As the two longest-running and best-selling brands in electric toothbrushes, it's only natural to ask: Oral-B vs. Sonicare—who wins? At Dentaly.org we've decided to take on this question so that anyone in the market for a new electric toothbrush can feel confident that they are getting the best brush for their needs. We're going to approach the Sonicare vs. Oral-B debate with a few simple questions:
- Which is better for removing plaque?
- What other differences should I consider?
- What options does each brand offer?
We hope that by answering these questions we can address the concerns of anyone considering buying an Oral-B or Sonicare toothbrush. However, before we begin it would be a good idea to mention the difference between electric toothbrushes in general and traditional manual ones. The question arises: do electric toothbrushes actually clean more than manual ones, or is it all hype?
Table of contents
- 1 Advantage of electric brushes over manual
- 2 Oral-B versus Sonicare: The difference is in the brush head
- 3 So which is better at removing plaque, Oral-B or Sonicare?
- 4 How else can I decide if either Sonicare or Oral-B is better than the other?
- 5 Oral-B vs. Sonicare at different price points
- 6 Top tier
- 7 Mid-range
- 8 Budget
- 9 Conclusion
- 10 FAQs
Advantage of electric brushes over manual
If the effectiveness of electric toothbrushes were the same as that of manual brushing, it would certainly be difficult to justify spending hundreds of dollars on an electric. That's why there have been various studies carried out to find out the difference, and it seems that the consensus is in: electric toothbrushes tend to be more effective at cleaning your teeth than manual ones.
One study from 2013 found that, “when compared with a manual toothbrush, a powered toothbrush has the potential to improve oral hygiene by achieving plaque reduction.” This is not the only study to produce such findings, but the reason that electric toothbrushes are more effective may not be what you think.
According to the ADA, powered toothbrushes are most advantageous to people with limited dexterity due to age or disability or people who have dental appliances. This is because the movement of the brush head provides good brushing technique everywhere that it reaches, while manual brushing can be suboptimal in hard to reach areas, or generally difficult for some people.
In other words, the advantage of electric toothbrushes isn't that it does what manual brushes cannot. Rather, they make it much easier and efficient for users to properly clean every part of the mouth.
Oral-B versus Sonicare: The difference is in the brush head
Although Philips Sonicare has several advantages versus Oral-B (and vice versa), the most important part of the brush from our point of view is probably obvious: the brush head. It is the part that actually has contact with your mouth and therefore the place where we have to start our comparison, taking into account not just the shape but also the way it moves.
How does Sonicare work?
Philips Sonicare toothbrushes have a more or less traditional brush shape. All of them are elongated and slightly smaller than that of a standard manual brush. There are different models with designs for various functions like gum care or whitening, but every head has a pattern with at least two types of bristles. All their brush heads share that the bristles come perpendicular out of the head.
The motion of a Sonicare toothbrush is known as ‘sonic vibration,' which is created by a high-powered motor in the handle. This motor emits a frequency that causes the bristles of the brush to move from side to side about 31,000 times per minute. The high frequency vibration is meant to loosen plaque and tartar from your teeth through contact and also indirectly through fluid dynamics. Depending on who you ask, this may remove anywhere from three to ten times as much plaque as a manual brush.
For more information you can check out our review or watch this video for a look at one of the top tier brushes from Sonicare and a visualization of how its indirect cleaning works.
How does Oral-B work?
There are a few similarities that Oral-B's brush heads have with Philips Sonicare. They are both slightly smaller than traditional brushes and they offer a variety of bristle patterns for different purposes. However, the bristles on Oral-B heads are sometimes placed at angles. They claim this is better for the small areas between teeth.
Beyond that, they differ significantly from each other in both shape and motion. Oral-B heads are completely round, unlike any other toothbrush, and they move in a spinning motion. Though the speed varies from model to model, Oral-B clocks its top tier brushes at 8,800 oscillations per minute.
3D versus 2D cleaning action
Oral-B likes to refer to its brush head oscillation as “2D cleaning action.” Many of their brushes (though not all) currently employ “3D action,” which combines the rotation of the head with a back-and-forth pulsing motion. Though it isn't exactly the same as sonic vibration, it supposedly does some of the same fluid-dynamics-based indirect cleaning.
Here's a video from Oral-B featuring a demonstration of 3D action in their latest line of electric toothbrushes.
So which is better at removing plaque, Oral-B or Sonicare?
There have been lots of studies specifically focused on the Braun Oral-B vs. Philips Sonicare question. After look through them we've come to the conclusion—the jury is still out. This is not to say that all the studies have been inconclusive. On the contrary, many have found at least a small advantage in one brand or the other.
