Why You Should Avoid Philips Sonicare and Knockoff Oral B Brush Heads

October 28, 2022
electric toothbrush heads

electric toothbrush headsAfter many years of using electric toothbrush heads, my preference has always been to use brand-name brushes because it is reliable and affordable. Wirecutter is not averse to asking the question: Is it worth paying more for a brand-name toothbrush?

The short answer is yes. Six months of testing electric toothbrush heads from different brands, in a head-to-head comparison made us prefer Philips Sonicare and Oral-B.

The generic toothbrush heads are fine for the job, but the bristles of the brands-name brushes felt stiffer and more prickly than the generic ones.

electric toothbrush heads Although this may seem like a small issue, Marcelo Araujo (Vice President of the Science Institute at the American Dental Association) says that brush feel is crucial for maintaining good oral health.

According to the ADA, soft bristles are recommended for toothbrushes. Harder brushes can cause gum recession and wear. As part of its seal certification, the ADA tests toothbrushes for stiffness.

Araujo cautioned that even though Sonicare and Oral B brushes have been awarded the seal, there is no guarantee that generics will be good to your oral health.

We also found that a brand-name replacement brush head is less expensive than a generic. The monthly cost difference for our choice, an Oral-B brush, is less than that of small coffees from Dunkin Donuts. This gap is even smaller when you buy bulk brushes.


electric toothbrush headsGeneric brushes are cheaper, but not much. Prices are based on the largest available pack at the time of publication.

Consider adding $1.50 to your monthly budget if you like my soft bristles. It can make a twice-daily activity much more enjoyable.

What we found and how we tested it

I began by looking through the many generic electric toothbrush heads options available at Amazon and Walmart to determine which top-rated best sellers.

Two options were identified with high reviews and good Fakespot ratings: one that is compatible with the top-rated electric toothbrush from Oral B, and one that is compatible with the Sonicare model.

After that, I used each brush head twice daily for six weeks.

Both the generic and brand-name bristles felt slightly softer to me in both cases. This could be because they were longer and might have been shaped differently, Araujo said.

A round-tipped brush feels more comfortable against sensitive gums than one with a square-tipped tip. Generics, or “gray market” heads, will feel more prickly.

The Oral-B brush head heads had a more striking difference: the bristles of generic brushes were shorter and less flexible, which resulted in a harsher feeling against gums than the ADA warns against.

electric toothbrush heads

Three of my coworkers then each brushed once with each of the four brush heads. I didn’t disclose which brand or generic they were using.

One colleague found the bristles of the generic replacement heads for Sonicare and Oral-B brush handles more comfortable than those on the brand-name brushes.

However, she said they vibrated more which made brushing “a little noisier.” The two other coworkers preferred the brand name heads.

Michael Zhao, Wirecutter’s deputy editor, tried another brand of generic head on an Oral-B3000 5-year-old. He said that although he didn’t notice any difference initially, he recently switched to the real ones after using them for eight months.

“It just feels so much better,” he added. Leigh Krietsch Boerner was a former Wirecutter senior staff writer. He tried another brand of Oral B generics with similar results. They were “a little too hard.”

The generic brushes I tried felt just as good, in many ways, as the brand-name models. They fit perfectly on the brushes. The bases have a variety of colored rings that can be used to distinguish between brush heads.

This is useful if you have more than one brush head in your household. The Sonicare dupe’s plastic bristles had a slightly bitter taste, but the Oral-B brushes had no such problem.

I was able to solve the problem by simply rinsing them with water and toothpaste. All of the brushes, brand-name and generic, showed similar wear after the six-week testing period.

We prefer brushes that feel a little more luxurious and that are safe to use. It’s a cheaper option to buy bulk brand-name brushes than to buy generic gray-market ones.

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