“Have you cleaned your teeth yet?” It’s a twice-daily nag in our house before the kids go to school or bed. My husband or I supervise the brushing – sometimes taking over when it’s not up to standard or a mutiny threatens. But who’s harassing me to brush my pearly whites and make sure I’m doing a good job?
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To brush up on my brushing I trialled the Oral-B App with the Oral-B Genius 8000 electric toothbrush (it can also be used with other Oral-B “smart” brushes). The Bluetooth app is free and can be used on iOS and Android systems.
For a non-techie like me, it was easy to install (first go!) but it took a few attempts to sync it with my toothbrush.
One of the app’s simplest functions is timing how long you brush your teeth. Dentists recommend a 2-minute clean and it’s surprising how long this actually feels when your mouth is abuzz. If you don’t brush for long enough, the app will tell you. To pass the time, the app displays general dental tips, news and weather alerts, and trivia, which you can turn off if they get annoying. The app also connects to a pressure sensor in the brush and tells you to ease up when you’re brushing too hard.
After you’ve finished brushing you’ll be prompted to clean your tongue, floss, and rinse with mouthwash. The app automatically tracks all these extra activities so you can monitor what you’ve been doing.
But you don’t need the app to get all these functions. The toothbrush vibrates every 30 seconds anyway so you know when it’s time to move on, and the pressure sensor indicator kicks in with a flashing light and reduces motor speed until you ease off. The reminders about flossing and so on were useful initially, but became annoying. After a few days I discovered you could turn off these reminders.
The app has Position Detection technology. To use this, attach the supplied smartphone holder to a mirror using the suction cup and set up your front-facing camera with the app. Once your face is aligned, the app will show you a graphic of where you’re brushing and when to move to the next section. If you’re into personal bests, you can take the brushing challenge, which evaluates how evenly you clean your teeth.
It was a mixed bag when I used Position Detection. Sometimes it accurately mirrored where I was brushing; other times it showed I was brushing a totally different area of my mouth. The app would give a warning to say if my face wasn’t centred, even if I hadn’t moved. It would have been better to see an image of my face when that happened rather than trying to second-guess where to align it again to get back in position. Because of the issues with face detection, it often took longer than 2 minutes to clean my entire mouth. But when I had completed 100%, it was satisfying.
I also did a 14-day whitening programme (other programmes include fresh breath, gum health and plaque fighter). After each 2-minute brush I was instructed to focus for an extra 10 seconds on my front top and bottom teeth. At the start, middle and end of the programme I assessed my teeth colour against a colour chart but it’s subjective and I didn’t notice any definite whitening.
If you don’t open the app for a couple of days, you’ll get a reminder notification. The app can synchronise up to 30 missed brushes so you don’t lose any data. This is useful if you’re in a rush and forget to open the app before you brush. You can have as many apps connected to one brush as you want (if you share a handle) but only one brush per app.
The app has a Fun Zone section – you see yourself as an alien, monkey or leopard while you brush your teeth and you can earn reward points. My kids found this hilarious, so it could be a good way to encourage children to clean their teeth. You can also share your alienised selfie to social media – I’ll pass on that, thanks!
The professional guidance section might be useful if you have dental issues. Your dentist can add notes to the app if you have areas on which to focus, and it keeps tabs on your dental appointments.
The app was a novelty and got me to improve my brushing technique. There was a useful reminder to change your brush head every 3 months too. But after the novelty wore off, it was just another thing to do and check. Unless you want to know how many minutes you’ve brushed your teeth in a month, or how many days in a row you’ve flossed, it’s information overload!
By Belinda Castles
Research and Testing Writer
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