As technical innovations become more popular, the cost of producing the technology reduces, and with this comes improvement in the technology built into electric toothbrushes.
A great example of this, is a pressure sensor.
It has been available on select Oral-B electric toothbrushes for quite a few years now, but it continues to be added to newer models and Philips Sonicare are adding it to many of their brushes also.
It is really useful, especially for first time users of an electric toothbrush and is in part why we recommend having in our electric toothbrush buyer’s guide post.
What is a pressure sensor?
A pressure sensor, with respect to electric toothbrushes, are small components inside the brush handle that detect when you are applying too much force during your brushing routine. When it detects the use of excessive pressure, the brush will in turn do something. What it does depends on the model.
The following video I created, explains and demonstrates this a little more.
The bristles should skim the teeth
The bristles of the brush should skim the tooth surfaces to sweep away, bacteria, food debris and plaque. Hard and aggressive brushing will not normally help, hence the pressure sensor to alert you to these instances where you do apply too much force.
Professor Peter Heasman of Newcastle University says “You could actually be harming your gums and possibly teeth” – BBC
Whilst Jay W. Friedman remarks “Too much pressure and too frequent brushing can abrade enamel, or the root if the gum has receded.” This abrasion, he says, can cause teeth to become hypersensitive to hot and/or cold” – Consumer Reports
What happens when I brush too hard?
The effects on your teeth and gums may not be instant. It depends on how much pressure, for how long and your mouth as to how your body will react.
Needless to say, a brush head that is moving at a reduced speed is not as effective as cleaning and if it is fighting against the pressure it can be rubbing against the tooth and gum rather than the desired skimming, which can only cause potential damage to the teeth, wearing away the enamel.
Exactly what happens to your toothbrush when you brush too hard depends on the brand and model of brush you have.
The most basic electric toothbrushes do not have a pressure sensor and do nothing, so if you are brushing too hard, you could be doing damage.
Some basic brushes do have a pressure sensor that when activated will reduce the amount of power delivered to the brush head in order to reduce the chances of ongoing damage to the teeth and gums. If the excess force is removed, the motor will power back up to a fuller speed and perform as normal. This change can happen within split seconds.
More advanced models will not only reduce the motor power but will alert the user by switching on a light on the brush, quite often a red warning light found at the top of the brush handle. This comes on as soon as too much pressure is detected. It remains on until such time as the pressure is reduced.
The most advanced will change the motor speed, illuminate a warning light whilst also sending a message to your smartphone application which is tracking your tooth cleaning. These Bluetooth enabled brushes will often log the amount of time too much pressure was applied for and use it as a way of coaching you to achieve better oral health.
In all instances, if you listen you will hear the brush motor change when you apply too much pressure. Perhaps try it briefly just to get yourself used to the different sound of the motor. You will then subconsciously recognize if you brush too hard and stop because you may not only hear the motor straining but subject to your model will likely get some form of alert.
Do I get an audible warning?
To date, I have yet to come across a brush that offers an audible warning when you are brushing too hard, other than the sound change from the motor.
Will I learn to stop brushing too hard?
Yes, you should do.
Brushing your teeth should be relatively effortless. When using an electric brush, let it do the work, you just move it to the correct position, as highlighted in our article how to clean your teeth.
Normally, if you are finding you are brushing too hard and have a brush that alerts you, then within a few days you can usually break that bad practice. For some it may take longer, it’s just a case of learning and reacting.
Often within a few weeks you will learn how much pressure you need to apply, and the feature could be considered redundant after this time.
Which brands offer brushes with pressure sensors?
Leading brands Braun Oral-B and Philips Sonicare both offer brushes with pressure sensors built-in.
It is, however, Oral-B that have the most extensive range of pressure sensitive toothbrushes.
In particular, the Oral-B toothbrush pressure sensor is often designed to illuminate, as shown in the images.
Philips Sonicare does now offer this, but only on select models.
- Kids 6+
- Pro 1500
- Pro 3000
- Pro 5000
- Pro 6000
- Pro 6500
- Pro 7000
- Pro 7500
- Genius Pro 8000
- Genius Pro 9600
- Genius X
- ProtectiveClean 4100 (small LED on handle does light up, but not that visible)
- ProtectiveClean 5100 (small LED on handle does light up, but not that visible)
- ProtectiveClean 6100 (small LED on handle does light up, but not that visible)
- FlexCare Platinum Connected (not visible – shown through app)
- DiamondClean Smart
Can I get an add on pressure sensor for my brush?
No. This is built into the brush at the time of manufacture. There is no way to add one on.
Hopefully, you have found this article helpful. If however, you should have any questions, comments or queries that you would like answered, get in touch or leave a comment below and I will be happy to help.