Like adult brushes, the bristles on kids electric toothbrushes can move by oscillating/rotating or vibrating (“sonic”) motions. There’s no consensus that one type of movement works better than another at removing plaque or preventing gingivitis.
Our experts told us that the only thing a kids electric toothbrush really needs to be effective is a kid-sized brush head. Kids have less space between their back molars and jaws than adults, and a standard-sized brush head may not be able to reach the crevices. “If it’s too big, you can’t brush the back teeth properly,” Hayes said. All of the electric toothbrushes for kids we found either come with or offer separately a smaller brush head, typically about half the size of a standard brush head intended for adults.
Kid-sized brush heads don’t have a common standard, and mouth sizes vary by age and kid, so it’s important to confirm that whatever you buy fits your child’s mouth. Hayes recommends checking with your child’s dentist if you’re not sure. She also said it’s fine to continue using a small brush head even as your child’s mouth gets bigger—some kids and even adults prefer it. (AAPD president-elect Jessica Lee proudly uses a manual baby toothbrush to brush her teeth.)
Another useful feature for electric toothbrushes, both for kids and adults, is a timer that can help you make sure you brush for the full amount of time recommended by the ADA. Though each of our three picks have built-in two-minute timers, a simple sand timer or egg timer can work just as well.
Unlike electric toothbrushes for adults, which exist in dozens of designs and permutations, there aren’t many different models for kids. For our initial round of testing in 2018, we made a list of every electric toothbrush for kids with rechargeable or replaceable batteries that we could find at Amazon, Target, Walmart, and other retailers. With the above criteria in mind, we identified four brushes we decided to test:
Oral-B Pro-Health Jr. (now discontinued)
Philips Sonicare for Kids
Brusheez Kid’s Electronic Toothbrush Set
Brush Buddies My First Soniclean
We had a 3-year-old and almost-5-year-old tester use each of the brushes over the course of about a week for morning and nightly brushings. (We also used some of the models with an 18-month-old.) After using each brush for about a week, the kid testers continued using the top two performers for regular brushings.
The two testers brushed semi-independently, with an adult supervising but the children mostly holding and manipulating the brushes themselves.
We noted how easily the child was able to move the brush around their mouth, and if the handle was easy to grip. We paid attention to how the brushes endured being chewed on, twisted, dropped, and occasionally thrown around the bathroom. We also noted if the brush heads could detach easily during use.
Each of the brushes had a two-minute timer, which the kids used during each session. We noted how easy it was for the kids to time themselves and know when the brushing session was complete.
Two of the brushes we tested had apps meant to track and incentivize brushing, which we tested on an iPhone.
All electric toothbrushes buzz, vibrate or spin, and make noise. Because everyone has different preferences, we paid attention to how the brushes felt and sounded, but didn’t eliminate any brushes based on type of motion or noise.
After learning that our former top pick—the Oral-B Pro-Health Jr.—had been discontinued, we did a new round of testing in late 2019 with four brushes: the Oral-B Kids (the updated version of our previous top pick, the Oral-B Jr.); the Philips Sonicare for Kids (our previous runner-up pick); the Quip Kids, which was released after our original testing; and the AutoBrush for Kids V3. Two additional kid testers, ages 8 and 5, used the brushes over six weeks.