about how we evaluate products.

The best smart electric toothbrushes for 2023

Can app-connected brushes really help get your teeth cleaner?

Photo by Amy Skorheim / Engadget

From mattresses to scales, it’s commonplace now for even the most basic products to be app-connected. Electric toothbrushes are one of the more curious entries in the “smart” device space. But, smart or not, toothbrushes serve one purpose: cleaning your teeth. The American Dental Association says the use of both electric toothbrushes and manual models will lead to good oral health, as long as you are in the habit of brushing twice a day, for two minutes each, with a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste.

Quick Overview

People who find it easy to hit those marks can probably save themselves the money, but others might benefit from the encouragement provided by advanced brushes. We wanted to test out some of these fancy electric toothbrushes to see just how useful their smarts are. After testing multiple brushes for a few weeks, I’ve come to the conclusion that they aren’t a necessity for everyone's oral care, but they could benefit certain folks — particularly those who respond to the gamification of their daily habits.

What to look for in a smart electric toothbrush

Apps

For our purposes, any brush that communicates with a companion smartphone app is one we consider “smart.” Nearly all such apps track your brushing duration and frequency, and can do so whether you have the app open or not. The apps present historical data in graphs, calendars and other easy-to-digest visualizations. Most apps also let you set goals, access tips on better habits and reorder brush heads directly from the manufacturer.

More advanced devices let you adjust the settings and modes within the app and also guide you through brushing sessions with real-time feedback on where the brush is in your mouth. Other apps grant real-life rewards, such as gift cards, for keeping up consistent habits. Teledentistry is even part of the Quip app’s repertoire.

Most people will probably get the most out of the visualization offered by the tracking and history features. I found it satisfying to see a long string of properly executed morning and night brushing sessions, like I had hit some sort of personal milestone. The apps also make it easy to auto-ship brush heads, which could help ensure you replace them more regularly. The ADA recommends getting new bristles every three or four months and I, for one, am terrible at remembering to do that.

At first, I liked brushing along with the apps that were capable of visualizing my movements, but the novelty wore off after a week or so. Stopping to go find my phone just added another step, and I’d always end up sucked into the new notification abyss before I’d remember, oh yeah, I was going to brush my teeth. While the apps’ simple progress tracking is great, the added goals and awards lost their power to motivate me after a few weeks. Many of us are already setting countless objectives for ourselves; worrying about one more virtual award felt like homework for a class I didn’t have to take.

The timer feature is what ultimately helped me brush better. My impulse is to put down the brush after about 45 seconds, which is nowhere near the ideal time. To use that you don’t even need the app though, as all smart brushes include a timer in the brush itself.

Three screenshots from the companion apps from Oral-B, Philips and Quip smart toothbrushes. The Oral-B and Philips app show a 3D model of teeth, while the Quip app offers gift card rewards for brushing.
Photo by Amy Skorheim / Engadget

Brush mechanics

Whether they’re round or rectangular, all the brush heads vibrate, producing tens of thousands of movements per minute. All the handles emit haptic shakes and pauses to tell you to move to another section of teeth and when your session is done. Most of these electric toothbrushes have batteries that last a few weeks on a charge, or in the case of the non-rechargeable Quip, a few months on a set of disposable cells.

Advanced brushes, usually ones that cost more than $200, also include internal sensors that can detect the orientation of the brush in your mouth as well as the movement and pressure you apply. The brushes use that info to warn you if you’re pushing too hard, moving too fast or missing certain areas, with feedback in the form of lights, vibrations or in-app communication. Some brushes even have tiny, built-in screens that can give you a lot of the same info as an app, such as mode selection, timer duration and simple session assessments, so you don’t have to keep your phone beside you.

Price

A manual toothbrush from your local CVS will run you $4; smart electric toothbrushes can cost between $50 and $400 — quite the price jump. Even the least expensive smart brush offers app-based data tracking, plus haptic feedback and sonic vibrations from the brush itself. More expensive versions incorporate features like specialized heads, LED screens and internal sensors such as gyroscopes — all of which push up the price.

Best overall: Oral-B iO Series 7

Photo by Amy Skorheim / Engadget

The Series 7 has all the features you need (timer, vibrating head) plus a few nice-to-haves (LED screen, mode settings) at a price that's not overly astronomical. 

$250 at Amazon
Explore More Buying Options
$200 at Target

Including manual and electric models, Oral-B makes around 75 different toothbrushes. Their latest and most advanced are the Oral-B iO toothbrushes, which include a whopping seven different models — with another on the way. Most of the iO series came out in 2020, which means the iO Series 9 isn’t a newer iteration of the iO Series 5, it’s just a more tricked out brush. The iO Series 7 has a good combination of app features and brush capabilities, and at $200, it sits in the middle of the smart electric toothbrush price spectrum

While using the iO Series 7, an internal gyroscope and accelerometer detects where the brush is in your mouth. If you use the app to guide a session, a 3D illustration of your teeth gradually turns from blue to white as you clean different areas. I was impressed by how accurately it detected exactly where I was brushing, especially since I can’t stick to one area for too long before moving on to the next. But by the end of two minutes, it had pointed me to areas I’d missed and left me with teeth that felt noticeably cleaner.

