Philips Sonicare Essence Electric Toothbrush Review

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Important – The Philips Sonicare Essence has received an update. Read our full review of the new Sonicare Essence Plus for more details. Still, want to buy the original Sonicare essence from this review? You will be pleased to know that Philips’ cheapest electric toothbrush just got cheaper. Read on for the full review.

The Sonicare Essence is one of the oldest in the Philips range of electric toothbrushes. At over 10 years old, the Essence is a fine example of a well designed product that was designed to stand the test of time.

While it may be a little dated, the Essence is the entry level into Sonicare’s 31,000 brush-strokes-per-minute brush club. Couple this with it being the cheapest Sonicare rechargeable toothbrush and it becomes easy to see why the Essence is still one of the most popular electric toothbrushes available today.

Join us as we examine everything you could possible want to know about the Philips Sonicare Essence. Our detailed review will allow you to make the right decision when purchasing your new electric toothbrush.

Philips Sonicare Essence

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What’s in the box?

If you were to open up the box of your brand new Sonicare Essence, this is what would be waiting for you:

Philips Sonicare Essence Electric Toothbrush and accessories that come in the box

Let’s break it down.

  • Philips Sonicare toothbrush handle
  • e-Series brush head (Standard)
  • Brush head cap
  • Charging base and cord
  • Instruction Manual

As you can see the Essence is a bare bones toothbrush without any gimmicks.

In the box, you will also find a card prompting you to register your Sonicare Essence online. If you do so, you will be rewarded with an additional 6 months of warranty on your Essence toothbrush extending the total warranty period to two and a half years.

Philips Sonicare Essence Handle

The handle of the Sonicare essence is chunky and is pretty plain.

Philips Sonicare Essence Electric Toothbrush handle front photo

The front of the handle two blue rubber strips running down either side. If you are holding the Essence correctly, the rubber strips line up perfectly with the tips of your fingers and thumbs.

The idea of the grip is to make the toothbrush easier to hold in your hands while you brush your teeth, even if your hands are wet. It would have been nice to see the grip textured because in practice the grip is only marginally less slippery than the smooth white plastic.

Philips Sonicare Essence Electric Toothbrush handle power button

Just under the Philips Sonicare branding is a mint green button. Pressing this button turns the toothbrush on or off.

While it isn’t with the power off, behind the button is a greed indicator that shines through while the battery chargers or to warn you that the battery is running low.

Flipping the Essence over reveals…

Philips Sonicare Essence Electric Toothbrush handle rear photo

Nothing but plastic casing. A flat plastic strip runs along the rear so that when you place the Essence down on your bathroom counter top it doesn’t roll away.

Philips Sonicare Essence Electric Toothbrush underside photo

Printed on the base of the Essence are the words “Made in China”. Just below that is the word NiMH which refers to the type of battery found inside.

When you look down on the handle you will notice something unusual:

Sonicare Essence Electric Toothbrush with brush head removed

There does not appear to be any moving parts. Just an empty plastic hole.

The Essence brush heads are powered by magnetism. While modern electric toothbrushes use a rely on a shaft directly attached to a motor, the older Sonicare range used magnetic fields.

The geek in me could go on about this topic all day but all you really need to know is that this method is just as effective at driving the brush heads as the more familiar shaft-style electric toothbrushes.

Sonicare Essence Brush heads

The neck of the Essence handle is threaded:

Philips Sonicare Essence Electric Toothbrush threaded neck

You actually have to screw the brush head onto the handle. This is more time consuming than newer models where you simply slide the brush head on and off the shaft.

Check out the brush heads:

Philips Sonicare Essence Electric Toothbrush standard brush head

Yep, that whole thing is the brush head. I think it is likely that this is the main reason Philips started favoring shaft style toothbrushes, there is a lot to each brush head.

Lengthwise the brush head of the Essence is almost as tall as the toothbrush handle; standing at a whopping 5.3 inches tall.

At the base of the brush head you will find the magnet responsible for making the brush head rapidly vibrate:

Philips Sonicare Essence electric toothbrush brush head magnet

I can’t help myself. I am quickly going to explain just how this works. Those of you who are bored by tech can skip over the next paragraph.

When you press the power button on the toothbrush handle, an electromagnetic field is generated in the empty opening of the handle. Placing the magnet of the toothbrush head inside this field causes it to rapidly swing back and forth which in turn causes the bristles vibrate.

The brush head itself is roughly the same size as a manual toothbrush head, but narrower:

Philips Sonicare Essence electric toothbrush brush head close up on e-Series bristles

There are three variations of the e-Series brush head:

1. Standard – Comes in the box and is what is featured on our reviewed Essence model.

2. Compact – The compact brush head is half the size of the standard and is perfect for smaller mouths or for those of you that just prefer small brush heads.

3. Sensitive The same size as the standard but comes with softer bristles for those of you with incredibly sensitive teeth and gums.

While this anywhere near brush head range of the higher Sonicare models, it will be more than enough for most people. You can find detailed information on each brush head in our Philips Sonicare brush head guide.

One thing that I really did appreciate is the brush head cap:

Philips Sonicare Essence electric toothbrush plastic brush head cap

Have you ever gone to use your toothbrush only to discover it tastes like hairspray, deodorant or something similar? This small slides on and covers your toothbrush bristles keeping them clean and hygienic when not in use.

