No, for the vast majority of people a smart toothbrush is not worth buying.
You do not need a ‘smart’ toothbrush to clean the teeth well.
Even the smartest toothbrush still relies on you, the person holding the brush, to manually correct any errors.
As a result, we don’t typically recommend them.
We have tested over 130 different toothbrushes. 25 of which are considered smart.
Yet, our number 1 toothbrush choice, the Sonicare ProtectiveClean 4100 is based on the best value for money.
Many of the best electric toothbrushes come in at under CDN $100.
This is what our in-house Dentist Dr Gemma Wheeler has to say in response to the same question.
A smart toothbrush is one with bluetooth technology. This is developing all the time, and in the last few years has emerged from just connecting to a timer, to be able to connect to an app on your phone.
Some smart toothbrushes also send reminders as to when you should change your toothbrush head.
There is no evidence currently available to support the use of a smart toothbrush over a normal electric toothbrush.
As a dentist, I would point out that many of the benefits advertised by a smart toothbrush can be gained more affordably elsewhere, such as by setting a calendar reminder on your phone, or by learning proper techniques from our videos and your own dental professional.
Smart toothbrushes can make the simple more complicated
Despite a smart toothbrush not being necessary, there is arguably a place for them, albeit limited.
- Alert you to areas you failed to brush
- Engage and encourage you to brush better and for longe
- Help you form better habits
- Remind you to replace brush heads
But, unfortunately, all too often users are disappointed by their experience. They therefore don’t continue to use these features long term.
Not all smart toothbrushes are made equal. What one brand offers might not be on offer from another. Or, if it is, implemented differently.
Make no mistake, there are some very capable products available today. But,they tend to be more expensive and ultimately they don’t clean the teeth better.
To achieve a good standard of oral health, the key things you can do are as follows:
- Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
- Brush for 2 minutes each time
- Use the correct brushing technique
- Spit after brushing, don’t rinse with mouthwash or water
- Clean between the teeth once a day, with floss or interdental brushes
No smart toothbrush can actually do this work for you. Do you need to spend up to 5x the price for a smart toothbrush?
Most of the things the apps tell you, could be figured out by yourself, if you learnt how to take care of your teeth properly and paid proper attention when brushing.
We all, myself included, get distracted when brushing. It is all too easy to think you have brushed for longer than you have or you have used the correct technique, when in fact you haven’t.
Simple changes such as paying more attention or learning how to take care of the teeth will deliver the biggest beneficial results. These are results that can be achieved for free.
A lack of education is part of the problem.
50% of the world’s adult population have gum disease. This is an entirely preventable condition if we all knew how to best care for our mouths.
If you haven’t been educated on how to take care of your teeth then the smart toothbrush will still fail to rectify all of the associated dental care issues.
Dr Gemma Wheeler says
You don’t need to spend loads of money to get a good brush.
Actually, many of the best electric toothbrushes come in at under CDN $100.
If you spend more than this you will be paying out for gimmicks that aren’t going to help you get a better result when it comes to cleaning your teeth. The most important things to look for in a toothbrush are:
- A pressure sensor to prevent over brushing.
- A timer to help ensure you are brushing for the full two minutes.
- A good quality toothbrush head which is changed every three months or when you can see them fraying.
The value of data and reward
As the world becomes more connected, so inevitably does the toothbrush.
There is incentive for major brands to create such tools. Apps collate data, and that data is worth money.
Valuable insights that previously were not too easy to achieve can be with smart technology.
The new Sonicare Prestige 9900 is a smart toothbrush that has just 1 cleaning mode enabled out of the box, yet has more modes available. It has been configured this way. Data has told them that the vast majority of users don’t use the other modes.
The extra modes are there if the user wants them, but they have to be enabled in the app.
If the modes and other features are not available from the moment the brush is switched on, will they ever be?
Perhaps smart toothbrushes are more valuable to users when they give something more back. Brushes like the hum by Colgate and Quip’s Smart toothbrush not only offer insights into our brushing, but they offer rewards.
These rewards are normally in the form of points. Points equal prizes, notably money off future purchases. It is much more motivational.
