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Sunday, June 20, 2021

Do you need a smart toothbrush? Why the answer is both yes and no

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Brushing your teeth is one of the first things that people are likely to do. The day doesn’t start for majority till they have performed this daily task and is in all likelihood one of those rare times during the day when you are disconnected from technology. Well, not anymore. Smart toothbrushes might have been around for a while but now they’re set to get mainstream as brands like Realme, Xiaomi have made their entry with affordable. Realme recently announced its first smart toothbrush for Rs 1,999 while Xiaomi has been around for a while with its offering that costs Rs 1,299.
So do you need a smart toothbrush? Does it make your dental health better? Before get into these questions, let’s understand what exactly is a smart toothbrush and what kinds exist in the market?

What is a smart toothbrush?

As the name suggests, a smart toothbrush is enabled with a motor that tells you the brush’s position, speed, gives feedback and tells you how to improve oral hygiene. At the heart of most smart toothbrushes is a sonic motor and sensors attached at the head of the brush, which vibrates to effectively clean your teeth. Xiaomi claims its toothbrush produces 31,000 vibrations in a minute while Realme says its brush produces 34,000 vibrations.

Brands like Colgate and Oral-B too have their smart toothbrushes but aren’t easily available in India. There’s an app linked to the toothbrush which tell you things like how much pressure you should apply, there’s a timer attached which will tell if you’ve brushed for the right amount of time or not.
A typical smart brush focuses on four aspects — the time taken to brush your teeth, the strokes applied per minute; if you’ve covered the entire teeth area and whether the intensity was good enough or not. Most smart toothbrushes will have a timer attached to it to remind you when you’ve reached the optimum brushing time. There will be variations of smart toothbrushes but the basic functionality remains as above.

How is smart toothbrush different from ‘normal’and electric brush?

Smart toothbrushes are different from electric toothbrushes as well. An electric toothbrush and smart toothbrush both have detachable heads but the motor is different. A normal electric toothbrush will have about 2,500 to 7,500 vibrations per minute whereas smart toothbrushes will have about 30,000 per minute. A ‘normal’ brush on the other hand will have about 300 strokes per minute, depending on how you brush. Smart toothbrushes also vibrate at around 10 times the rate of an electric toothbrush, claiming to give a more effective cleaning process.
The other difference lies in bristles. A smart toothbrush is likely to have DuPont bristles that will be antimicrobial — like Xiaomi and Realme have. Normal toothbrushes will have bristles that are soft and hard depending on the nylon used.
The other important difference lies in price. A normal toothbrush can be bought for as low as Rs 20 to as high as Rs 200. An electric toothbrush from brands like Colgate or Oral-B will cost anywhere between Rs 800-Rs 3,000 depending on functionalities. A smart toothbrush will generally cost close to Rs 2,000. In India, smart toothbrushes from Colgate or Oral-B aren’t available that easily. However, in the US, they cost anywhere between $70 to $300.

Do you need a smart toothbrush?

To answer this question, we spoke to a couple of medical practitioners. Dr (Major) Chandra Prakash, a Gurgaon-based dental surgeon and former senior resident, Safdarjung Hospital believes that the answer is both yes and no. “If my patients require more attention and thorough dental hygiene to be maintained then it will be easier to do with a smart toothbrush,” he says. However, he insists that it’s the brushing and not the brush that plays a more critical role in maintaining dental health. “Smart toothbrushes keep a nice record of your brushing history and it’s performance that how well u have taken care of,” he adds.

Dr Kamlesh Bhargava, a Canada-based physician with 35 years of experience and involved in research, is rather dismissive of smart toothbrushes. Teeth, he believes, are quite neglected by a lot of people around the world and says, “dental problems don’t go away with wishful thinking,” before stressing on the fact that how you brush is important than what you brush with. “I would rather recommend a handheld water pick like device or a water flosser that is also automatic and much more effective,” he says. A water flosser is also a ‘smart’ device that provides deeper cleaning than a toothbrush.
Dr Prakash says that there are no side-effects “except few cons like extra cost, adaptability.” And then there is the argument do you need another gadget in your life? Dr Bhargava says that brushing your teeth is habit that is deeply entrenched and people are comfortable with what they’ve been doing for years. “Do I need to stare at my phone for something as basic as brushing my teeth as well,” he asks, before saying that the effectiveness of smart toothbrushes remains rather gimmicky.
What a smart toothbrush, as per Dr Prakash, does is is give a user “good movements of the bristles, a nice follow up reminders, a good tracker with the head of brush so that u will come to know where u r brushing or not brushing properly.” Dental hygiene can be improved with a smart toothbrush, he says. “If I don’t brush my teeth properly, the toothbrush can be smart or dumb, it won’t matter,” says Dr Bhargava. It all perhaps comes down to whether you need another smart device in your life or not. If the answer is yes, go ahead and buy a smart toothbrush, see another app and spend some extra money. If no, then the good ol’ toothbrush lying near your bathroom sink should suffice.

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