Are Hi-Tech, ‘Smart’ Toothbrushes Really Worth It?

It seems like every product we use on a daily basis these days has a "smart" version either on the market or in the works. From app-enabled lawn sprinkler systems to doors you can lock from your phone, we are becoming an ever-increasing digital society. Naturally, dentistry is no exception.

You may have already heard of the new smart toothbrushes hitting the consumer marketplace every few months. Recently, the Apple Store launched its exclusive Colgate E1 toothbrush, which works hand in hand with its very own Apple-only app. The Colgate E1 claims to provide "mouth mapping technology," "real-time feedback" and even "brush coaching," among other things. With a $99 price tag, it’s definitely not cheap, but it's also pretty on-par with the average better-quality electric toothbrush. The question is: Is it worth the investment? A quick glance at the customer reviews on the Apple Store website aren’t very clear.

So far, out of 18 reviews, the brush gets a score of 3.5 out of 5 from consumers. Review headlines exclaim "Needs work" and "Nice Idea Poorly Executed." Overall it seems that, so far, consumers aren’t quite in love with the Colgate E1.

Another popular brush that has been around for over a year is the Grush brush for children. First introduced to the world via the ABC invention reality show "Shark Tank," Grush was designed with the goal of helping children clean all their teeth for an appropriate amount of time and with the appropriate amount of pressure. The brush connects to a smartphone app that plays a video game while your child brushes. The better he or she brushes, the higher the score. At the end of the game, parents can check the brushing data and see where their child missed the mark on brushing their teeth.

It also shows children as they brush where they need to apply a bit more pressure and what quadrant of the mouth they should be cleaning at any given time. The Grush brush isn’t quite as costly as the Colgate E1, but at $33 on Amazon, it’s still a lot of money for a kids’ toothbrush. Still, the Grush gets relatively good reviews from parents, earning 3.9 out of 5 stars. The chief complaint among Amazon reviewers is that the movements aren’t accurate. Bottom line, for $33, if you want to give the Grush a try, it can’t hurt. Kids love video games, and most kids love any excuse they can get to play on mom and dad’s smartphone for a few minutes.

As great as that sounds, unfortunately the Grush also has a high potential to backfire. Some parents have reported that their kids are more focused on the game than they are on brushing their teeth, and they’re not really paying attention to what they’re doing with the toothbrush while the game is running. The game is great if it teaches your child how to brush, but if he or she is focused solely on an app and not even looking at their teeth in the mirror while they brush, they’re not really going to learn as much about proper brush technique as they could if they were watching their own mouth.

Ultimately, it’s up to you if you want to invest in a smart toothbrush. Yes, they can be pretty cool, and if you’re a gadget person and have to have the latest high-tech innovation the second it comes out, then these devices will probably be right up your alley. But for the rest of us, it’s probably better to hold off until the smart-brushing technology improves a bit, or just skip the smart brush trend altogether. If we can’t disconnect from our phone for the four minutes a day it takes to brush our teeth, when can we?

There are plenty of affordable electric toothbrushes available today that can get your teeth clean with the correct amount of pressure and for the correct amount of time, all without requiring you to use an app or slay a virtual dragon.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about your toothbrush or your brushing technique, please feel free to give Dr. Lederman's office a call at 516-882-1764.

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