But, it is a win win for the companies. You and I feel rewarded but it further ties us into particular brands and eco systems and the companies in turn get more data.
Environmental impact and other health considerations
Another consideration with smart toothbrushes is the impact they have on the environment.
For a variety of reasons, electric toothbrushes have a far greater impact on the environment than manual toothbrushes.
One of those reasons is the weight of the product when it is shipped. Some smart toothbrushes come with extra box contents such as phone holders, which further adds to the weight of the package.
They can also take more resources to produce and recycle. The Oral-B iO comes with a built-in OLED display, for example. Extra components may also be required to make the smart technology work.
These additional components typically make a product harder to repair as well. Whereas some of the more basic electric toothbrush models can be repaired at home, a smart toothbrush may need to be replaced or repaired by the manufacturer, adding further to its carbon footprint.
Finally, a smart toothbrush needs to be paired with a smartphone to get the full benefit of its features. This creates even more dependence on technology, which contributes to carbon emissions.
And if we brush our teeth first thing in the morning and last thing before bed, is it good to have another reason to look at our phone during that time?
Brushing your teeth mindfully with a basic electric toothbrush, or even a manual toothbrush, can clean them just as well as a smart toothbrush, and is less polluting overall.
What is a smart toothbrush?
The word ‘smart’ is being used more frequently in the product names and marketing materials for many of the latest toothbrushes.
But, what does ‘smart’ really mean?
Typically, any toothbrush product labelled or marketed as smart has features built-into it that offer a more intelligent and enhanced user experience.
There are different levels of smart features, as explained in our buyer’s guide. Irrespective, the ultimate aim is to improve your oral health standards and routine.
The most common is the inclusion of Bluetooth technology that allows the toothbrush handle to connect to a smartphone application. Data is shared between them to offer enhanced functionality, compared to a regular manual or electric toothbrushes.
Whilst it is not limited to the addition of Bluetooth, this is the trend to date.
- A plastic manual toothbrush is not smart.
- A rechargeable electric toothbrush with a couple of cleaning modes is not typically considered smart.
- A rechargeable electric toothbrush with a couple of cleaning modes, Bluetooth connectivity, and a smartphone application that shows you precisely where the toothbrush is in the mouth, is a smart toothbrush.
Just before I give my recommendations for the ‘best’ smart electric toothbrush, let me be quite direct and to the point for a moment.
- You do not need a smart toothbrush.
- A smart toothbrush on its own will not clean your teeth any better.
- A smart toothbrush still relies on you to really take advantage of the benefits it brings.
Not all smart toothbrushes are made equal. There are a lot of small and subtle differences between them that are not always obvious until you use them. Some are just not as smart as you might think.
Smart Electric Tootbrush Buyers Guide
All you need to know about smart toothbrushes and deciding which is right for you.
What do smart toothbrushes offer?
The answer to this question ultimately differs depending on the specific toothbrush you are referring to. Technology is constantly evolving and the capabilities increasing.
The principle behind any smart toothbrush is to improve your toothbrushing and your user experience in some way so that in the long term you have better oral health.
Manufacturers recognise that some of us require more encouragement and support than others. Their products use innovative technology to motivate and help us to achieve the best clean and oral care standards that we can at home.
Nobody will brush perfectly or for the recommended amount of time, all of the time. Even the most thorough of toothbrushes will at times miss parts of the mouth or use the wrong technique or not brush for as long as they should.
The smart toothbrush is designed to tactfully get us achieving better standards than the vast majority.
Up to 50% of the world’s adult population have gum disease according to the World Dental Foundation. Gum disease is an entirely preventable condition.
Poor brushing habits and techniques are partly to blame for this. Technology in these smart toothbrushes is working to help reduce this alarming statistic.
Those that do this job the best will win more customers and arguably profit in the long term as a result, so smart technology can benefit you and the manufacturer.
How do smart toothbrushes work?
Over and above the core electronics (battery, motor, circuit board etc) needed for an electric toothbrush to function, smart toothbrushes will have a number of pieces of additional technology built into them.
The most basic piece of technology is a Bluetooth chip that allows the handle to communicate with another Bluetooth enabled device, wirelessly. This other device is normally a smartphone or tablet computer.
