Price comparison

Electric toothbrushes: considerable savings possible on replacement brush heads

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Replacement brush heads for electric toothbrushes are expensive, so it is often worth opting for imitation brands. Source: iStock

Electric toothbrushes are both easy to use and thorough, whether you are an adult or a kid. So it is all the more pleasing to see them becoming increasingly affordable. Still annoying, though, are the high subsequent costs of replacement brush heads. comparis.ch provides its readers with tips on maintaining good oral hygiene while saving costs.

Developed in Switzerland over 60 years ago, electric toothbrushes are now found in almost every second Swiss household. This success is thanks both to their ease of use and to their particular thoroughness. Indeed, they are considered by dentists to be the ultimate means of preventive care. Because, as evidence shows, removing bacterial plaque greatly reduces the risk of caries and periodontitis – the two main causes of tooth loss.

Used correctly, electric toothbrushes are an especially gentle means of cleaning teeth. Some devices vibrate as soon as they are pressed too hard against the teeth. Others emit a signal when the recommended brushing time expires. The most recent devices can even be controlled via an app and provide users with personalized teeth brushing feedback. The sonic electric toothbrush Sonicare DiamondClean Smart by Philips is one such device. 

Use of electric toothbrushes among children is also on the increase, with many devices equipped with playful and encouraging technical features (e.g. music) that promote better cleaning results.

An overview of the pros and cons of using electric toothbrushes

Pros Cons
Comfortable, easy to use Acquisition costs and, in particular, follow-up costs
Facilitate more thorough teeth cleaning Noise
Can be used by all family members thanks to interchangeable brush heads Dependent on electricity supply
Suitable for and encouraging to children Vibrations in the mouth cavity
Measures brushing time (timer) and pressure (e.g. vibration)  Incorrect use can cause damage to gums and teeth
Higher hygienic standard Ecological impact (rechargeable batteries, electricity)

Different systems

Electric toothbrushes tend to be based on one of two systems.

Oscillating-rotating toothbrushes: These toothbrushes have round brush heads that oscillate back and forth about 70 times per second while simultaneously rotating. The small brush heads can reach areas otherwise difficult to access. Brushing involves moving the brush head slowly from tooth to tooth, using little pressure. 

Sonic electric toothbrushes: Sonic electric toothbrushes have a longer brush head that can clean several teeth at once. The brush head removes plaque by oscillating at a rate of 250 strokes per second. Sonic electric toothbrushes are moved up and down in the mouth, as with standard toothbrushes. Ultrasonic toothbrushes oscillate at a higher rate (16,000 strokes per second) and require a special toothpaste.

Oscillating-rotating or sonic toothbrushes: which is the better of the two systems depends on personal preferences and medical requirements. People unsure about which system to opt for should consult their dentist or dental hygienist. 

Imitation brush heads are up to 50 per cent cheaper

No matter which system you decide on, the brush heads will invariably need replacing after two to three months. This can be costly, with prices for original brush heads often ending up higher that for the devices themselves.

For example, low-cost rotating electric toothbrushes are available for between 20 and 40 francs (Oral-B Vitality Cross Action) according to Comparis’s Price Comparison, around the same amount you would have to pay for five original brush heads (4 to 8 francs per brush head).

Manufacturers such as Procter & Gamble (Oral-B) have so far stuck rigidly to their pricing models, justifying these on the basis of research and development costs. Today, however, the emergence of imitation brush heads has begun to shake up the market. Amazon and Shavemaster.ch are among the companies to now offer brush heads compatible with original-brand toothbrushes. Here, an imitation brush head for the toothbrush mentioned above (Vitality Cross Action) only costs around 2 francs. Drug stores and retailers, too, have begun to stock imitation brush heads. According to the packaging, these are compatible with most Oral-B electric toothbrushes. Drogerie Müller’s SensiDent brand now also has its own range of universal replacement brush heads starting from 3.30 francs per piece. Larger Coop branches also stock universal brush heads under their own Qualité & Prix brand at 3.17 francs per piece.

What about their quality?

In tests conducted by the German product testing foundation Stiftung Warentest, the cloned brush heads were found to be almost as good as the originals. Some may not sit quite as snugly on the toothbrush, but this in no way compromises their functionality. It is therefore only a matter of time before other suppliers of imitation brush heads take aim at the Swiss market, in doing so putting additional pressure on the major manufacturers.

People who still prefer cleaning their teeth with original brush heads should at least compare prices on the Internet, where they can achieve savings of up to 50 per cent.