Which is the best Sonicare toothbrush? (November 2014) -
This page isn't just about our making a recommendation about which Sonicare models are the best. It's also focused on helping you understand which of the features offered on these brushes have value and which ones are more just hype (at least in our opinion).
Then, once you have an understanding about features, it should be a simple matter for you to compare the models we've picked out for our list and make an informed decision about which one makes exactly the best choice for you.
We'll also state that our comparison is primarily geared toward the requirements of the "average" user (the 80% of people in the middle). And for those for whom cost is a reasonably important consideration.
Which models did we evaluate?
Here's the list of Sonicare models we decided to include in our comparison:
- DiamondClean - Models: HX9362/68 ($220), HX9352/04 ($220), HX9332/05 ($220)
- FlexCare Platinum - Models: HX9170/10 ($200), HX9110/02 ($180)
- FlexCare+ (plus) - Model: HX6921/02 ($150)
- HealthyWhite - Model: HX6731/02 ($120)
- Sonicare for Kids - Model: HX6311/07 ($50)
- Sonicare 2 series plaque control - Model: HX6211/04 ($70)
- EasyClean - Model: HX6511/50 ($90)
- Essence - Model: HX5610/01 ($40)
- PowerUp - Models: HX3631/02 ($15), HX3631/03 ($15), HX3631/06 ($15), HX3631/07 ($15)
Why did we choose these models?
At the time of this writing (November 2014), this was the list of toothbrushes that Sonicare (Phillips Electronics N.V.) displayed on their website as their "latest" products. (A better descriptor would have been "current" products because it includes some Sonicare lines that we recognize as having been around for quite some time.)
About the prices we show.
As you can see, we found brushes priced from around $220 all the way down to $15. This information comes directly from the Phillips Electronics website (11/22/2014).
We initially thought that these numbers represented the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP), which they likely do. But on more than one occasion we found online retailers displaying a higher "listed" price (which makes their discounts look bigger).
Our only point here is that you should definitely compare prices a bit before making a purchase. And yes, we did find all of the models we evaluated for sale online.
Setting the criteria for our comparison.
For this evaluation, we decided that identifying the "best" Sonicare toothbrushes meant choosing:
- The least expensive models ...
- that feature Sonicare's hallmark 31,000-brush-strokes-per-minute brushing action ...
- and just have those features that the person either finds especially appealing or convenient.
We set our criteria up this way because we wanted our findings to be a balance between features and price. After all, why buy more toothbrush than you actually need?
Brushing Action - The most important feature.
You may not be aware of this but the whole reason to buy a Sonicare is because of it's full-power 31,000 brushstrokes-per-minute brushing action.
- Toothbrush bristles, vibrating at this rate of speed, are able to create an additional cleansing action that extends beyond where the bristles actually touch. (Yes, beyond.)
- This is something that only a sonic toothbrush can do. This is why your dentist made their recommendation to you about buying one.
[This cleaning phenomenon is termed "fluid dynamics." If you'd like to read more about sonic toothbrushes and how they create it, use this link.]
Which models offer this setting?
As the most important criteria of our comparison, we took a look at all of the models in our list to make sure that each one offered it. (The 31,0000 strokes-per-minute setting is often referred to as "Clean" mode in Sonicare literature.)
Our evaluation determined:
- Yes, has it. - The DiamondClean, FlexCare Platinum, FlexCare+ (plus), HealthyWhite, Sonicare for Kids, Sonicare 2 series, EasyClean and Essence models all feature this mode.
- No, doesn't have it. - The single product line that didn't have this capability was the PowerUp series, so it's off our list.
Additional Sonicare features.
Our pages have always expressed a fairly strong opinion about which Sonicare features have value and which ones not so much.
We're probably too critical in many ways, but we have a high regard for sonic toothbrushes in general, and Sonicare in particular, and just feel that the features offered should be more about substance than hype.
[If you want detailed information and opinion about features (both pros and cons), just use the links to the right.]
There are some features we just never liked.
We've noticed over the years that some of the features that we always thought held little value have not, in fact, been carried forward into newer product lines. Here's an example:
The UV brush-head sanitizer.
Just a few years ago, this was one of Sonicare's newest options. Right now it only comes with one of the FlexCare Platinum brushes. And while this is one of Sonicare's top models, this feature doesn't seem to have been carried over into the newer DiamondClean product line.
We'd take that as evidence that consumers generally didn't find it to be a good value. We had always stated on our pages that we saw no purpose for it. We based our opinion on that of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) whose website states that toothbrush sterilization holds little benefit.