Just like with a traditional toothbrush it is recommended you replace your Essence brush heads once every three months.

Charging the Philips Sonicare Essence

The charging stand is where the Sonicare Essence is really starting to show it’s age:

Philips Sonicare Essence electric toothbrush charging stand

The charging stand is perhaps one of the bulkiest on the market today. At least it is nowhere near the size of those electric shaver cleaning-stations. Those things are massive!

Flipping it over reveals that the charger only works on 110/120V. Perfect for use here in America but bad news you wanted to charge your Essence while traveling the world.

The base also has 4 small rubber feet to prevent the charger from sliding all over your wet countertop.

But perhaps the most interesting thing here is the cord shortner:

Philips Sonicare Essence electric toothbrush underside of charger cord shortener

No more long cords making a mess of your bathroom counter. I can somewhat forgive the size of the essence charger with the cord shortener hiding underneath.

The bathroom isn’t like your TV where you can simply hide all the cords behind it. Any plugged in appliances sit on display and overly long cords quickly get messy.

Like most modern day electric toothbrushes, the Sonicare Essence uses inductive charging:

Philips-SoniPhilips Sonicare Essence electric toothbrush sitting in charging dockcare-Essence-electric-toothbrush-sitting-in-Philips Sonicare Essence Electric toothbrush sitting in charging dock

The moment you place your electric toothbrush down on the stand it will begin charging. No messing around with plugs and sockets, the whole charging process is done wirelessly.

A green blinking light behind the power button will let you know that the battery is charging. When the light turns off you will know that the battery has completely charged.

The Sonicare Essence will have to be charged before it’s first use. According to the instruction manual, a full charge takes over 24 hours.

While this may seem like a long charge time, we were routinely getting over 12 days of use out of the Essence (brushing twice daily for two minutes). That is longer than the highest Oral-B model.

Testing the Philips Sonicare Essence

The first thing you will notice when you pick up the Sonicare Essence (especially if you have previously used an electric toothbrush) is just how large it feels in the hand.

Philips Sonicare Essence electric toothbrush held in hand

Holding the toothbrush handle so that your fingers line up with the rubber grips actually makes for an uncomfortable brushing session. Your mileage may vary but I simply couldn’t brush my teeth as the instructions recommend with my hand in this position.

As I turned on the Sonicare Essence for the first time I was greeted with a rather loud sound as the vibrating brush head jumped into motion. The sound is more of a loud humming sound as opposed to the churning gear sound you hear from the Oral-B range.

The sound is loud enough that anyone sleeping one or two rooms over will be able to hear it, particularly if your bathroom echoes.

The Sonicare has a handy feature called “Easy-Start”. Easy Start helps you become used to brushing your teeth with the sonicare essence by slowly increasing the power of each brushing sessions. The Essence does this for the first 12 sessions with two quick beeps on start up alerting you that easy-start is in effect.

This was my first use of a Soniclean toothbrush and I am particularly thankful with this mode. For my first brushing session I was incredibly ticklish, the rapid vibrations of the brush head made brushing almost unbearable (but not painful). This sensitivity slowly diminished as I continued to brush exclusively with the Sonicare Essence.

In my opinion full power would have tickled me so much that I would have been unable to push through that first teeth brushing session.

Now on the flip side, on of our testers said that he disliked the Easy-Start feature. He commented on how he already brushes with a Sonicare and doesn’t feel he is getting the same clean during the “softer clean” while Easy-Start is active.

Philips has gone into good detail in their instruction manual on how to get an effective clean with the Essence. I was impressed that they had even included brushing instructions for those of you with braces, dental restorations and periodontal pockets.

As for the technique, it does take some getting used to, particularly if you have never used a sonic toothbrush before. But after a few brushing sessions I was incredibly satisfied with how clean my teeth felt after each brush.

I would also like to point out that if you are looking for an electric toothbrush for your whole family (sharing the handle) then you are probably better off looking at the other Sonicare models.

The screw on style of brush heads makes it much more time consuming to swap out your brush with your partners or whoever you share your handle with.

Philips Sonicare Essence electric toothbrush being rinsed under faucet

When you are done brushing it is time to clean the toothbrush. It is here that the screw on brush head once again shows that it has the power to annoy.

The screwed brush head has a lot more parts to it than the modern slide on style. And it adds a lot more time to the cleaning process.

Philips Sonicare Essence electric toothbrush e-series brush head with collar removed

You have to physically remove the screwed color like in the photo above in order to properly clean it. And you are going to want to clean it properly. You will be using each brush head for 3 months and since they go in your mouth, you want keep your brush heads hygienic and germ free.

Final Thoughts

The Sonicare Essence is proof that a well designed product can stand the test of time. It definitely feels dated with it’s bulky and heavy design compared to the more modern Sonicare brushes. But provides the same 31,000 brush strokes as the top of the line sonicare range.

With proper technique the Essence cleans exceptionally well.

The only real downside to the toothbrush is the screw on brush heads. Properly cleaning the brush heads to prevent build up takes longer than the slide on style.

Over all this is a great introduction to the Sonicare brand.

If you’re still looking for an electric toothbrush that may help you with your teeth cleaning, then here are other toothbrushes by Phillips also worth considering: Philips Sonicare Flexcare PlatinumPhilips Sonicare 9300 DiamondClean and Philips Sonicare FlexCare Plus.