Sonicare vs. Oral-b: Which brand is more effective? | Which brand’s toothbrushes are better at removing dental plaque and improving gum health?
Which electric toothbrush brand has the more effective design, Oral-b or Sonicare?
We’ve been reporting about electric toothbrushes on our website’s pages for over 15 years. And during that timeframe, we’ve read through scores of published research studies that have evaluated the brushing effectiveness of both Sonicare and Oral-b powered toothbrushes.
And while that may seem impressive, what we have to report about what we’ve learned over the years really isn’t.
Spoiler alert #1: We tend to feel that Oral-b brushes probably have the more effective design.
That’s right, the phrase “probably have” is about all the more committal we feel we can get on this subject.
As we explain on this page, it’s our opinion that the studies that have been published on this subject are generally unimpressive. And collectively, they fail to provide substantial evidence that one brand is significantly more effective than the other in improving or maintaining oral health.
Spoiler alert #2: We’d never buy a new brush without considering current models from both brands.
Now, this sentence is one we can definitely feel strongly about. That’s because we think a lot of other factors need to be considered when selecting a powered brush other than just effectiveness. And with proper model selection, we’re certain that you can be effective using either brand, Sonicare or Oral-b.
FYI: What do you need to know when picking out an electric toothbrush? – We have a number of pages on our website that discuss issues that we feel are important to consider. For example:
- Do you understand how the design of Sonicare and Oral-b toothbrushes differ? – How Sonicares work. | How Oral-b’s work. | Using one design may be naturally more intuitive for you than the other. And if so, that’s probably the better brand for you to own because you’ll be more likely to use that brush effectively.
- Do you realize that not all Sonicare and Oral-b models create their company’s optimal brushing action? If not, you should read these pages: The best Sonicares. | The best Oral-b electrics.
- And, of course, there’s always the issue if it’s even important for you to buy an electric toothbrush at all. Using an electric brush can be a valuable aid. But you can be just as effective with a manual one too if you’ll take the time to do so.
Sonicare vs. Oral-b: Which brand is more effective? – Research evidence and comparison.
The remainder of this page cites several research studies that have been conducted over the last few years that have evaluated the effectiveness of Oral-b vs. Sonicare powered toothbrushes. As you read along, we’ll point out why we’re so underwhelmed with the evidence available on this subject.
Study #1 –
Study findings: As results, this paper states …
Oral-B Pro 3000
Study #2 –
So, there you have it. Conclusive evidence that Oral-b makes more effective electric toothbrushes than Sonicare … Right?
Oh, did we mention that those studies were “sponsored” research?
What is sponsored research?
This term simply refers to the fact that some aspect of the study was paid for by an interested party, like a toothbrush manufacturer.
With the studies above, both papers clearly state (in their “conflict of interest” section) that some of the authors (people overseeing/conducting the research) are employees of The Proctor & Gamble Company. (That’s the maker of Oral-b toothbrushes.)
Is sponsored research necessarily bad or suspect?
No, sponsored studies can be well designed and objective, and therefore make a valid contribution to dental science.
However, we will point one thing out. Do you think these studies would have been submitted for publication if the Sonicare toothbrushes were found to provide superior results instead of Oral-b?
Only the authors can answer that question, or maybe just their bosses. And that kind of hints at how bias can be associated with sponsored research.
Sonicare Electric Brush
Let’s move on to some other studies …
Study #3 –
Study #4 –
Study findings: This paper’s conclusions state …
Ok, those two studies definitely came to different conclusions. So, maybe Sonicare is the better brand vs. Oral-b?
Oh, did we mention that these studies were “sponsored” too?
Yes, that’s right. Both of these studies clearly state that some of the authors are employees of Philips Oral Healthcare, the maker of Sonicare products.
Like we stated above, there’s nothing inherently bad about research being sponsored. But in general, here’s our take on the current state of affairs in this field.
How studies get conducted.
Selling powered toothbrushes is a big business, really, a giant business. And (especially) the two dominant manufacturers in the field (the makers of Sonicare and Oral-b toothbrushes) are searching for any evidence they can present to consumers to sway them into thinking that their brand’s design is more effective than their competitors.
In their quest, these companies are eager to sponsor any study that has the potential to shed a favorable light on their products. And it’s our impression that this kind of research makes up the bulk of studies that wind up getting conducted.
What would you expect to see if one brand is clearly better?
It would be our conjecture that if one brand’s toothbrush design really is substantially more effective than the others that this fact would have become apparent a long time ago.
And a part of that evidence would be that it would be very difficult for the less effective brands to come up with a study design/premise that would be capable of showing their product in a favorable light. But as you’ve seen above, that’s not the case. Studies seem to demonstrate that both brands are the more effective one.
What we’d like to find in published research.
If/when some new/significant advancement in toothbrush design/effectiveness really has become evident, we’d expect that you would see a lot of independent researchers jumping in with their own studies, not just sponsored authors.
We’d expect to see excitement and interest throughout the whole dental community in documenting and promoting this new best thing for patients. And it’s our impression that that’s just not the case. This field seems dominated by interested players (toothbrush manufacturers), each constantly trying to shift the scrimmage line back and forth with each new study they fund.
As a final example, were going to mention this study.
Study #5 –
This type of study is referred to as a “literature review.” For a review, the authors will:
Step 1 – Define an objective. In this case, that was:
“To compare the efficacy of rotating-oscillating heads (like Oral-b) VS sonic (like Sonicare) action heads powered toothbrushes on plaque accumulation and gingival inflammation.”
Step 2 – They’ll then sort through published research. In this case, only studies published from 2009 up to March of 2019 were considered.
Step 3 – They will then select from all of the studies they’ve discovered only those that meet their inclusion criteria. (That includes issues like, does the study have a valid design? And, what level of bias is associated with the study?)
Here’s a surprise.
When performing this review, the authors only identified 12 studies that met their inclusion standards.
Note: In a span of a decade, only 12 studies were found to be worthy of consideration? That should give you an idea of the (poor) state of affairs of dental research evaluating the effectiveness of electric toothbrushes.
The review’s findings.
As conclusions, the paper stated this:
Our conclusions about the compared effectiveness of Sonicare vs. Oral-b powered toothbrushes.
For us, the conclusions stated by this last study, the review, sums things up just fine for us too. We think that any evidence that suggests that Oral-b makes more effective toothbrushes than Sonicare is just marginal, although that may be the case.
But in that belief, and as mentioned above, we would let other factors (unit design, features, cost, availability, etc…) have equal weight in our decision in selecting a brush. That’s because, bottom line, we don’t think which brand you choose will matter significantly. Both Oral-b or Sonicare can make a good, effective choice.
Disclosure: Sales stemming from our affiliate links earn a commission for our website, although without any additional cost to you.
Page references sources:
Adam R, et. al. Evaluation of an oscillating-rotating toothbrush with micro-vibrations versus a sonic toothbrush for the reduction of plaque and gingivitis: results from a randomized controlled trial.
Clark-Perry D, et. al. Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled studies comparing oscillating-rotating and other powered toothbrushes.
Goyal CR, et. al. A 6-month randomized controlled trial evaluating a novel smart-connected oscillating-rotating toothbrush versus a smart-connected sonic toothbrush for the reduction of plaque and gingivitis.
Mirza F, et. al. A Comparison of the Effect of Two Power Toothbrushes on the Reduction of Gingival Inflammation and Supragingival Plaque.
Starke M, et. al. A Comparison of the Effect of Two Power Toothbrushes on the Gingival Health and Plaque Status of Subjects with Moderate Gingivitis.
All reference sources for topic Electric Toothbrushes.