Smart toothbrushes say they help improve your dental hygiene and motivate you to brush more often. But the question is, can they keep these promises?
At least twice a day for two minutes, preferably with an interdental brush or dental floss and a toothpaste with fluoride – proper oral hygiene requires time and dedication. And reaching all the sides and parts of your teeth that need to be cleaned isn't easy.
So, can smart toothbrushes make this cleaning process, and hence our lives easier – especially when it comes to ditching your ordinary brush to invest what can be hundreds of liras in a high-tech alternative?
The fact that companies are launching smart toothbrushes on the market at the moment has more to do with marketing and brand image than consumer demand, according to Dirk Kropp, managing director of ProDente, a dental hygiene initiative in Germany.
However, the issues that manufacturers are currently addressing are the right ones, says Dietmar Oesterreich, vice president of the German Dental Association.
For example, many people exert too much pressure while brushing their teeth and can thereby damage their gums. Some smart toothbrushes signal when you're applying too much (or too little) pressure.
A smart device also has to work effectively as a toothbrush, of course. Studies show that toothbrushes with a round, oscillating head perform best, says Christof Doerfer, director of a dental clinic in Kiel, Germany.
Intelligent brushes can help with systematic cleaning. A brush connected to a smartphone app can recognize the position of the brush in your mouth and can give you real-time feedback on whether all teeth are being reached.
"If the brush guides you or visualizes where you are, that could make sense," Doerfer says. However, he adds that he doesn't know if this works reliably with the current technology. There are currently no independent scientific studies. Nevertheless, "if you are corrected during cleaning and therefore there's a learning effect, it is attractive from a dental point of view," Kropp says.
A good result also depends on the time spent cleaning the teeth. It is not for nothing that the simplest electric brushes signal when two minutes are up or give a reminder to change the area being brushed every 30 seconds.
On the other hand, the time that should be spent on teeth cleaning varies between individuals. "If the tooth position is unusual or the motor skills are not so good, it can make sense to brush for longer," Kropp says. Ideally, he says, a smart toothbrush would be able to recognize in real-time whether the area being cleaned is already clean.
Some manufacturers already promise that – they say an optical sensor in the brush detects the biofilm on the teeth and warns if it hasn't been cleaned away.
Though at the end of the day, those who are familiar with apps and technology are more likely to use a smart toothbrush, according to Oesterreich. They may also be well suited for children in that they can increase the fun of teeth cleaning. If you're older or have limited motor skills, you may also benefit, he says.
Finally, if there's an app involved, you also need to think about what the company is doing with your data. "In any case, read the data protection regulations critically," Oesterreich says. Check where your data is stored as well as who can access it and in what form.
All in all, the kind that will actually motivate you to brush your teeth will always be the best choice and will be worth the investment in the long run.
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