The problem is that in some studies Oral-B is the better brush, and in others Sonicare is the winner. Below we've put together a few excerpts from several of these studies to give you an idea of what researchers are saying with respect to this debate:
One study found that while both brushes were helpful in improving subjects' oral hygiene, Sonicare had a clear advantage over Oral-B:
“Overall, this study demonstrates that long-term use of these two electric toothbrushes improves periodontal health in adult periodontitis patients, and that the Sonicare brush is superior to the Braun brush in reducing gingival inflammation and probing depth. Moreover, 6 months' use of Sonicare led to actual improvement in probing attachment levels of periodontal pockets.”-Robinson, Madalozzo, and Breslin
Meanwhile, these researchers concluded that the Oral-B's rotational toothbrush head motion was more effective versus Sonicare's sonic vibration:
“Based on the findings of this single-use clinical evaluation, the action of the oscillating/pulsating power toothbrush is more effective at plaque removal than a high-frequency power toothbrush.”-Strate et al.
Another study observed that the Sonicare brush was significantly better versus Oral-B:
“In this randomized single-use clinical study, both the Sonicare FlexCare and the Oral-B Triumph Professional Care9000 power toothbrushes were safe and effective. FlexCare reduced plaque scores significantly better than Triumph.”-Putt et al.
Finally, this analysis found that there was no significant difference at all in the performance of the two brushes. Interestingly enough, the Oral-B users in this study were more likely to continue to use the brush in the future versus the Sonicare users, despite equal cleaning results.
After 8 weeks use, there was found to be no statistically significant difference in either plaque removal or gingival index between the two groups. Both devices were found to be safe, but whereas 100% of volunteers in the Braun Oral-B Plaque Remover group expressed a wish to continue using the toothbrush, approximately 25% of the Sonicare group did not like the device…-Grossman, Debling, and Proskin
What does it all mean?
As far as plaque removal goes, science hasn't yet given us a clear answer as to whether Oral-B or Sonicare is better. It's worth mentioning that the studies used different models of electric toothbrush from each brand, and therefore there could be other factors influencing the results.
That said, our comparison is focused on the Oral-B oscillating/pulsating motion vs. sonic vibration from Sonicare. Although the model of brush may have varied, each brand's mechanism was constant across the studies. So, generally speaking, we can't point to a clearly superior system.
So is that it? There's no sure difference in cleaning power so Oral-B and Sonicare are the same? Do I even need to read on?
Well…that's not all. There are other factors to consider.
How else can I decide if either Sonicare or Oral-B is better than the other?
Even though there is no clear leader in plaque removal, there are several other factors to consider when deciding which electric toothbrush to buy. Let's have a quick look at those factors that give one brush an edge over the other:
- Aesthetics: Many people think that Sonicare is a better-looking brush, saying that it has a sleeker design and better color coordination. Oral-B's brush heads often don't match the handle. Some even say that an Oral-B brush looks and feels like a toy.
- Noise: Another advantage for Sonicare is the fact that it is quieter. It's true that both of the brushes make noise. However, some reviewers note that Oral-B's motor is so loud you might want to close the door while you brush.
- Warranty: Both brands offer a two-year warranty on their products. Oral-B also offers a full additional year for free if you register on their website. That is definitely worth considering when shopping for higher end models. If you are going to spend a couple hundred bucks on a brush, you want to get a few years out of it, right?
- Price range: Naturally cost is always an important consideration. Once you have decided your budget you may find that one brand has more features than the other in the same price range. By the same token, you may notice that the additional features aren't important and therefore choose the model that is slightly less expensive.
- Replacement head cost: Oral-B replacement brush heads are generally slightly less expensive than Sonicare, a difference that can add up over time. Also worthy of note is that higher end models from both brands tend to have more expensive smart brush heads as well.
You've probably noticed that some of these factors favor one brand and some favor the other. So, we don't get a clear “winner” after taking these into account. That said, it can be helpful to prioritize your needs in order to decide which brush will best suit you.
Oral-B vs. Sonicare at different price points
With this in mind, let's take a look at some of the different electric brushes offered by the two brands. We can compare and contrast them at different price points, as well as see what features become available as you move between price ranges. For the sake of efficiency, we can outline a few features that all of these brushes share:
- Rechargeable battery with charging stand
- 2-minute brush timer with 30-second intervals
- Replaceable and interchangeable brush heads
- 2-year warranty
We'll get started with the flagship of each line of electric toothbrushes, the Sonicare DiamondClean Smart 9700 versus Oral-B's iO Series 9. Both of these brushes offer the latest in features and connectivity from each brand. They also have a pretty high asking price but promise an unprecedented level of personalized cleaning. So, how do they compare?
Sonicare DiamondClean Smart 9700
Just by looking at a DiamondClean toothbrush you can see that it is from Sonicare's premium line of products. Available in two color schemes, the design is simple and sleek. Even the conventional charging stand has been replaced by a drinking glass sitting on a wireless charging base.
