Sonicare vs. Oral-b: Whose toothbrushes are more reliable or have greater longevity? -

Our take about what you can expect with owning a Sonicare vs. an Oral-b.

Product dependability: Sonicare vs. Oral-b.

We've been reporting about electric toothbrushes on our pages for over 15 years. And during that time frame, we've formed a fairly firm opinion about how good we think these products are, in terms of a user's experience with reliability and longevity, and what they must prepare themselves to expect.

We tend to lean towards Oral-b.

As you'll discover while reading this page, we're more inclined to suggest that Oral-b rechargeables make a more reliable choice than Sonicare's products (based on the vague statistical information we discuss below). But we're not overwhelmed by our impression of what's experience with either of them.

As a beginning for this discussion, we'll start off with some background opinion about powered brushes:

Are electric toothbrushes generally reliable products?

Our opinion would be no, not especially. And in light of today's corporate philosophy toward product design and manufacturing, that really seems what one must be prepared to accept in owning one.

Our rationale.

We would think it's rather obvious that nowadays the primary focus of consumer-product manufacturing seems to be one of planned obsolescence and absolute-lowest-cost manufacturing. And a symptom of this philosophy seems to be the creation of products that are designed and built without superior reliability and longevity in mind.

What we notice.

As evidence, think of all of the products that you own where there's been no emphasis placed on your being able to help to service and maintain them over the long-term, or make a repair when they break down. (As an example with electric toothbrushes, with Sonicare and Oral-b rechargeables, battery replacement is not possible.)

Instead, even expensive products seem to be created as disposable items. Produced with a minimally-acceptable lifespan in mind, and posing the situation where the need for almost any type of repair equates with product death.

And that's why with electric toothbrushes, less is more.

In light of today's environment, it's easy to understand why we're not so impressed with the level of dependability and longevity that we see reported and feel is generally experienced by owners.

And this is why on our pages, we always place emphasis on buying lower-cost, just-essential-features models.

 


Are Sonicare toothbrushes dependable products? - Our investigation.

When we first began composing this page, we thought that we would just end up considering Sonicare and Oral-b electrics as a group, and then report that we really didn't consider either to be outstanding in terms of reliability and longevity. (Which isn't terribly unlike we still feel.)

But then we started to look around for evidence that we could more firmly base this opinion on.

What would it take to perform a study that compared toothbrush reliability?

We don't know of any source that has conducted a broad-based evaluation. And anticipate that doing one would be a challenge.

Picture of a Sonicare toothbrush.

Sonicare Electric Brush

Just the numbers alone ...
Both combined, Oral-b and Sonicare currently offer in excess of 25 toothbrush lines. So, just buying the number of toothbrushes (at probably around an average of $100 each) that would be needed to create a statistically valid result for each line would pose a substantial financial hurdle. With the cost of actually performing the study itself just adding to that.
What about information from manufacturers?
Almost certainly, Sonicare and Oral-b must perform this type of testing on their respective products, and possibly their competitor's too.

But if they are, they seem to be keeping quiet about it because we're totally unfamiliar with having seen any advertising copy from either of them that boasts about their products' level of dependability.

A proxy for reliability data - Star ratings from retailer websites.

Anyone reading this page no doubt shops online. And no doubt most of us pay at least a little attention to the number-of-stars system that web retailers use in conjunction with purchaser feedback.

Star ratings.

It's interesting how the type of information found in reviews tends to vary according to the number of stars the writer has associated with it.

Glowing 5-star reviews are frequently suspect. 3 and 4-star reviews often have some objective information in them. And, of course, 1-star reviews are the catch-all for all of the bad stuff (slow shipping, used items sold as new, poor customer service and, of course, product reliability complaints).


Pictures of Sonicare electric toothbrushes.

Our affiliate links can be used to shop for Sonicare products. We participate with both Amazon.com  and  Walmart.com programs.

Disclosure:  Sales stemming from our affiliate links earn a commission for our website, although without any additional cost to you.


The number-one complaint found in 1-star reviews ...

As it turns out, if you look at 1-star reviews for electric toothbrushes you'll discover that the single most common type of complaint, by far, tends to be one associated with product reliability/dependability/longevity issues.

Picture of Oral-B powered toothbrush.