So, another one falls off our list.
Since one of our core comparison criteria was not to include brushes that featured unneeded options, we'll go ahead and scratch the FlexCare Platinum with UV Sanitizer off our list. But that still leaves us with 9 models to choose from.
Brushing modes - What's the purpose?
You couldn't have found a website that has less faith in the importance of the various (and ever changing on each new model) Sonicare brushing modes. We think Sonicare toothbrushes are great but just for one main reason, their full-power 31,0000 brush-strokes-per-minute brushing action. ("Clean" mode on many models.)
Yes, we'll concede that some people may have special needs. But for the vast majority, the best, most effective, most efficient brushing mode they can use is the full-power one.
- This is the mode that was used to establish the benefits of using sonic toothbrushes in scientific research.
- This is the mode that Sonicare invented and has built its reputation on.
We'd also suggest that 6 months or so out, even those people who originally enjoyed the novelty of having more than one brushing mode to choose from have long since forgotten that these options even exist, much less how to activate them.
The proof we've based our opinion on.
Consider the following:
- We've never encountered any research published in dental literature that evaluated the effectiveness of Sonicare toothbrushes that used one of their novelty brushing modes as the basis of comparison.
Instead, we find publications such as: Klukowska 2014 (FlexCare Platinum - Clean mode), Goyal 2012 (Essence - Clean mode), Willaims 2009 (FlexCare - Clean mode), Biesbrock 2008 (FlexCare - Clean mode), Taschner 2012 (Sonicare for Kids - "High" amplitude), Milleman 2007 (FlexCare - Clean mode), Schaeken 2007 (FlexCare - Clean mode). [reference sources]
- A few years ago we noticed that some of Sonicare's data-on-file research, accessed on their website, specifically stated that one of their models (a HealthyWhite) was no better at "whitening" teeth than another (a FlexCare). This despite the fact that one had a specialized mode for this purpose and the other didn't.
In light of the above, it's pretty easy to dismiss the importance of buying a Sonicare model that features a lot of brushing modes.
What you need to know about the models in our Best-Sonicare list.
Many of the toothbrushes we've selected have features in common. Per the Phillips website, each of them have:
- Chargers that run on 110 - 220 volts (you will, however, need a plug adapter). This capability can be important if you're a world traveler.
- Smartimer (KidTimer) - This is a simple two-minute brushing timer. For some people, having this feature helps them achieve a higher level of brushing discipline.
- The availability of both standard and compact sized brush heads. Depending on your needs, this can be a very important option.
The toothbrushes in our list make use of different styles of brush heads (different bristle configuration and design). We list the brush head name with each brush's listing.
Unlike Sonicare, we don't place great emphasis on the importance of these differences. We discuss this issue, and brush heads in general, on this page.
The models in our list have one of two types of rechargeable batteries, either NiMH or lithium-ion. We make note of this with each listing below.
- Lithium-ion batteries offer some advantages. Due to their smaller size, the bodies of models that have them tend to be smaller. The nature of these batteries offers recharging and performance advantages.
- At the same time, it's important to keep in mind that NiMH batteries have been successfully used in Sonicare lines for decades.
To us, battery type wouldn't be an insignificant consideration. But if a particular model met our needs in all other ways, we'd let this one slip by. This page discusses the subject of batteries in greater detail.
Our Best-Sonicare list.
With all of the above out of the way, we can now just cut to the chase.
Step 1 - We've cut out the chaff.
For our Best list we've selected Sonicare toothbrush models that offer full-power (31,000 strokes per minute) brushing mode and the least number of superfluous options.
We've listed them from least to most expensive.
Step 2 - Consider the cheapest, and then work your way up.
With each of the toothbrushes we show, we've listed it's pluses but also tell you reasons why you might not like it. If those reasons hold true for you, move on down the list to the next "best" model.
You may have an "out" if you've made a poor choice.
Philips Sonicare has traditionally offered a money-back guarantee with their toothbrushes, allowing you to return yours if you're unsatisfied "for any reason." (You'll need to check the exact details associated with the model you're considering to make sure that this offer applies to it.)
The best Sonicare toothbrushes - From cheapest to more expensive.
Here are our choices, with comments about why you might or might not like each of them.
As explained above, the prices we show are based on Sonicare/Phillips information. We can't imagine that you can't find these models for around the amount we show, or less.
Sonicare Essence HX5610/01
#1 - The Sonicare Essence (HX5610/01) - $40.
This is a bare-bones Sonicare. It's basically an old design that just happens to still be sold. It doesn't have any options or features. It just vibrates like a Sonicare should.
