Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Sonicare Essence 5500 Power Toothbrush - Good Vibrations

I have been using the Sonicare Advance A4100 power toothbrush for many years. At first, with A-Series brush heads and later with E-Series contoured brush heads. Recently, I bought the newer Sonicare e5500 model. There were a few reasons for this. More precisely, two. One: it was cheap and came with a rebate. Two: my current handle contained a Ni-Cad battery that had ceased to be.

The A4100 toothbrush worked great for me and I had no particular complaints about the A-Series brush heads either. They did require periodic cleaning, otherwise toothpaste accumulation caused an unpleasant substance to form inside the brush heads' bases and the toothbrush's handle's top part. The new Sonicare Essence e5500 uses E-Series heads and is an improvement.

Power Toothbrush: What's the Big Deal?

I got my first power toothbrush, the Sonicare Advance, at an advice of my dentist, who was concerned that I am applying too much pressure while brushing and was damaging my enamel. According to him, the power toothbrushes provided just the right amount of pressure and also cleaned better. And Sonicare was the brand he recommended. I am glad that I obliged.

Using the powered toothbrush was awkward at first. The toothpaste would splash until I learned to enclose the brush in my mouth. The vibration would feel too strong at first, even though the brush had the feature to start off at the lower power level and build up the power over 10 (or 20, do not recall) first uses.

But after a while, I could not imagine using a regular, non-powered toothbrush on a regular basis. The Sonicare seemed to clean better, provide just the right amount of pressure, massage teeth and gums and, dare I say, make my teeth stronger?

Sonicare Essence e5500

All of the above benefits apply to the new e5500. The brush is charged by placing it into an induction (no contacts) charger base. The handle has a Ni-Cad battery that is good for two weeks of traveling, if needed. The brush heads are removable and need to be changed once in 3 months.

The e5500 handle comes with a charging base, two E-Series heads, a travel case. It features a 2-minute timer and a Quadrapacer interval timer. The former stops the good vibrations after 2 minutes, so you don't have to time how long you brush. The latter splits those two minutes into 4 quarters and indicates when you need to switch from side to side and up/down.

Brush Heads: Are E-Series Heads Better Than A-Series?

I was already familiar with the improvement that the E-series brush heads of the new e5500 represent over the A-Series. In fact, the improved brush heads are a major factor why the e5500 is better than the older, so-called "Advance" design. The E-Series brushes have somewhat longer, but more slender neck, which is angled and, just as the product advertisement says, helps it reach better. Yes, to those, so-called, "hard-to-clean" areas.

The E-series heads also feel like they clean better and produce stronger vibrations than that of the A-Series. The bristles themselves have more curved arrangement, which is good.

Overall Use

The e5500 and the E-Series brush heads are overall better than the A-Series brush heads and the A4100 handle I used before. But the clean-up is a little more cumbersome. Despite having some soft material in the top part of the joint between the brush's neck and its "nut", or whatever you want to call the part that attaches to the handle, the toothpaste reliably collects in the area between the brush and the handle on each single use. A-series heads were made completely of hard plastic and they (as well as the A4100 handle) collected seemingly less stuff. Fortunately, the new brush heads and the handle are easy to rinse.

The Quadrapacer is not something I care much about since I don't feel I need it, but it is a nice-to-have feature.


The handle and the heads have solid construction. The heads feature differently-colored bands around their necks, which helps one differentiate one's brush from the others'. The handle and heads are made of plastic, which is seemingly whiter than that of the A-Series heads.


After using Sonicare for somewhere about 10 years, I decided to switch to Braun Oral-B Professional Care power brush. My first Oral-B is on its way, and here is why. Although I liked the Sonicare, there always were little annoyances. The threads of the handle (and brush heads) gets gummed-up and requires cleaning once in a while, the brushes are expensive and on top of that,

Consumer Reports recently rated it at only "ok" at cleaning plaque (or whatever the empty circle means). Whereas Oral-Bs got from half-filled to filled circle. I think the Oral-B Professional Care got a full circle. But even if it was a half-circle, it is still better. Plus the brushe heads are about twice (or at least 60%) cheaper. And there is no thread to become filled with toothpaste and soap scum.

Pros: Keeps teeth and gums clean, healthy and strong; inexpensive, durable and reliable
Cons: Battery is not replaceable, needs cleaning, new brush heads every 3 months, expensive brush heads

Bottom Line

An improvement on the older Sonicare models, the Sonicare Essence e5500 is a good toothbrush. It helps me keep my teeth and gums clean, healthy and strong.

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