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What Is a Sonic Toothbrush?

By Bethany Keene
Updated May 22, 2024
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A sonic toothbrush is a type of electric toothbrush that vibrates at high speed to clean teeth and remove plaque. Sonic toothbrushes have been shown to remove more plaque and whiten teeth better than a traditional, manual toothbrush. They are typically much more expensive than a basic tooth brush, however, and even more so than a standard electric toothbrush.

The most common type of sonic toothbrush has a dual-function brush head. It moves back and forth across the teeth, as well as features a separate round part that oscillates. The toothbrush moves back and forth and oscillates at an incredibly high speed of approximately 30,000 to 40,000 brush strokes per minute, whereas a traditional electric toothbrush may only have 4,000 to 7,000 brush strokes per minute.

In addition to scrubbing the teeth at high speed, a sonic toothbrush is able to use the moisture in the mouth to clean between the teeth. The fluid from the saliva is agitated by the speed of the toothbrush, allowing it to create tiny bubbles that are able to clean between the teeth and dislodge plaque on the surface of the teeth. A sonic toothbrush is the first type of toothbrush with this capability. The ability to clean teeth in two ways, with the bristles and with the force from the agitation of the fluid in the mouth, is what makes this type of sonic electric toothbrush so effective.

sonic toothbrush

Some sonic toothbrushes may feature a number of different modes, such as daily cleaning, deep cleaning, or whitening, just to name a few. Some may also include a flossing feature. In addition, a timer is common; this helps users to determine if they are brushing for the recommended two minutes per session. The timer generally includes a small alarm that will go off when brushing time is complete.

Keep in mind that a sonic toothbrush is often much more expensive initially and over time than a regular toothbrush; this is because it is necessary to continuously buy replacement brush heads and occasionally batteries. Sonic toothbrushes are typically rechargeable, and will rest in a charging base when they are not in use. It is equally important to remember that a sonic toothbrush is not a replacement for good oral hygiene. It is still important to brush twice a day, floss daily, and visit a dentist every six months for a regular cleaning, and a thorough check for gum disease or cavities.

sonic toothbrush
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Discussion Comments
By sunnySkys — On Feb 09, 2012

I actually just bought an Oral B sonic toothbrush and I will say that I think it makes a huge difference. My mouth feels much cleaner than it did when I was just using a manual toothbrush. I'm hoping this will save me some money on dental care over the next few years!

I will say that I did go straight from a regular toothbrush to a sonic toothbrush. A lot of people seem to go from regular toothbrush, to electronic toothbrush to sonic toothbrush. I decided to just skip the middle step and go straight to the sonic toothbrush!

By JessicaLynn — On Feb 08, 2012

@indemnifyme - I have an electric toothbrush also. Sometimes I save money on the replacement brush heads by buying the store brand at the drugstore. They don't last as long as the brand name replacements, but they'll do in a pinch.

Anyway, I just wanted to recommend that anyone who wants to buy a sonic toothbrush do so online. I was looking a few days ago, and I found a Philips sonic toothbrush online for around $40. It had gotten a lot of good reviews too! I'm strongly considering just buying it for that price!

By indemnifyme — On Feb 08, 2012

A rechargeable sonic toothbrush sounds nice. However, I'm not willing to spend the money on one right now! Most of the sonic toothbrush models I've seen in stores seem to average around a hundred dollars each.

I do, however, have a regular electric toothbrush that I love. It works very well, and it has a timer on it to let me know when I've brushed my teeth for two minutes.

I will say that the article is right about it being more expensive in the long run though. Replacement toothbrush heads for these electric toothbrushes are expensive! I think it's worth it in the long run though.

By hamje32 — On Feb 07, 2012

@miriam98 - Personally, I think that flossing is where so many people fail in their oral hygiene, not brushing. At least that’s my experience every time that I go to the dentist.

I get the same battery of questions. Do you floss? How often do you floss? Do you floss beneath the gum lines? What kind of floss are you using? It seems like I never floss enough.

Maybe I should just limit my diet to soups and salads. At any rate, the best sonic toothbrush should have flossing functionality in my opinion; I think that’s just as important as brushing, if not more so.

By miriam98 — On Feb 07, 2012

@Mammmood - I’d get an opinion from your dentist on that one. It’s true that you want to avoid gum recession and abrasion on your teeth, but I haven’t heard of the sonic toothbrush causing those effects.

There’s a reason that these kinds of brushes are recommended by dentists. I don’t think that they would suggest them if they were harmful to your health.

You won’t find a dentist going out of their way to suggest the sonic toothbrush, however, unless they are absolutely convinced that you aren’t doing a good enough job with your regular toothbrush. On that point, I agree that the regular toothbrush is just as effective if you use it properly.

By Mammmood — On Feb 06, 2012

I only have one concern about a sonic toothbrush, and that is does it cause gum recession as a result of such intense scrubbing? I’ve had receding gums because in the past I used to brush my teeth so hard.

My dentist said that I should switch to a soft toothbrush and brush gently. Over time, he said, recalcification should occur. Seriously, do I need a device that oscillates a zillion times per second if I have receding gums?

I’ll have to think about this. The other thing to point out is that the purpose of brushing your teeth is not only to get food particles out but also to massage your gums.

In that sense, you could almost brush your teeth with your fingers and get good results, in my opinion. So I don’t know if I need the sonic toothbrush.

By turquoise — On Feb 05, 2012

I'm undecided about sonic toothbrushes. I've heard really good things about it from people who use it. But it is so expensive! And I've heard that it has to be replaced every 6-9 months or so depending on the brand you get. I really don't know if they're worth that much money!

My dentist thinks that sonic toothbrushes are pretty much the same as electronic toothbrushes performance wise. I'm not sure about this either. Why would people say it's the best toothbrush they've used if that's the case? My brother has Braun's sonic toothbrush and he said that it's much better than the electronic toothbrush he was using before.

I guess it depends on how interested one is about oral hygiene and how much money they're willing to spend on one. I don't think that I'm going to get one anytime soon, unless I find a huge discount or something.

By SteamLouis — On Feb 04, 2012

@burcidi-- I've been using a sonic toothbrush for the past six months and I'm in love with it! I've never had irritation from it but I do have an extra-soft toothbrush head though.

My teeth are very prone to plaque build-up and I used to have to visit my dentist often to have the plaque removed. Since I've started using a sonic toothbrush though, I haven't had to go as often. It definitely cleans the teeth much better.

The one I have is a pulsating one so it works very differently from a typical electronic vibrating brush. The sonic toothbrush is much faster but since it pulsates (not vibrates), it's pretty gentle on the teeth and gums. If you're still worried about irritation, make sure to get an extra-soft sonic toothbrush head.

They do cost more, but I think it's worth. Visiting the dentist for a clean-up is not cheap either and using a sonic toothbrush is like going to the dentist for me. So it actually saves me money in the long-term.

By burcidi — On Feb 04, 2012

I've never used a sonic toothbrush before although I have had a standard electronic toothbrush. I loved the vibrating action of my electronic toothbrush at first. My teeth felt much cleaner and hygienic. Over time though, my teeth and gums started to get irritated from it. So I would use it only once a day, while using a regular toothbrush at other times.

I've been thinking about investing in a sonic complete toothbrush but there are two things that I'm concerned about. One is the price, the other is that it could irritate my mouth. Since sonic toothbrushes are even more powerful than the standard electronic toothbrushes, there would be a higher chance of irritation wouldn't it?

Has anyone been using a sonic toothbrush? Has it irritated your teeth and gums at all?

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