The DiamondClean Smart 9700 has a battery life of two weeks and uses five different cleaning modes. These are: clean, white, gum health, deep clean, and tongue care. There are also three intensity options, giving you the chance to customize your routine according to your oral hygiene needs.
Apart from giving you the ability to switch modes and intensities, the toothbrush (and its accompanying app) will actually give you information on how well you are brushing your teeth. It can even make suggestions on improving your routine. This is where a brush of this caliber really starts to stand out.
The onboard pressure sensor indicates if you are brushing too hard. Another sensor alerts you when it's time to replace your brush head. By connecting to the app, the smart brush will show you a chart of your mouth, give you reminders, or help you achieve goals which you have chosen like fresh breath or whitening.
On the chart you can see areas which you missed brushing and even map out certain problems like gum recession or plaque buildup. Although it isn't a replacement for a dental visit, this can definitely help with creating and maintaining good habits.
A DiamondClean Smart 9700 kit comes with:
- Base brush handle
- 7 brush heads (3 different types) plus tongue cleaner
- Charging stand and glass
- Travel case with portable charging capability
We should mention that the rest of the DiamondClean Smart line is very similar. The main difference is that the 9500 and 9300 models come with fewer brush heads and actually have more color options.
Oral-B iO Series 9
From Oral-B latest line we have the iO Series 9. You can order this brush in three colors, though brush heads only come in black or white. The design is updated from previous Oral-B models, with smoother contours and a light-up display screen. It also has a magnetic charging base and can be fully charged in only three hours, an impressive improvement on almost all other electric brushes.
Oral-B has also replaced their previous drive system with a linear magnetic motor. The main advantage of this change is that it is a more powerful brush. Also noteworthy is the fact that it runs significantly quieter than other Oral-B models, though still slightly louder than sonic toothbrushes.
The iO Series 9 boasts seven different cleaning modes: daily clean, whitening, gum care, sensitive, intense, super sensitive, and tongue clean. It doesn't have a setting for adjusting the intensity. That said, these modes do seem to cover the bases of offering both more aggressive or gentler cleaning. Its battery life is also around two weeks.
Like its counterpart from Sonicare, this brush has a pressure sensor. However, the iO series' pressure sensor offers a slight bonus. It won't just tell you when you're brushing too hard. It will actually slow down oscillation if you apply too much pressure and indicate when you are using the correct pressure with a green light. This is meant to optimize each mode's performance.
The app has a real-time interface that will display your progress as you brush. It will also highlight areas that need more attention or that tend to receive too much pressure. After brushing it will also provide you with coaching and even a score. You can work toward increasing that score—a nice incentive to improve your routine.
The iO Series 9 includes:
- Brush handle with light-up display
- Magnetic charging base
- 4 brush heads (one type)
- Charging travel case
All in all it is very comparable with the DiamondClean Smart with a few key differences. Essentially, the iO Series 9 has a more advanced display but doesn't offer the same variety in brush heads. The app interface and functionality may be another factor in helping you decide which brush is best for you.
Now that we've seen the best in what Sonicare and Oral-B have to offer, let's check out some more standard models that are available at just over $100: Oral-B's Pro 7000 vs. the Sonicare ProtectiveClean 6100. These brushes are more straightforward in their design, though they do incorporate some of the more recent features available.
Oral-B Pro 7000
Oral-B's Pro 7000 naturally is a scaled-down version of it's bigger sibling, offering a slightly shorter battery life of ten days and six different brushing modes instead of seven. These modes include daily clean, deep clean, whitening, massage, sensitive, and tongue cleaning.
There is also a pressure sensor to alert you when you're brushing too hard. Like the iO series, it will automatically decrease the oscillation speed when necessary. However, the sensor does not display when you are brushing with just the right pressure.
This toothbrush is also compatible with the Oral-B app. That means real-time feedback and coaching aren't reserved for only the top-of-the-line models. Despite the more basic interface, it performs a lot like an iO, only with slightly fewer goodies. For example, while the iO comes with four brush heads, the Pro 7000 comes with three. Other aesthetic differences exist like the fact that heads only come in white, and the brush has a slightly chunkier profile overall.
There are some advantages that this brush has over an iO. It comes with a small device called a SmartGuide, which gives basic feedback on your brushing. This is great for someone who doesn't want to download an app. It's also worth mentioning that the Pro series is compatible with many different types of standard Oral-B brush heads and the iO heads are exclusive to that series.
