A sonic toothbrush.

Sonicare Toothbrush

Sonicare Brush Heads - DiamondClean, InterCare, ProResults, e-Series (December 2014)

- Brush head styles and sizes. / Which ones clean the best? / Replacement intervals and options.

While each of the models in our Best Sonicare list comes packaged with a specific style of brush head, each one can also be used with at least one other type too.

In fact, if you've picked out a model that uses snap-on heads, beyond just choosing between Standard and Compact sizes (which is an important option in itself), you can even choose a style whose bristle arrangement is more to your liking.

Does the type of brush head you use really matter?

Yes, it can. And certainly Sonicare (Philips Electronics N.V.) promotional materials seem to suggest that it does.

We will say, however, that there seems to be a lot of confusion associated with this topic and it's not so easy to sort out (hence the purpose of this page).

Beyond issues such as brushing effectiveness, there are other factors to consider when choosing a toothbrush or replacement brush heads including size, convenience and cost.


What choices do you have?

The major brush head offerings from Sonicare seem to be:

  • DiamondClean - $13 - Featuring a central stain-removal pad of diamond-shaped bristles.
  • InterCare - $13 - Featuring extra-long bristles that reach further between teeth.
  • ProResults - Featuring curved bristles (power tufts) that aid with cleaning. There seem to be 3 versions of this head:

    SimplyClean - $8 - A model similar to the original ProResults design.
    Plaque Control - $10 - A design focused toward "superior" plaque removal.
    Gum Health - $10 - Features softer bristles for gentler brushing.

  • e-Series - $12.33 - Featuring a contoured bristle profile to fit the shape of your teeth.

Why we chose these brushes.

We selected this group of brush heads from the "latest" products list found on the Philips Sonicare website (December 3, 2014).

And while we realize that there seem to be some discrepancies when compared to what still seems to be available from various online sources, we expect that this is the major group of brushes that Sonicare plans to carry forward as products.

About the prices we show.

Here's how we determined the cost-per-brush number shown in our list above. - On the Philips Sonicare website we looked for product items that packaged the largest number of heads together (usually 3, in one instance 5). We then divided the "suggested retail price" shown by the number of heads included.

Multiple sizes.

There are times when having the option of choosing a large or small brush head (Sonicare uses the terms Standard and Compact) is an important feature to have (see below).

Of the heads listed above (per the Philips Sonicare website), only the DiamondClean and e-Series come in both Standard and Compact sizes. (We realize that other online sources still tend to show Compact ProResults brushes as being available.)

Which toothbrush models can these heads be used with?

Several years ago Sonicare came out with a brush head design where it snaps in place over a rod on the toothbrush's body (we discuss the advantages of this design below). And to their credit, each major model that's been designed since has included this feature.

That gives owners a lot of latitude in their choice of brush head design. And per information collected from the Philips Sonicare website, it seems that:

These models -

  • DiamondClean, FlexCare, FlexCare Platinum, FlexCare+ (plus), HealthyWhite, EasyClean, Sonicare for Kids, Sonicare 2 Series plaque control, Sonicare 3 Series gum health

Can each use these styles of brush heads -

  • DiamondClean, InterCare, ProResults

The e-Series brush heads can only be used with older style Sonicares, such as the Essence.


Which brush head style offers the greatest cleaning efficiency?

One thing you can always count on is that Sonicare will sooner or later introduce yet another "new and improved" brush head.

However, understanding the comparative importance of each improved brush style, isn't always clear cut.

Research studies:

A part of this difficulty stems from the fact that most clinical research seems to be geared toward comparing Sonicares to other brands, or even just a manual toothbrush, as opposed to other Sonicare models or brush heads.

#1 -We did find a study (Milleman 2007) that evaluated the relative effectiveness of brushes using the (new at that time) ProResults brush heads vs. the e-Series ones.

It found the ProResults heads (a version that's probably similar to the current ProResults SimplyClean) to be marginally (4%) more effective. (A design difference between the two is that the ProResults is 10% wider.)

With just that level of improvement, the need to switch to a model that uses that type of head vs. just brushing a little longer using the older-style brush seems questionable.