More premium and capable models will have additional components like a g-sensor/accelerometer as well as other sensors to detect the position of the brush.
Depending on precisely what technology is being built-in there may too be additional pieces of hardware and software included.
The toothbrush manufacturer will normally offer a free application for both Android and iOS devices that can be downloaded to your smartphone or tablet.
Quite often there are minimum hardware requirements for this. Assuming your mobile device meets these requirements, the application becomes the interface for obtaining the data that the toothbrush handle collates.
Raw data is sent from the toothbrush handle to the application, once the 2 devices are paired and within range of each other. The app takes the data and presents it in a way that is more informative and engaging, allowing you and me to really see and understand our brushing habits.
Understanding just how well or not we do brush allows us to make improvements, that should, in theory at least, allow us to take better care of our teeth and gums.
More of these apps now compare the data with other data sets they hold and your own previous brushing data to give more useful feedback and constructive tips on how to further improve.
In the long term, this education will help you have a better oral healthcare regime.
Whilst it depends on the brand and application, there are also other features to the apps. For example, many make it easy to purchase replacement brush heads and offer personalized brushing journeys to help achieve your own goals.
You can even update the software of the toothbrush handle to add new features and improve performance.
The difference with Sense and Guide is that the handle connects and communicates via Bluetooth with the charging stand. This charging stand has WiFi built-in. The data is then sent to the cloud. A smartphone application then pulls the data from the cloud, rather than taking the data directly from the toothbrush handle.
How do smart toothbrushes differ?
As I have already suggested, smart toothbrushes can potentially differ in quite a few ways.
But, to some extent, the technology and the purpose can be categorised or organised into different levels.
At the time of writing, the majority of the smart toothbrushes fall into the following groups:
- Level 0 – Device control and customisation
- Level 1 – Brushing time and pacing
- Level 2 – Data and habit tracking
- Level 3 – Real-time habit tracking
In most instances, the levels are building upon the level beneath. So, those categorised as level 3 have the core features of level 1 and 2.
Let me explain each of these levels in a little more detail.
Level 0 – Device control and customisation
The most basic of interaction and control between the toothbrush and smartphone application.
This will allow for specific features and functions of the toothbrush to be enabled or disabled and settings customised.
Examples include changing the brushing duration, the speed/intensity of the clean or the order of the different cleaning modes on the toothbrush.
Level 1 – Brushing time and pacing
The most basic of smart toothbrush features, but one of the most vital.
Here, the focus is on getting you and me as a user of the toothbrush to brush for the dentist recommended amount of time, typically 2 minutes.
Far too many don’t brush for anywhere near the right amount of time, so a smart toothbrush can help encourage us to do so by offering on-screen notifications, warnings and other visuals to how long we have been brushing for and how long we have left to go.
This is normally working in real-time, so as soon as the toothbrush is turned on, an on-screen timer will begin the countdown.
Quite often, the timer shown on screen in a circle. That will fill up/change color the longer that you brush for. The aim is of course to complete the full 2 minutes.
However, it is all very well brushing for 2 minutes, but focusing all that time on just the front teeth is no good. So, the brush and visual on-screen will encourage you to change areas of the mouth as you brush.
Typically, the mouth is broken up into 4 sections (quadrants). These are upper right, upper left, lower right, lower left.
The idea is that you spend 30 seconds cleaning all the tooth surfaces in that quadrant before moving to the next.
So, after 2 minutes, you will have successfully brushed all the tooth surfaces in the mouth, having spent 30 seconds on each.
This pacing of the clean can also be broken down into 6 sections, each of 2 seconds in length, but the principle is the same.
The most basic brushes will not retain this data after the clean has been complete.
Level 2 – Data and habit tracking
The vast majority of smart toothbrushes fall within this category of data and habit tracking.
At the core, they will have the timer and pacing functionality, as per a level 1 smart toothbrush.
But, unlike a level 1 smart toothbrush, the data will be retained after the brushing session.
This data will then be logged within the app, for review post brushing or in the future.
How long the data is retained for does vary. Some will retain it for a week or a month, but the best products in this class will retain it indefinitely.
