Health

Philips Sonicare Essence Electric Toothbrush

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Best low cost toothbrush

The Philips Sonicare Essence is their basic Sonicare electric toothbrush, without the bells and whistles of the more expensive models. Electric toothbrushes appear to be about equally effective, from what I can tell. Reviews and research papers don’t seem to favor one over the other. And replacement heads are generally similar in price, though the Sonicare heads cost a bit than the Oral-B.

Wirecutter chose an Oral-B model as its pick mostly because Oral-B offers the greatest variety of replacement heads. So why should we choose the Sonicare instead? Because aside from the replaceable heads, it basically lasts forever. When my old Sonicare started requiring a bit of extra pressure on the switch to turn it on or off, I put off buying a new one. But after another year or two, the switch stopped working entirely, and I had to buy a new one. That was when I realized that it had served me faithfully for 14 years. Why does it last so long?

  • The handle has one moving part, the on/off switch. On my previous toothbrush, it lasted through perhaps 10,000 actuations. The replaceable head has one moving part, the brush/shaft. There is no drive shaft with seals and bearings to wear out and leak. The handle is sealed and evidently waterproof. The way it works is that it has a coil of wire that inductively causes a magnet to vibrate. The magnet is connected to the toothbrush head with a clever three-part shaft (hidden behind a cover) that is apparently designed to maximize stiffness and minimize resonance modes. The magnet doesn’t touch the coil. Magnet, shaft and brush head are all one assembly, and are replaced as one. (Incidentally, the magnet is removable with a pair of pliers, and is rather strong. They make good refrigerator magnets.) I know this is true of any Sonicare that takes E-series replacement heads. I don’t know if that is true of other models.)
  • There are no exposed electrical contacts. The handle sits in a sealed charger. Charging is again accomplished through induction; the base generates a vibrating electrical field which induces a current in a coil of wire inside the handle.
  • Brushing your teeth is a very light load for the batteries, which can last for weeks without recharging. With nightly topping up, the batteries will essentially last forever.

Other nice touches:

  • The thing vibrates at a pretty perfect C above middle C. That means that songs you hear on the radio are likely to harmonize with the toothbrush.
  • It comes with a tiny clear cover for the brush head. It is easy to lose, but other toothbrushes come with nothing.

Negatives:

  • The handle is relatively smooth and nearly cylindrical. If it were textured, and especially, if it flared a little at the brush end, it would be easier to hold without slipping.
  • If the vibrating head touches a tooth directly, it can cause a zippy buzzing sensation in your head. That is easy to avoid, and I haven’t done that in years.
  • If you pull the head directly out of your mouth while it is still on, you can spatter toothpaste and saliva/water on your mirror. Again, easily avoided.

So this is a cheap, effective appliance that lasts an unusually long time. Again, this applies only to models that take the E-series replacement heads, the cheapest of which is the Essence. That might also apply to other Sonicare models, but I don’t have direct experience with them.

-- Karl Chwe 01/23/18