Electric tooth brushes tend to sound louder than they actually are. Obviously there is the noise of the brush motor reaching your ears. But it is magnified because the noise and vibration are transferred through the bones in your head directly to your ears. Meaning you are hearing the external noise in the normal way and feeling the noise internally.
So, it is important to make the tooth brush as quiet as possible. Here are some of the best ways to quieten your tooth brush. This is specially important on those hangover mornings.
Diagnosing Electric Tooth Brush Noise
Electric tooth brushes will produce between 50 and 80 decibels of noise. That is the sound level between your refrigerator and your alarm clock or garbage disposal.
This is fairly significant noise right close to your ears and in your mouth. (Very rarely are your ears a couple inches from your garbage disposal.) Making your tooth brush quieter is a good idea.
Check the Head
The head is the only moving part on the tooth brush. Therefore, it will have the greatest chance of making noise.
- Match the Manufacturer. Third party or No Name head manufacturers can save you a lot of money. And create a lot of aggravation. It is pretty rare that they fit as well as heads made by the same manufacturer as your tooth brush. The looser and more ill-fitting they are, the noisier your brush will be. Loose heads will not clean your teeth as well and may affect the longevity of the tooth brush.
- Make it Fit. Whether your brush head is a screw on or snap on unit, make sure it is seated properly. Loose and wobbly heads make more noise and do not clean as well.
Check the Body
Check the body of the tooth brush for cracks and make sure it still fits together properly. Although the plastic used to make them is pretty tough, dropping your tooth brush on the tiled floor, taps, or into the sink could have cause some damage. You might want to look inside to make sure the connections still look good and nothing has shifted.
Check the Battery
If your tooth brush has replaceable batteries, check to see that they are still secure and placed properly. Do not leave rechargeable batteries plugged in continuously. This will damage the batteries and make them degrade quicker. Loose or weak batteries will make for a noisier tooth brush.
None of the Above
If you can find none of the above problems, your tooth brush may just be old, overused, or improperly maintained. It might just be time for a new one.
5 Ways to Make an Electric Tooth Brush Quieter
Electric tooth brushes can be fairly noisy right out of the box. Older ones can be even worse. Hopefully some of the following suggestions can help you make it quieter.
1) Keep the Tooth Brush Fully Charged
Rechargeable tooth brushes use lithium ion batteries. These batteries cannot remain plugged in all the time. They will lose the ability to hold a charge. At the same time you want a decent amount of power when brushing your teeth.
A lack of power will make the tooth brush labor more because it is trying to get up to optimum speed. These efforts will usually create more noise. Set up a charging schedule that will work for you–every second or third day, and remember to unplug it at night. Check the owners manual for their recommendations and follow them.
Many electric tooth brushes are battery powered. A few will have a low battery indicator to let you know when to change batteries. Most do not. You will have to get a feel for any change in power level and noise level. Or you can just change batteries every 3 months when you change the brush head.
2) Wrap the Tooth Brush Handle
One of the quickest ways to reduce tooth brush noise is to wrap something around the handle while you are using it. Hand towel, face cloth, even a Tee shirt. The thicker, the better. Thicker heavier material absorbs more sound and provides more mass. Keep in mind that you still have to be able to hold the brush and maneuver it around. There also may be controls or indicators on the handle you need to use or see.
In a perfect world, you could make a permanent cover. This is a little difficult because of the controls and recharging or battery changes. Also, whatever you use is close to your mouth, so clean and hygienic is important.
Wrapping your tooth brush handle will reduce the noise level by 3 – 5 decibels. This may not sound like much to you and you may wonder why you are going through the hassle. Keep in mind the 3 decibel rule which states “Every 3 decibel change represents a doubling or halving of sound energy.” (You can find more detailed information about the 3 decibel rule from Pulsar Instruments.)
As you can see, wrapping a heavy sound absorbing cover around the tooth brush handle while it is in use is a worthwhile project. Even though it might be clumsy.
3) Change the Head
The part of the tooth brush that actually cleans the teeth is the part that vibrates most and makes the most noise. It is called the head and should be replaced about every 3 months. Not only for hygienic reasons but to keep the brush operating quieter. Most electric tooth brushes vibrate about 26 times per second. That is over 3100 movements in a 2 minute brushing cycle.
Note: The motor, gears, and cam shaft inside the handle are actually fairly quiet compared to the head.
Almost all tooth brush heads are made of plastic. Over a 3 month period they are very likely to wear, get loose, and make more noise. When you replace the head, make sure you use ones made by the same manufacturer. Generic and/or other brands may fit, but there is a good chance those will not fit near as well as original parts. They will very likely be noisier right from the start. And get worse quicker.