The logging of the data allows you to review your performance and habits.
Therefore you can look back and see whether you have improved from perhaps brushing once a day for 60 seconds, to brushing twice a day for 2 minutes each time.
The logic is you can easily see your good and bad days when it comes to looking after your teeth and gums.
Some brushes within this category will simply log a brushing session was completed, whilst the better products will log precisely when (time of session) along with how long that session lasted.
Some, but not all will also offer the ability (potentially automatically) to retain other data such as whether you flossed or rinsed with mouthwash.
It is possible too, that the app will log if too much pressure was used when brushing the teeth too.
Select toothbrushes will also track the precise position of the toothbrush in the mouth as you brush. So, you can see what areas of the mouth you might not have cleaned so well. However, unlike level 3 brushes, the data is not shared in real-time only for review, post brushing.
Ultimately the idea here is to build up a bit of a progress report for you personally, that you might then share with your dental professional to look for ways to further improve your oral care routine.
Level 3 – Real-time habit tracking
Arguably the best smart toothbrushes, these products deliver the ultimate experience.
What really sets these brushes apart is that provided the app is used at the same time as the toothbrush, you are given real-time feedback on your brushing. Therefore you can adapt as you brush.
Those without the real-time tracking are educating you post brushing, so you know for next time. Here you can make the improvements quicker and in theory, improve your oral health quicker too.
It is a little like having a dental professional by your side as you brush.
The hardware and software are constantly monitoring and will alert you when you need to make an alteration.
An example might be that you brush with too much force, so the toothbrush and app will alert you to this, so you reduce the pressure and reduce the damage.
You also may not be holding the toothbrush at the correct angle to get the best clean, the app can potentially alert you to this also.
It is possible you forget to brush a certain area of the mouth, on screen visuals will make it clear that this area requires brushing before you end your brushing session.
At the end of the brushing session you get a summary and feedback of your clean, with more actionable data.
Often you are scored out of 100 for the level of coverage you gave to the teeth and a graphic makes it very clear what teeth were and were not brushed correctly.
This, along with more standard brushing time data is retained within the app for review at a later date.
In theory you could look back to your bruising habits 6 months ago and see that you brushed for 60 seconds and achieved a 45% coverage, but now you are bruising for 2 minutes with an average 97% coverage.
Such products offer the potential for greatest oral care routine improvement.
It should be noted that whilst the preference will be for the toothbrush handle to sync with the smartphone app during or immediately after a brushing session, many brushes can retain data. Therefore meaning you don’t have to have the toothbrush and smartphone together every time the brush is used.
Chips within the handle typically retain data for up to 20 brushing sessions, although this does vary by model.
This means that the data will be sent to the smartphone app the next time the toothbrush and smartphone are within range of each other.
To retain as much data as possible this connection should be made, before the maximum number of brushing sessions are reached.
It is too possible that in some cases less data will be retained if it is not shared in real-time. For example, the time and date of the brushing session along with the duration may be stored, but not the real-time coverage information.
Which smart toothbrushes have which features?
As you will have learned by now. Not all smart toothbrushes are made equal.
Just because a toothbrush is expensive, does not make it the best smart toothbrush and just because it has real-time tracking does not mean it should be the toothbrush you pick if you don’t care for that feature.
The following list contains the current smart toothbrushes available on the market.
I have categorised them by the different levels/smart features that they offer. Where applicable, I have made particular comments on things you should be aware of.
|Toothbrush||Level 0||Level 1||Level 2||Level 3|
|Sonicare for Kids connected||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Sonicare ExpertClean||Yes||Yes||Yes |
|Oral-B Smart 3000||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Oral-B Pro 5000||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Oral-B Pro 6000||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Oral-B Pro 7000||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Oclean X Pro Elite||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Oclean X/X Pro||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Sonicare 9900 Prestige||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Sonicare DiamondClean Smart (9300, 9500, 9700 & 9750)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Sonicare FlexCare Platinum Connected||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Oral-B iO (Series 7, 8 & 9)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Oral-B Genius X||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Oral-B Genius 8000||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
(requires front facing camera
of the smartphone to
perform real-time tracking)
|Oral-B Genius 9600||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
(requires front facing camera
of the smartphone to
perform real-time tracking)
|Colgate Connect E1||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|hum by Colgate||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
How well do they work?