Oral-B Pro 3000

Our evidence for that statement.
We took a look at the most recent 50 1-star reviews on Amazon.com for two Sonicare and two Oral-b models (each one had in excess of 2,000 total reviews posted). We chose one $150 and one $90 model from each brand's lineup.
  • What we found was that well over half of the 1-star reviews directly commented about problem issues associated with toothbrush reliability/longevity.
  • It was our general impression that dependability issues tended to be mentioned in a higher percentage of Sonicare 1-star reviews as opposed to Oral-b's.
  • With both brands, battery issues seemed to predominated as the chief lack-of-longevity complaint.

 

How valid was this evaluation?

Well, we'll agree with anyone who has a criticism of our cursory evaluation verses a formal scientific one.

But the great thing about our data source and methodology is that you don't simply have to believe what we say. You, on your own in just a short amount of time, take a look too and draw your own conclusions. And we feel confident enough that you'll come to the same ones as we did.

What were our impressions overall?

With our findings below, keep in mind that ...

Our premise here isn't that 1-star ratings directly correlate with the rate at which people experience reliability problems with their toothbrush.
  • Previously we stated that it was our interpretation that not all 1-star reviews addressed the issues of reliability or longevity. Although, it was our impression that over half of them did.
  • And, of course, it could be that unsatisfied owners leave reviews in greater proportion than happy ones. We don't know.

 

So in absolute terms, 10% 1-star reviews for a toothbrush can't be interpreted as suggesting that 10% of all owners experience reliability problems. (Or more precisely 5%, since possibly up to half of 1-star comments don't relate to this issue at all.)

But in relative terms, if one model or brand tends to experience twice the percentage rate of 1-star reviews as another. It does seem reasonable to have suspicions about it, and expect that the major problem at hand most likely is reliability. So, that's the standard we go by in our discussion below.

So, here's what we've concluded ...

Does Sonicare make reliable toothbrushes?

  • It was our impression that mid to low-end Sonicare models tended to accumulate 1-star reviews in the range of 9 to 13%.
  • And the 1-star rate for premium models seemed to lie in the range of 15 to over 20%.

    (Could it be that if you've paid more for a toothbrush that you're more likely to make a point of leaving a bad review if you're unsatisfied? We don't know.)

 

In considering those numbers:
  • The lower range (9 to 13%) is on-par, or a little higher, than what we feel we find when looking at the 1-star statistics for electric razor reviews. (A product that to us seems fairly similar in nature.)
  • The higher range is a bit worrisome. And when reviewing the 1-star postings of a model that had an exceptionally high number of them, just to confirm what we've stated above, we did in fact find that reliability/life-span issues were the chief complaint by far.

 

So, does Sonicare make reliable toothbrushes?

We think the jury may still be out on this brand. We certainly don't have any hard, quantifiable evidence to the contrary.

But in light of our subjective evaluation as explained above, we would think that what any one owner experiences, especially with the highest-end models, might be more of a throw of the dice than with Oral-bs (discussed next).

Does Oral-b make reliable toothbrushes?

When performing the same type of evaluation as explained above for this brand, it was our impression that it was most common to find 1-star reviews in the range of 10% and less, for models in all price ranges. Which seems more favorable than what we found for Sonicares.

Additionally, and as mentioned above, it was our impression that the chief complaint mentioned in Oral-b 1-star reviews was less likely to be associated with product reliability and longevity, as compared with Sonicares. (The other issues addressed were frequently: slow shipping, the wrong model was sent, a used-not-new model was sent, etc...)


Does this mean that Oral-b is the better toothbrush brand to buy?

In our opinion, no, not at all. The brushing motion of Sonicare and Oral-b products are entirely different. And that factor alone, which mechanism you prefer (rotating or strictly vibrating brush head), should be the deciding factor. Because that's the type of brush you'll be more likely to consistently use (more frequent, longer-lasting brushing sessions).

It is true that reliability concerns are important to be aware of. But instead of avoidance, you might use that information to help you determine what model might make the more prudent choice. (See our less-is-more discussion above.)


What should you do if you find you have a problem with your Oral-b or Sonicare toothbrush?

Here are links that discuss warranty details for each brand. If concerns about reliability are a major concern for you, you should review this information so you maintain all of the documentation required from your purchase.

With Sonicare -
You have two options that may be available to you:

 

With Oral-b -
  • Here's a start page for warranty information.
  • From time to time we have noticed both 30-day and 60-day Oral-b satisfaction guaranteed promotions but currently have no information about them.

 


Pictures of Sonicare electric toothbrushes.

Our affiliate links can be used to shop for Sonicare products. We participate with both Amazon.com  and  Walmart.com programs.

Disclosure:  Sales stemming from our affiliate links earn a commission for our website, although without any additional cost to you.


 
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