Pros & Cons of Sonic Toothbrushes—Dentists Review

Clinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
Last Modified:

Table of Contents

  1. What is a Sonic Toothbrush?
  2. Advantages of a Sonic Toothbrush
  3. Cons of Sonic Toothbrushes
  4. Sonic Brushes vs Other Electric Toothbrushes
  5. Sonic Toothbrushes vs Manual Brushes
  6. Popular Brands of Sonic Brushes
  7. References

According to the American Dental Association guidelines on oral hygiene, you should brush your teeth at least twice daily with fluoride toothpaste for at least two minutes. Failing to clean all the surfaces of every tooth from irregular or inadequate brushing can cause enamel erosion, cavities and periodontal disease.

Using a sonic or electronic toothbrush can help ensure you clean your teeth adequately and regularly without much hassle. The moving brush head removes plaque much easier than the manual toothbrush. With sonic or other electric toothbrushes, all you need to do during cleaning is to guide the brush to reach all the tooth surfaces.

What is a Sonic Toothbrush?

A sonic toothbrush is a type of electric brush that features a head that rotates automatically to clean the teeth. Powered by a battery, the brush emits sonic waves that cause the bristles to vibrate, producing up to 16,000 strokes per minute. The vibration often stimulates the secretion of saliva from the glands, enhancing teeth cleaning.

You can link your sonic toothbrush to a smartphone app to help you track your teeth-cleaning efforts. A sensor and other algorithms detect areas on your teeth and gums that you accidentally missed, showing the untouched areas on your screen.

What Are the Advantages of a Sonic Toothbrush?

Sonic toothbrushes are designed to give you more versatility and ease in your daily routine of brushing. From reduced effort in brushing to better cleaning outcomes, sonic toothbrushes have numerous merits for your oral health.

First, these types of electric toothbrushes come with unique features to enhance your brushing experience, such as:

  • A timer: A two-minute, auto shut-off timer that allows you to brush adequately as recommended by ADA. You should spend half a minute cleaning every quadrant of the oral cavity. Some brushes have a reminder that beeps after 30 seconds to alert you to change to the next quadrant.

  • Reminders: Dentists recommend that you change your toothbrush every three months for effective cleaning. However, you may not remember to do this especially if you’re using a manual toothbrush. Sonic brush, therefore, helps you brush effectively by reminding you to replace the brush head quarterly.

  • Ergonomic handle: Their broader and more comfortable handles make them easier to grasp even by individuals who have medical conditions such as arthritis.

  • Sensor: Measures the pressure that you exert on your teeth while brushing. It helps to avoid over brushing and reduce the risk of abrasion due to excessive pressure on the gums or the teeth.

  • Multiple modes: Some sonic toothbrushes have different cleaning modes that you can select depending on your preferences. If you have sensitive teeth, you can choose a mode that gives a gentler clean.

  • Tracker: types of brushes that have companion smartphone apps that allow you to assess your brushing patterns and develop healthy oral hygiene habits.

Cons of Sonic Toothbrushes

While these brushes boast a greater cleaning power, plus giving better oral health in the long-term, you may encounter some of the following downsides:

  • Uncomfortable sensation: A sonic brush uses oscillatory waves in cleaning the teeth and the gums. This produces a tingling sensation that some first-time users may find uncomfortable. The feeling usually disappears once you get into a routine and use the brush regularly.

  • Price: At the current market price, sonic toothbrushes are much pricier than manual brushes. You can buy sonic brushing systems for $50, and some cost more than $300. Over time, you will have to purchase new brush heads and batteries. Batteries can be expensive.

How Do Sonic Brushes Differ from Other Electric Toothbrushes?

All powered toothbrushes use similar technology to clean teeth, gums and other areas in your mouth. The brush head either moves in a circular motion or vibrates from side to side to remove debris and plaque. However, sonic toothbrushes differ from the other electric brushes in the speed of cleaning and coverage area.

The brush heads of electric toothbrushes move at speeds of 2,500 to 7,500 strokes per minute, which makes them about 20 times faster than manual brushes.

Sonic brush heads vibrate at speeds up to and above 30,000 strokes per minute. Brushing for two minutes with a sonic brush gains you greater cleaning power than non-sonic brushes, even electric brushes.

The high-speed rotation of sonic brush heads (sonic wave technology) also stimulates the secretion of saliva and enhance the agitation of toothpaste, water and saliva. This converts fluids into an active cleaning agent that can seep into areas beyond the reach of bristles such as below the gum line and other crevices.

Overall, sonic toothbrushes remove plaques in the hard areas, improves gum health, and reduces gingival diseases better than other electric brushes.

How Do Sonic Toothbrushes Compare to Manual Brushes?

Taking care of your teeth with a manual brush is good, but it is not as effective as a sonic brush simply because of the speed and time involved, according to the ADA. Someone who uses a manual brush generates about 300 strokes per minute. That’s a low mark compared to the 30,000 strokes per minute that a sonic toothbrush can generate.

A manual brusher can make up the difference simply by brushing for a much longer period of time, but odds are it’s not going to be enough time to make up the full gap.

Even if you were willing to put in all the extra time brushing, you would be likely to put excess pressure on your gums and teeth, leading to sores and bleeding. Sonic brushes negate the need to work the bristles into your teeth and gumline.

Popular Brands of Sonic Brushes

Two brands are synonymous with electric toothbrushes: Sonicare and Oral-B.

Philips Sonicare and Braun Oral-B have battled for supremacy in the production of sonic brushes over the years with several studies comparing the effectiveness of these brushes in enhancing oral health. Measuring which brand is better, however, is not easy. Both companies have research that indicate their products are better than the competitor’s.

Philips Sonicare

The Sonicare series of toothbrushes assume the shape of traditional brushes with slight modifications in shape and size. All of them have at least two kinds of bristles that sit perpendicularly on the brush head. Some models have special features such as teeth whitening and gum care functions.

The Philips Sonicare brushes use high-frequency sonic vibration technology that produces a side-to-side motion with up to 30,000 strokes per minute. The vibration, as well as fluid dynamics, give the Sonicare toothbrushes cleaning power of up to 10 times greater than a manual brush.


The Oral-B sonic brushes feature round heads with bristles placed at an angle for better reach to the hard areas. They use spinning motion in cleaning, with up to 8,800 oscillations per minute.

Regardless of which brand of sonic toothbrush you choose, you’re probably upgrading your dental care from what you’re currently using. If you’re someone who embraces new technologies when they come along, you’ll enjoy the new bells and whistles designed to improve your brushing habits and techniques—and have cleaner teeth.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.