On the whole these products are pretty good in terms of what they offer.
Those brushes in level 1 and 2 are the most reliable and accurate because they are tracking the more simple data.
Those brushes that fall into the real-time tracking of level 3 are arguably the least perfect and reliable. They are not perfect, nor will they likely ever be, however they are pretty good and perform well enough to be able to detect and alert to the most significant toothbrushing faults a user may have.
Most of the products I have tested offer a comparable experience. Yes, one might be marginally better than another. But, consideration must be given for the fact that technology and software is improving all the time, and because these products can also be updated over time, the performance can in fact get better, or in rare instances get worse.
Such products have existed since approximately 2014 when Oral-B introduced the first smart toothbrush. Other brands have since followed and despite launching products after Oral-B, the likes of Sonicare and Colgate offer extremely comparable products.
For the most accurate insight into how well they work, refer to our reviews of that specific smart toothbrush, as we will make comments on the performance at the time of review.
Smart toothbrush applications
Each toothbrush brand has their own smartphone application for their products.
Typically this app is made available on both Apple’s iOS platform and Google’s Android platform via the application store/marketplace found on each device.
More often than not these are free applications that can be downloaded by anyone.
Most companies have one app that is configured to work with all of that brand’s smart toothbrushes.
However, there are instances where a specific product or product range may have it’s own app.
Both Philips Sonicare and Braun’s Oral-B for example have different applications for their children’s smart toothbrushes, compared to their adult range.
Oral-B too has a different app for those products that have their ‘Oral-B Sense’ technology built-in.
The applications are updated more frequently than the toothbrushes themselves. Therefore I will not comment on each brand’s smartphone application in any detail or make comments on which is best. This is because what is the best today, might not be tomorrow due to updates.
Since this website began I have seen many iterations of the smartphone apps. In most instances they have gotten better.
However, at times useful features have been removed or workflows changed.
On the whole the apps are very similar in what they offer, the design and menu systems can change.
It is an impossible task to make an app that all will be happy with. We all have different needs and wants. Too many features and controls can make the experience quite awkward and confusing, whilst too few controls can make what should be a smart product feel quite dumb.
There is scope for improvement in all apps I have seen and handled to date.
Our reviews of smart toothbrushes will make comments on the app version that is available at the time of review, but do bear in mind the app can be updated.
Why would I want a smart toothbrush?
This is a very common question and a valid one.
The primary reason for such is that technology allows for a new, exciting, engaging, and smarter way for users like you and I to get more information on how we brush and ultimately improve our oral health.
The main justifications or reasons for wanting a smart toothbrush are as follows:
- I want to record/know when/how often I brushed my teeth
- I want to record/know how long I brushed my teeth for
- I want to learn how I can brush my teeth and improve my oral health
- I want to be shown which parts of the teeth I am not brushing or missing
- I want to be scored/rated for my brushing experience
- I want to be motivated to brush to a higher standard
- I want to be able to show my dental professional how well I am brushing
- I like technology and want the most capable toothbrush
I don’t want a smart toothbrush
If you do not want a smart toothbrush, this is quite ok. As I suggested at the start of this article, nobody actually needs a smart toothbrush. A manual brush is perfectly fine if used correctly.
At the time of writing, there are still many electric toothbrushes that do not have smart features built-in. Those without smart features tend to be more affordable.
As time moves on and technology becomes even more affordable, it is very likely smart features are going to be built into the most basic of electric toothbrushes and you will almost be lumbered with the technology whether you actually want it or not.
However, I have seen no instance yet where you are forced to use it.
In some cases, there are limitations by not using the technology, for example, you may not be able to customise modes or change default settings unless you use the app, but the product does still function.
The choice of using the technology or not is down to you.
Do you own or have you used a smart toothbrush?
Are there certain features that you really like or dislike?
Let us know what you think about this brush and let others who may well be considering purchasing one know your opinions before they do.