A Pro 7000 kit includes:
- Brush handle
- Cross-action brush head
- ProWhite brush head
- Sensitive Clean brush head
- Charging station with brush head storage
- Travel case
Sonicare ProtectiveClean 6100
The ProtectiveClean 6100 comes in four different color schemes, though replacement heads still only come in black and white. It has two fewer brushing modes than the DiamondClean (three instead of five) but still offers three different intensity settings to chose from for each mode. There is a pressure sensor, though it will only alert you with a pulsing sounds and not a visual cue.
This toothbrush unfortunately does not have the app support available for the DiamondClean series. However, the BrushSync smart head does have a couple of features like recognizing which head is attached and automatically adjusting the brushing mode, as well as reminders to replace your brush head.
Although many of its features are much more basic than Sonicare's top electric brushes, the basic remain the same. The ProtectiveClean 6100 has a sleek design, a two-week battery life, and plenty of brushing modes and intensities to play around with.
A Sonicare ProtectiveClean 6100 comes with:
- Brush handle
- DiamondClean brush head
- Charging stand
- Travel case
Last, but not least, we are going to look at some of the more affordable models that are on the market: the Sonicare ProtectiveClean 4100 vs. the Oral-B Pro 1000. In fact, both brands do sell even more economical brushes, but in that category there isn't much to compare. The least expensive models basically offer just one mode, a single head, and a standard charging stand. So, instead let's look at the difference in what you get the next level up.
Sonicare ProtectiveClean 4100
The Sonicare ProtectiveClean 4100 is a fairly basic brush with only one brushing mode and no intensity settings, yet it manages to include a few features that you'll find on higher end brushes. It supports a smart brush head, which will remind you when it needs replacing, though it can't change modes according to the head attached.
It also includes the same pressure sensor as the 6100, which makes pulsing sounds when you are pressing too hard. Apart from those features there is one notable way in which the ProtectiveClean 4100 stands out, and that is the battery life. Thanks to its more basic design, the battery can last up to 28 days on a single charge, making this a great option for travel as long as you don't mind that this model doesn't come with a case.
The ProtectiveClean 4100 includes:
- Brush handle
- 1 brush head
- Charging base
Oral-B Pro 1000
Finally we have Oral-B's Pro 1000. It offers a single brushing mode like its Sonicare rival and not much in the way of additional features. There is a pressure sensor, but while higher-end Oral-B models have a visual alert, the Pro 1000's sensor simply slows or stops its oscillation when you are pressing too hard.
Its battery lasts about seven days between charges, which isn't exactly bad but isn't impressive either compared to other electric toothbrushes, and it has no built-in head replacement reminder. Make no mistake; all things considered, this is a good and functional toothbrush. It doesn't go far beyond the basics, but there are plenty of people who are happy to save the money and leave the apps and displays behind.
An Oral-B Pro 1000 includes:
- Brush handle
- Single head
- Charging base
We know it's a lot to go through, so for the sake of convenience we've compiled a table that gives you a quick look at the electric toothbrush models we've just gone over:
To sum up, Oral-B and Sonicare both have pros and cons at all price ranges and neither one has a clear overall advantage over the other. Studies do show that either will be more effective than a manual brush. In a “Sonicare vs. Oral-B” scenario there is less agreement. That said, anyone trying to decide between the two simply has to ask which features and characteristics are most important in order to find the best choice for them.
For example, someone who likes the idea of both oscillating and pulsating motion in their brush will definitely prefer Oral-B's 3D cleaning action. On the other hand, someone who is interested in a quieter motor and modern design should probably shop for a Sonicare.
In the end, the best thing you can do for your oral hygiene is to maintain a regular brushing and flossing schedule, regardless of which type of toothbrush you use.
Are electric toothbrushes really better than manual ones?
Yes. People have relied on manual toothbrushes for hundreds of years and in that time they have performed adequately. However, recent studies have shown that, on average, electric toothbrushes remove more plaque. This not just due to the improved ability to clean hard-to-reach areas but also the fact that electric brushes now have features that encourage users to maintain better habits.
Which is better vs. plaque, Oral-B or Sonicare?
There have been many studies observing the difference in cleaning ability between Oral-B and Sonicare brushes, but there is still no scientific consensus on the whole. Some studies favor one and some favor the other, while some find that they are more or less equal. However, there are other factors that can help you choose your preferred brand.
Are all Oral-B brush heads interchangeable?
Almost. Standard Oral-B brush heads come in many different styles that serve different purposes like gum care or whitening and can be interchanged freely among Oral-B electric brushes with the exception of the iO series. The latest series from Oral-B, iO brushes have specialized heads that cannot be attached to other models outside the iO line.
How often should I replace my electric toothbrush head?
Many electric toothbrush heads will be able to alert you when it is time to replace them, but in general the conventional wisdom is to replace your toothbrush head every three months. If you are an irregular brusher your brush head may last a bit longer, but it's better to brush twice a day and pay for the new head once in a while rather than wait until you need treatment for gum disease.