Differences Between Rotating and Sonic Electric Toothbrushes Explained

Rotating and sonic toothbrushes are quite similar since they both have rotating and oscillating features that work to effectively remove plaque. Some think that all the best electric toothbrushes work the same way as a sonic toothbrush does but that’s never the case. Similarities between the 2 include:

  • Customized Modes – A range of different brushing modes can be customized to suit your teeth cleaning needs.
  • 2 Minute Timer – To encourage you to brush for 2 minutes as recommended by dentists.
  • Interval Timer – Beeps in timed intervals to signal you to move the toothbrush to clean another area of your mouth.

Although both work better than manual brushing, there are differences that many people wouldn’t even realize and these are:



Rotating toothbrushes have a slower oscillating speed than a sonic toothbrush does. Even the best electric toothbrushes won’t get any higher than 7500 brush strokes per minute and it’s not even anywhere near the speed of a sonic one which rotates at up to 40000 brush strokes per minute.



Standard electric toothbrushes tend to rotate and oscillate only but there are some that have a pulsating function as well. Sonic toothbrushes have an intense vibration in addition to all of the above. Just holding this against your teeth for a second will have given it a good scrub without the effort. It’s a lot more effective and quicker in removing plaque and tartar build up.



A higher rotating speed means more surfaces in your mouth is covered due to fluid dynamics. The intense vibrations and pulsations causes pressure on the toothpaste foam and bubbles which is pushed in between your teeth and along the deeper gum areas in those hard to reach areas to give it a deeper clean.

Dentists call it ‘non-contact brushing’ because the bristles on the toothbrush doesn’t actually touch these surface areas. However, it gives teeth a better clean and better mouth hygiene even if it’s just a quick brush.



Sonic electric toothbrushes are well known for their gentleness on gums. It’s ideal for people with sensitive gums and it’s a great way to show children how much pressure should be applied during brushing. There are even models which have a pressure sensor feature to let you know when you’re brushing too hard by stopping.


Customized Intensity Modes

Rotating electric toothbrushes will typically have the one intensity setting but with a sonicare toothbrush, it can have up to 3 intensity settings. The reason for this is because of the high rotating speed, it causes the vibrations to be quite strong which can be uncomfortable for new users or the elderly. To get them used to it, they could start off on the lowest setting. It’s also the setting to use for sensitive gums or when you have inflamed gums.



The heads on standard electric toothbrushes are generally bigger so it can be harder to get it around your teeth and gum. However the heads on sonic toothbrushes are smaller making it easier to maneuver and to comfortably get into the nooks and crannies of your mouth.


Battery Life

Most sonicare toothbrushes have a long battery life of up to 3 weeks when used on the usual daily basis whereas rotating electric toothbrushes tend to last around 7 days only.


Replacement Brush Heads

Some rotating toothbrush models tend to have a wider range of brush heads to choose from. Oral B models are usually compatible with each other and there are brush heads for everyday brushing and for special brushing solutions.


Final Word on Rotating and Sonic Electric Toothbrushes

Although the differences aren’t big, the results produced are. Sonic electric toothbrushes are a lot more efficient in removing plaque and cleaning in gum pockets. They’re ideal if you have crooked teeth or orthodontic appliances and for people with limited dexterity such as arthritis.

Some of the best electric toothbrushes have fancier functions such as an app to track your brushing habits which is ideal if you’re serious about your brushing patterns and habits. However, whether you choose a rotating electric toothbrush or a sonic toothbrush, both can do much more for your teeth than manual brushing can.

Just remember though, the more efficient movement an electric toothbrush has, the better the brushing will be.