The iO Series 7 has five different brushing modes, including Gum Health, Sensitive and Daily Clean. I mostly stuck to that last one, but when my six-year-old wanted to try it, I swapped in a new brush head and used the Sensitive setting, which worked great for him. The fact that it made a kindergartener want to brush his teeth might be worth the price right there.

The app accurately tracked unguided sessions, too, adding the time and duration to my stats whenever I synced the brush with my phone. Even without the app, the built-in LED screen on the handle provides a good amount of info, giving you mode selection and displaying a timer as you brush. Haptic shakes let you know when to switch to another quadrant of your mouth.

A ring of light at the base of the brush head will flash red if you’re pushing too hard and glows green when you’re using the correct amount of pressure. At the end of a session, you’ll get a smiley face on the display if you went the whole two minutes, got good coverage and didn’t push too hard. You’ll get a smiley with stars for eyes if you really nailed it.

Oral-B’s top-end iO Series 9 is nearly identical to the Series 7 but costs $100 more. The pricier version comes with a full color LED screen, two extra modes (Tongue Clean and Super Sensitive) and adds another element to app-guided brushing, showing dots that you gradually erase as you brush. Both devices have hard travel cases, but the one for the Series 9 also acts as a charging case. Those are small luxuries that I don’t think justify the price bump though, especially considering the Series 7 did a great job getting my teeth cleaner than they’ve ever felt outside of a trip to the dentist.

Best budget: Quip Smart Electric Toothbrush

The app-connected Quip has a timer, tracks your progress and brushing history, and can result in real-world rewards — all at a fraction of the price of other smart brushes.  

$55 at Quip

If proper motivation stands between you and better dental health, Quip’s Smart Electric Toothbrush might be all you need. It costs $50 if you opt for the brush head subscription or $55 without it. Either way, that’s significantly cheaper than many other smart toothbrushes. The vibrations aren’t as intense as our top pick, nor are the internal sensors as precise, but the app is loaded with ways to track your teeth cleaning and inspire you to do it more often.

One of those is through gamified awards granted for simple achievements like completing 50 sessions or brushing twice a day, three days in a row. It also awards points for good habits, which can be redeemed for real-world perks like discounts on Quip products and $5 Target or Walmart e-gift cards. With its relatively reasonable price and IRL rewards system, Quip’s smart brush might make a nice option for parents who want to help their kids brush better and more often. It’s also handy that the Quip app allows you to pair more than one brush per account, so you can track the whole family’s dental hygiene — something you can’t do with either Oral-B or Philips.

Quip divides sessions into 30 second segments and gives the handle an extra buzz when it's time to move to the next quadrant. A run lasts for the gold-standard two minutes and the sonic vibrations help clean better than the same strokes with a manual brush. The app gives you feedback on coverage, strokes per minute and average back-and-forth movement, providing tips for improvement with each session tracked. Like with fitness apps, seeing your trends and history can be motivating in itself. Combined with virtual achievements and real-world rewards, the Quip might be enough for some people to reach that two-minute, twice-per-day goal without the high price or flashy features.

Honorable mention: Philips Sonicare 9900 Prestige

Photo by Amy Skorheim / Engadget

It's a particularly pricey brush, but the 9900 delivered on all of its promises of a high-end and luxe toothbrushing experience. 

$330 at Amazon
Explore More Buying Options
$330 at Target

I don’t much care for things marketed as “luxe,” but I have to admit I really enjoyed using the $380 Philips Sonicare 9900. Don’t get me wrong, that’s an insane price to pay for a toothbrush. Before I started working on this guide, my daily driver was a $2.29 job I got from Trader Joe’s — and I’d like to add that I’ve only had one adult cavity (which I blame on the charcoal toothpaste fad).

With its sleek design and “premium materials,” Philips’ Sonicare toothbrush made me feel like some overly monied influencer doing a #GRWM (get ready with me) routine. The faux leather and gold travel case looks like a cross between a jewelry gift box and an expensive clutch — complete with a cute little strap. The brush itself has a pearlized finish and a decidedly smooth feel.

The app has a clean layout with a detailed history of your past brushing sessions. If you really want to see how consistently you apply the correct amount of pressure, you can. The app is also fairly accurate in identifying areas of your mouth that you skipped or didn’t focus on enough. As for the actual brushing experience, I love the brush head. The bristles are soft and the thin neck is super comfortable to close your mouth around, which helps prevent spillage. I also enjoyed the brush mechanics. Instead of scrubbing back and forth like some commoner, you simply guide the bristles around the surfaces of your teeth, letting the vibrations do the work for you. It took a little getting used to, with the app cautioning me: “don’t scrub!” but once I had it down, it offered the autonomous functionality you’d expect from such an expensive device.

The first few times using the Philips Sonicare toothbrush, however, nearly broke the fairytale spell. The vibrations are intense. I didn’t realize you were supposed to put the brush in your mouth before you turned it on, and the shaking flung my toothpaste clean off even when I shoved it down into the bristles. Once I finally got it right, I brushed for the full two minutes and afterwards felt like I had just gone to the dentist — not because my mouth felt clean (though it did), but because my lips were numb like I’d been given Novocain. After setting the brush to the lowest vibration setting, I was able to appreciate it fully without losing sensation in my lips. Maybe I should have expected that much power in a nearly $400 toothbrush, but it took me by surprise.