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What is an Ultrasound Toothbrush?

By Mike Howells
Updated May 21, 2024
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An ultrasound toothbrush is a type of electric toothbrush whose bristles vibrate at an ultrasonic frequency when activated. This vibration creates small bubbles, which augment normal brushing action to help break up and remove particles on the teeth. Ultrasonic toothbrushes are considered more effective than traditional manual toothbrushes when used correctly and regularly.

Ultrasound toothbrush technology has existed for decades, and the first professional models came to the market in the 1970s. Not until the late 1980s, however, did the cost of the technology come down enough to make consumer models feasible. Since that time, the ultrasound toothbrush has continued to come down in price and become more common, though it is still one of the most expensive oral cleaning products on the market.

Manufacturers of the ultrasound toothbrush contend that their products offer a more effective method of oral cleaning than manual models. Studies have borne out this allegation to a moderate extent. Many dentists consider the greatest benefit of ultrasound, and other electric toothbrushes, to be in cases where a patient has limited dexterity or ability to brush effectively. The ultrasonic vibrations of the brush-head whips toothpaste into a lather and helps it get to more nooks and crevices in the mouth, thus helping brush away bacteria and other detritus.

Unlike manual toothbrushes, an ultrasound toothbrush should not be utilized with a traditional circular brushing motion. Rather, it should be drawn across the teeth and gums in a slow, straight line, back and forth. This allows the ultrasonic action to be most effective in creating a lather and disrupting plaque and tartar accumulation.

Like other electric toothbrushes, ultrasound models typically use either a normal AA or AAA battery. Higher-end models use an enclosed lithium-ion battery that is recharged via magnetic induction. This method requires only that the brush-handle be placed in proximity with the charger, usually in a dock configuration. Coiled wires in the dock then transfer power to the battery, recharging it. A full charge in one of these devices can last a week or more, making them viable options for use during travel.

Given the technology involved, an ultrasound toothbrush is generally many times more expensive than a manual, or even a basic electric, toothbrush. This is the greatest barrier to using one. Still, the added effectiveness of ultrasonic brushing can avert the need for professional dental work, which can dwarf the cost of even the most expensive toothbrush.

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Discussion Comments

By anon338574 — On Jun 15, 2013

As far as I know there are only 3 "ultrasonic" toothbrushes, Megasonex, Ultreo and Emmi-dent. After checking out their sites, my first choice was Megasonex, but they are not selling in the US yet. So, I bought an Emmi-dent. They say that it is made in Germany but it sure doesn't look, feel or work like one. Since I speak Chinese, I looked online and found that it is made in Shandong, China. It does not say "Made in Germany", but it does have "Germany" stamped on the handle.

By ngams — On May 11, 2013

Frankly, I am surprised that so many people (even so called experts) do not understand the difference between electric, sonic and ultrasonic toothbrushes. Electric toothbrushes typically vibrate at speeds (either round and round or up and down) of less than approximately 150 Hz or 18,000 movements per minute, in other words less than the frequency that a human ear can detect. Anything from around 18,000 movements per minute or 150Hz (barely detectable by the human ear) to 20,000 Hz or 2,400,000 movements per minute is considered "sonic" (because we can hear the vibration).

Typically, sonic toothbrushes go up to around 40,000 movements per minute or 333 Hz. Ultrasonic toothbrushes typically use a piezo crystal to generate a wave (of sound) at a frequency of 1.6MHz or 192,000,000 movements per minute, which is close to 5000 time higher than "sonic" toothbrushes. I have seen a good explanation of this online.

Regarding micro bubbles. This is nonsense. If the ultrasound created bubbles in the saliva or toothpaste foam, it would surely create "bubbles" in your blood stream. And that will destroy your blood cells. Nuts. "Bubbles" is a marketing idea started by Sonicare and perpetuated by others getting on the bandwagon. Try putting your brush a few inches under water and turn it on. You won't see any bubbles. But if it is close to the surface, of course you will be mixing in air into the water, which will appear as bubbles.

One must not confuse ultrasound with electro magnetic radiation, such as what cell phones, radios and TV's use. Ultrasound is a sound which we cannot hear and does not exist in a vacuum like outer space. EMF (electro magnetic radiation) are waves that go through everything and even through outer space.

Hope this makes sense.

By anon287495 — On Aug 25, 2012

A Sonicare toothbrush is not an ultrasonic toothbrush. It's just a macro-cleaning electric toothbrush. Emmi-Dent 6 is a real ultrasonic toothbrush and the results are terrific! I've been using it for four months and my teeth, especially my gums, are in much better condition now. You cannot compare the feeling between macro/micro cleaning brushes. After I use my emmi-dent it feels like a professional cleaning every time. Best toothbrush on the market!

By golf07 — On Oct 06, 2011

I like to switch back and forth between my electric toothbrush and my regular one. I did some research on the best ultrasound toothbrushes and didn't find one that seemed all that much better than the others.

All of them seemed to have both positive and negative reviews. I ended up going with a Philips Sonicare toothbrush because I had a coupon for one and thought it would work just as well as any of them.

I haven't had any problems with it and my dentist feels that I don't get as much plaque build up when I use an ultrasound toothbrush on a regular basis.

It is a small price to pay for healthier teeth and easier visits when I get my teeth cleaned.

By LisaLou — On Oct 05, 2011

My dentist recommended that I use an ultrasound toothbrush. I ended up buying an electric Oral-B toothbrush. I also bought some extra electric toothbrush heads to go with it.

I didn't care for it too much at first and it took some getting used to. Once I finally got used to it, I really liked how it made my teeth feel.

I don't take this when I travel, but will use my old manual toothbrush. Now I find that I miss my ultrasound toothbrush when I don't have it.

It seems to do a much better job at cleaning clear at the back of my mouth and my teeth always feel cleaner after using an electric toothbrush.

By starrynight — On Oct 05, 2011

@KaBoom - I would love to get one of these, but I just don't have the money for it right now. I sure wish my dental insurance would cover this!

In the meantime, I just make sure that I brush with my normal toothbrush for at least two minutes, floss, and use mouthwash. I find flossing makes a big difference for me.

By KaBoom — On Oct 04, 2011

I think that if you're going to spend money on something for yourself, an ultrasound toothbrush isn't a bad way to go.

I use one, and I love it. I will never go back to plain manual toothbrushes again! I will say though, it was hard to get used to just drawing the toothbrush across my teeth instead of using a circular motion.

When I was little, my mom drilled that into my brain when she taught me how to brush my teeth. Circular motions! It was a hard habit to break. But the ultrasound toothbrush really does work best if you just let it do its thing!

By manykitties2 — On Oct 03, 2011

Can anyone suggest the best electric toothbrush for someone who has never used one before? Up until now I have just used a plain old soft-bristle brush on my teeth.

I have looked at an Oral B electric toothbrush as well as a Braun electric toothbrush and it is really hard to tell which is the better buy. I see a lot of ads on television claiming that each one is the best, and would really like to hear from someone's personal experience.

Also, do you think it is a good idea to get an ultrasound toothbrush that also comes with a water pick? I think the extra cleaning tool could be useful.

By lonelygod — On Oct 03, 2011

An ultrasound toothbrush is a really good investment if you want to make sure your teeth are really clean. I was having a problem of always getting cavities and my dentist suggest I try one of the cheap electric toothbrushes on the market, just to see if it did a better job of brushing my teeth.

I found that having an electric toothbrush made all the difference in the world and I was really impressed with how much my oral health improved. I now own a Phillips Sonicare toothbrush. While it was a bit expensive, I find it does a great job of taking care of my teeth.

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