#2 -We also noticed a Philips Sonicare "data on file" paper (Putt 2010) that compared DiamondClean (one of the newest brush heads) and ProResults (once again, a version that was probably similar to the current ProResults SimplyClean).

This information showed that both the DiamondClean Standard and Compact heads cleaned more effectively than ProResults, on the order of 33 and 45% respectively. That's a big improvement, and we're willing enough to take those numbers at face value.

The problem we notice.

There seem to be some inconsistencies in the way Sonicare has presented data about the comparative efficiency of their brush heads. For example:

  • There is a version of the packaging for DiamondClean (Standard) replacement brush heads that clearly states "Removes up to 5x more plaque than a manual tooth brush (after 4 weeks of use)." And on this same package, it mentions the 33% improvement over ProResults we cite above.
  • Another version of packaging for the exact same brush head clearly states "Removes up to 7x more plaque than a manual tooth brush (after 4 weeks of use)."

    Yet with this version, we see no claim of "new and improved" nor do we see a reference to the study that documented this claim (on the packaging or on their website).

As a second example:

  • The "Find the right brush head for your toothbrush" section of the Philips Sonicare website displays a pop up when you hover over the sentence "Why choose DiamondClean brush heads?"

    The box contains 2 sections, one each for the Standard and Compact versions, and both state "Up to 7x more plaque removal versus a manual toothbrush." (December 3, 2014)

  • But despite this identical claim for both, Sonicare's own data (that we cite above, Putt 2010) found that the Compact version was the more effective brush (45 vs. 33%).

We don't necessarily doubt that Sonicare does have data of some sort to base their comparison claims on. But it seems clear that their marketing and research people don't do a good job of coordinating their efforts toward making this documentation clear.

Which is the most efficient brush head design.

Despite the apparent irregularities mentioned above, here is how Sonicare seems to rank the comparative effectiveness of their brushes. (Using information we've collected from various pages of the Philips Sonicare website.)

  • "7x more" - DiamondClean (Standard), DiamondClean (Compact), InterCare (Standard)
  • "6x more" - ProResults Plaque Control (Standard), ProResults Gum Health (Standard)
  • "2x more" - ProResults SimplyClean (Standard), e-Series (Standard), e-Series (Compact)

When looking at this list, there seems to be an awfully large jump in claimed efficiency between the lower and higher ranked brush heads. And we would still be unclear upon what data these claims are based.

Having said that, we did look at a large number of consumer comments related to the DiamondClean Standard head, paying particular notice to comments from people who seemed to have use other brush styles before.

Most did seem to prefer the results they got with the DiamondClean. But we'd be hesitant to think that from what we read that anyone was really suggesting that their experience was 3 times better than their previous one.

Our advice to you: Don't just take Sonicare's word about effectiveness, experiment.


How long do brush heads last?

Suggested replacement intervals.

Sonicare's standard recommendation is that brush heads (all styles) should be replaced every 3 months.

In the past, the manuals for the Elite and Essence lines (older-style models that use e-Series brush heads) recommended a 6 month interval (now changed to 3). So, for whatever reason, Philips Sonicare designers seem to be working in the wrong direction in regard to this matter.

The blue bristles.

Sonicare has incorporated the use of blue "reminder" bristles in their heads. Their color gradually fades to white with brush use.

We will point out that Sonicare used the word "reminder" when naming these bristles. They're not necessarily a precise indicator. User comments we read that made mention of this feature typically stated that it indicated that replacement was needed before a full 3 months had lapsed.

A better test.

A better evaluation of brush integrity would be to just compare it to a new one. (Do the bristles look frayed and worn? Does the bristle arrangement itself look misshapen or damaged? After using it, do you notice a lack of effectiveness?)

Brushing efficiency.

There is no question that newer brushes clean more effectively than older ones. This would be true for any type of toothbrush, manual or powered.

Research.

To quantify this for Sonicare brushes, a Philips "data on file" paper (Jenkins 2010) compared the plaque-removing effectiveness of new and used (3 month old) ProResults brush heads. They found that the new heads removed 28% more plaque.


Brush-head size is an important consideration.

