If there was ever a technology that seemed fated to be brought to the world of dental hygiene, it surely must be Bluetooth. If you thought Bluetooth was only useful for connecting your phone to your headset then think again. Bluetooth is the future of smart toothbrushes.
What makes a toothbrush smart?
Most electric toothbrushes have a few nifty features that make brushing easier. Timers to tell you when you’re done brushing for example, with some toothbrushes indicating when you should move to a different area of your mouth. Others have pressure sensors, so you don’t wear away your tooth enamel too quickly or offer different brushing modes to clean, polish or floss your teeth.
None of these features makes your toothbrush “smart” even if they are quite useful. Smart features include Philip’s “BrushSync” technology that detects the type of toothbrush head you’ve fitted and modifies the brushing pattern to match and also indicates when it’s time to change the head. However, what we really mean by a Smart toothbrush is one that links to your smartphone and allows you to monitor your brushing progress via an app. One latest Smart toothbrush from market leader, Oral B is the iO9™ Electric Toothbrush (click here for our review), which tracks the movement of your toothbrush around your mouth on your phone to show you which teeth are still to be brushed and tells you if you are brushing too hard and how much longer you should brush for.
A Bluetooth electric toothbrush is definitely more expensive than the “dumb” equivalent, but you do get all the features in terms of cleaning technology, and the extra cost may well be recouped in the dentist’s chair (or rather in time not spent in the dentist’s chair!)
Many people won’t see the need for a smart toothbrush – it’s more expensive than a regular electric toothbrush and you can certainly manage without it. However, if your dentist has told you that you’re not cleaning your teeth particularly well – personally, I’ve been brushing too hard and worn down the enamel on my upper canines – they can be a great help.
We think that maybe the most interesting use is to be able to monitor (and incentivise / reward) your children’s teeth cleaning. If you upload the teeth-cleaning app on your phone and your child uses the smart toothbrush, you can then check to see how often, how long and how well they are cleaning their teeth. With some models they can get rewards and trophies if they brush well – turning the whole chore into a fun game.
Although you can’t share your smart toothbrush and get accurate feedback (the bluetooth handle treats all brushing ‘events’ as if it’s the same person, so it would mess up the data), there are some models which come with more than one handle to allow multiple users. See the Oral B’s Genius 8900, 9900 or the Smart 5 5950 for example – all which have dual handle packages for bluetooth electric toothbrushes.
How does it work?
Like any other Bluetooth accessory, you need to pair it with your phone. The Oral B Genius 9000 toothbrush can connect to both Android (Version 4.3 or greater) or Apple (iOS 5 or later) phones which is pretty much all smartphones in use at the moment. You install the appropriate app for your toothbrush as you would any other piece of software, and the toothbrush will send data to your phone indicating where you’re brushing and how hard you’re pressing.
Apps vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. For example, the Colgate Smart Electronic Toothbrush only works with Apple devices at present, so double-check before you buy.
Overall, smart toothbrushes offer similar feedback on your brushing routine:
- Where you are brushing
- How long you spent in each quadrant of your mouth
- Pressure indications showing when you pushed too hard
- Suggestions for how to improve your brushing technique
- Games or Augmented Reality filters to make brushing fun
By indicating areas you may have missed, the brush can teach you to be more thorough in your brushing regime. Apps can also prompt you to floss and rinse your mouth with mouthwash in order to further improve dental hygiene. Some apps also have the ability to flag up areas of concern as noted by your dentist. Of course, like any advice, you shouldn’t rely on the app and should always contact your dentist if it raises concerns about the state of your teeth.
Children may find the fun side of brushing apps is enough of a motivation to actually brush their teeth, which will not only improve their oral health in the short-term but will also help instil life-long good habits. The Colgate Smart Electronic Toothbrush turns into a video game controller allowing your children (or you!) to have some hair-raising escapades with Rabbids or, if you’d prefer, you can take to the high seas with GoPirate.
What features do the brushes have?
Bluetooth toothbrushes offer the same cleaning experience as a non-smart toothbrush. For example the Philips HX9924/44 DiamondClean Smart Sonic Electric Toothbrush with App offers BrushSync to reset the brush to match the head fitted, brush head usage monitoring and pressure sensor just like other brushes in the Philips range, while paring with the Philips Sonicare App to give you a 3D overview of your mouth showing areas you need to pay attention to.
Smart toothbrushes have replaceable heads, and most are compatible with multiple types of head enabling you to choose the right balance of cleaning, polishing and interdental action for your mouth. Depending on the model you have a choice of oscillating/rotating heads or a side-to-side action.
Sonic technology is also present in smart toothbrushes, using the power of sound waves to loosen plaque enabling it to be brushed away more thoroughly. The smart toothbrush Apple endorse is primarily a sonic toothbrush which improves oral health through better pinpointing of problem areas.
Since good brushing habits rely on regular practice a travel case or travel charger is a useful addition. The Philips DiamondClean Smart toothbrush comes with a USB travel case, and charger while the Oral-B Genius will even charge your phone at the same time!
Position detection is a feature that is only available on certain smartphones. This technology requires you to position the phone, so the camera can view you brushing. The app will then give you feedback on how you are handling the brush and tips on how to improve your technique.
Where to buy?
Smart toothbrushes are readily available. John Lewis stock the Philips DiamondClean range, while the Oral-B range of Bluetooth-enabled brushes is available in Argos. Boots and Superdrug stock smart toothbrushes with various sales and discounted models at times, and of course Amazon also has a comprehensive selection.
Be sure to read the specific guide for any toothbrush you’re thinking of buying to see if it’s going to revolutionize your bathroom regime or turn out to be a waste of money.