Things to know:
- It's body is big to hold (likely due to the fact that it has an older-style NiMH battery) and it's a little bit noisier than other models. As compared to the sleeker, more-modern Sonicare designs, this unit does seem a bit old fashioned.
- Replacement brush heads: e-Series - Standard or compact sizes.
- These brush heads screw-on rather than snap in place. (the only model in our Best list to use this kind).
This design tends to accumulate gunk and is less convenient if the brush is shared. [More details.]
Comments: If you're looking to buy a Sonicare but don't want to spend any more money than you absolutely have to, then this is the brush for you. It's not as glamorous as the other models but it creates the same full-power brushing action.
A note -
From this point on, all of the remaining models in our Best list feature snap-on style brush heads.
Sonicare For Kids HX6311/07
#2 - The Sonicare for Kids (HX6311/07) - $50.
Even though this model is marketed as a "kids" toothbrush, it is a full-powered Sonicare.
Things to know:
- The "paint job" on this model looks like a kids brush. So, if you're an adult and you're considering it, you might find that to be a bad (or possibly good) thing.
- Replacement brush heads: For Kids line - Standard or compact sizes.
- In addition to KidTimer, this brush features Sonicare's QuadPacer too. (A subdivision of the brush's two-minute timer in to 30 second intervals, so to guide you in brushing each quadrant of your mouth for equal amounts of time.)
- Unlike any other brush in our list, this one has a high and low power mode.
There can be special situations (use with very young, aged or debilitate persons) where a lower vibrational frequency is all that can be tolerated. If so, this brush provides a relatively inexpensive way by which this determination can be made. And, of course if need be, permanently operated at this lower setting.
Comments: It's nice to know that Sonicare's "kids" brush is a real sonic toothbrush. And despite its appearance, it can make a reasonable choice for adults too.
Sonicare 2 Series HX6211/04
#3 - The Sonicare 2 Series Plaque Control (HX6211/04) - $70.
This is a "sleeker," more refined alternative to the heftier Essence model.
Things to know:
- It has the older-style NiMH battery.
- Replacement brush heads: DiamondClean or ProResults - Standard or Compact.
Having this wider selection of brush designs is a nice option.
- It does have Sonicare's Easy-start function.
Most people probably do end up using this feature (because they're excited about their new brush and they notice that it's available). But you only use it once. The importance of having it is easily debated.
Comments: When compared to the Essence above, you're basically buying a smaller, easier to hold brush, which is nice.
You also get the advantage of more convenient, easier to clean around, snap-on brush heads. We wouldn't consider the lack of the Easy-start function to be an especially important disadvantage.
Sonicare EasyClean HX6511/50
#4 - The Sonicare EasyClean (HX6511/50) - $90.
This is the sleekest of the "inexpensive" Sonicare toothbrushes.
Things to know:
- It has a lithium-ion battery.
- Replacement brush heads: DiamondClean or ProResults - Standard or Compact.
- It has Sonicare's QuadPacer feature (but not the Easy-start mode).
Comments: This is our Best list's "high-end" model and it would seem to make a pretty reasonable choice.
- It has a smaller, sleeker styling that's similar to that of the more expensive Sonicare lines. This simply makes the brush easier to hold and use, which is nice.
- It has a lithium-ion battery, which is generally a plus for us.
- It offers as much choice in brush head options as any Sonicare toothbrush.
- It has Smartimer and QuadPacer, which helps some people achieve better brushing discipline.
- And no, it doesn't offer the Easy-start option, which we stated above wouldn't be that big of a deal to us.
What about the other Sonicare toothbrushes?
The other brushes in our original list were HealthyWhite, FlexCare+ (plus), FlexCare Platinum and DiamondClean models.
Why they didn't make our list.
The problem with these brushes is that the whole issue about "multiple brushing modes" now comes into play (discussed above). And a fundamental criteria of our comparison was not to pick brushes that featured what we consider unneeded options.
That's why these models didn't make our Best list. It wasn't because they're not good brushes, because they are. They're just not in our opinion best buys.
You may feel differently.
Of course, it's possible that a feature that you feel is vital isn't found on any of the models we've suggested. If so, you're obviously just going to have to buy a model that does have it.
Which one would you buy? Just like above, we think that the least expensive model that has all of the features that you want, is always the best choice.
Keep reading about Sonicare toothbrushes ▼
▶ Features -
- Brushing Modes / Easystart / Smartimer & QuadPacer
- Brush Heads / Brush Sanitizer
- Battery / Charger options. / Travel features.
▶ Models -
▶ Related pages -