Before we investigated this subject, we didn't realize how important brush head size was. Here's what we found.

Standard vs. Compact.

Sonicare sells most brush heads in two different sizes:

  • Standard - These brush heads are "full-sized" and are generally intended for use by adults and adult-sized teenagers. All styles of heads come in this size.
  • Compact - Most Sonicare brush styles come in a reduced-size Compact form also (the exception on this page is the InterCare).

    These heads have a smaller bristled area. In most cases, they're not an exact miniaturized version of the Standard design.

All of the toothbrushes in our Best Sonicare list (and we think all of the Sonicare models that you'll currently find for sale) offer the option of being able to use at least some type of Compact head (DiamondClean or e-Series, see above).

Which size should you use?

As you might expect, Compact heads are typically favored by people (children and adults) who have a relative small mouth or generally limited oral access.

Additionally, those people with special needs, such as hard-to-reach locations or dental braces, typically find this size advantageous.

Size vs. brushing efficiency.

You might expect that Standard sized heads make the best choice for most adults. They may, but research doesn't necessarily seem to confirm this. (This is the part about brush size that we didn't know.)

Research.

#1 -We ran across a Sonicare "data on file" document (Putt 2010) that included an evaluation of the brushing effectiveness of both DiamondClean Compact and Standard sized brush heads. (We mentioned this study above.)

As compared to the study's reference brush, the Standard version showed a performance improvement of just 33% where as the Compact one 45%. Yes, the Compact brush was the more effective brusher.

#2 -We also found a published research study (Biesbrock 2007) that included the evaluation of Sonicare e-Series brush heads in both Compact and Standard form.

It determined that when compared to the study's reference toothbrush, the Compact style was more effective in removing dental plaque than the Standard.

You'll need to consider all factors.

Our point here would be that some experimentation with brush head size is indicated. Don't just use a Standard one because you think you should. Experiment and determine which seems best to you.

From reading consumer comments, it's our impression that people often prefer the use of a smaller brush head. But they frequently mention that they tend to wear out quicker than the Standard ones, thus making them the more expensive option.


Snap-on vs. screw-on brush heads.

The newer Sonicare heads -

  • DiamondClean, InterCare, ProResults

Used with the newer Sonicare toothbrush models -

  • DiamondClean, FlexCare, FlexCare Platinum, FlexCare+ (plus), HealthyWhite, EasyClean, Sonicare for Kids, Sonicare 2 Series plaque control, Sonicare 3 Series gum health

Have a design where they snap into place over a rod on the toothbrush body.

This is in comparison to the older style e-Series brush heads (used with the Essence model in our Best Sonicare list) that have a large screw-on fitting.

a) Snap-on heads are more convenient.

If you have the situation where more than one person will use your brush, the snap-on design is the more convenient of the two due to the fact that switching heads is quicker and easier.

b) Brushes that use snap-on heads are easier to keep clean.

Due to their design, toothbrush models that use snap-on brush heads tend to be easier to keep clean than their screw-on counterparts.

With the latter, gunk tends to accumulate underneath the head's screw-on collar, between it and the toothbrush's body (entry is via two gasket joints where the stem of the brush passes through the head's casing and then also where the casing meets the brush's body).

Especially in the case where the brush head is seldom removed, the amount of debris that can accumulate can be surprising.

There are some solutions for this problem:

  • Placement of a silicone cover (e.g. Sonic Seal) over the brush head. It acts as a barrier to seepage.
  • Removal of the brush head after each use and cleaning and drying both it and the toothbrush body (This is the most time consuming option.)
  • Application of silicone grease at each joint may help to prevent/minimize leakage.

[Philips and Sonicare are registered trademarks of Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V.]

[reference sources]

 

Keep reading about Sonicare toothbrushes ▼

Did you know that sonic brushes help to clean in areas beyond where their bristles touch?
Here's the full list of Sonicare's current models (with features and prices).
The best Sonicare models. - At least in our opinion.
Do you need a Sonicare model that features multiple brushing modes?
Sonicare replacement brush heads. - You probably have more options than you realize.
Is using an electric toothbrush really any better?

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