When changing heads, make sure you get the new one to fit exactly like the old one. Some heads are screw on, some are snap on. Make sure that the new head is completely engaged. If it is not properly seated, it will make more noise. Give it a try before using the tooth brush.
4) Maintain the Tooth Brush
Electric tooth brushes are mechanical pieces of equipment–just a little smaller than most–and need to be maintained to keep them performing as well as possible. An extra noisy tooth brush is quite often a sign that it needs some help. Your owners manual should list out all of the maintenance requirements for your brush. Here are some of the more important items.
- Keep it Dry. Obviously the head is meant to get wet. Not so much the body of the machine or the motor compartment or the battery compartment. Both have electrical connections that will rust or corrode if exposed to too much moisture too often. Eventually the tooth brush will quit operating. Or low and intermittent power will cause it to make more noise.
- Keep it Clean. Clean off the tooth brush after each use with a damp rag or Kleenex. Excess tooth paste, saliva, and water can run down the body of the brush getting into joints and controls. It can also settle into the battery charger gumming up and corroding the electrical contacts.
- Keep it Charged. Rechargeable tooth brushes should be charged regularly to keep the power at an optimum level. This helps the brush to work better and quieter. But just like your cell phone, it should not be charging constantly. Eventually the lithium-ion battery will stop holding a charge. As important as it is to remember to charge the tooth brush, it is equally important to remember to disconnect it from the charger.
5) Buy a New Tooth Brush
If none of these ideas have made your tooth brush much quieter, it just might be time to get a new one. The cost of a new rechargeable electric tooth brush can be as low as $20.00 and range up to over $300.00. Some, like the Oclean X Pro Elite only produce 48 decibels of sound–as quiet as your refrigerator. Others, such as some of the Oral-B products can get up to 80 decibels. Generally, the more expensive a tooth brush, the quieter it is. Just like cars.
Sonic tooth brushes are the most recent type of electric brushes. They are very quiet because of the type of construction and design. By oscillating between 250 and 300 times per second (30,000 brush strokes per minute), not only are they more efficient, they clean much better and quicker. They are quieter because faster oscillation produces higher frequencies that are more difficult to hear.
Most electric tooth brushes come with multiple heads. Many also have storage cases and different types of heads for better cleaning. You can even find brushes that are Bluetooth enabled. (Don’t ask me why you would need that.)
Note: To save money and get the quietest tooth brush on the market, buy a manual tooth brush.
A Few More Noise-Making Possibilities
Here are a couple of other noise-making things you should check for.
- Cracked Case. Electric tooth brushes are fairly hardy but dropping them in the sink or on a tiled floor could crack the case. A cracked case will allow more noise to escape. You can fix this with super glue. Just follow the directions. Make sure that you do not get any glue into the motor compartment.
- Damaged Wiring. As mentioned before, a regular electric tooth brush vibrates about 26 times per second. That amount of movement every day could possibly shake something loose inside the case. If you have the ability and patience to try soldering the wires back together, it may be worth trying to repair the tooth brush. If not, you will probably have to consider buying a new one.
- Cleanliness. As with most mechanical appliances, a clean one works better than a dirty one. Dried toothpaste, saliva, and debris from your teeth can infest the brush head and the head connection to the body. This will cause the brush to make more noise as it tries to overcome the obstacles. It will also have to work harder. And it is unhygienic. Solve this problem by removing the head after each brushing, washing it with soap and water, rinse, and let it dry before reassembling it.
- Soundproof Your Bathroom. I have seen this seriously suggested elsewhere so I thought I would try to address it honestly. It would be a cold day in hell before I would spend a few thousand dollars soundproofing my bathroom because of the noise of a $200.00 tooth brush. But if you are considering soundproofing your bathroom anyway please see our articles How to Soundproof a Bathroom and How to Soundproof a Bathroom Door.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1) How often should I change my electric tooth brush head?
After 3 months. This is the time that many things start happening. The bristles are starting to look worn. Your teeth may not be feeling clean. Tooth brush head is beginning to have an odor. The odor problem is particularly bad. You probably have a build up of bacteria from not keeping the brush clean. Change it now. (Three months is the time to recycle your classic manual brush also.)
2) Which is better–electric tooth brush or manual tooth brush?
Electric tooth brushes are quicker, more efficient, and can do a better job. They are also more expensive and noisier. The vast majority of the world still uses manual tooth brushes which seem to get the job done. They are much less expensive and much quieter.