Does anyone really need a £340 electric toothbrush when one costing £6 will do the same job?


Artificial intelligence that can predict your every move, high-tech sensors, flashing coloured lights and an in-built charger.

No, this isn’t the latest sports car dreamed up by Silicon Valley wizards. It’s the latest all-singing, all-dancing electric toothbrush – the Oral-B Genius X – which uses the same technology as that behind driverless vehicles and robots that diagnose diseases.

The gadget can give users a new insight into their brushing habits, even down to the pressure applied on each tooth, makers claim. Oh, and it costs an eye-watering £340.

Some might say it’s a price worth paying for an impeccable Hollywood smile. But are those bells and whistles really necessary?

The nation’s teeth are in much better shape than they were 50 years ago. At the time of the first national dental survey in 1968, poor dental hygiene was rife. Even among thirtysomethings, a fifth had suffered such severe decay that they had lost all of their teeth.

Today, just six per cent of Britons have no natural teeth. Better access to dentistry, more information about dental hygiene, regular brushing, fluoride toothpastes and inventions such as dental floss are all cited as reasons.

But despite this, one Briton in three still fails to brush twice daily, as dentists recommend. And according to Public Health England, tooth extraction remains the most common hospital procedure in six-to-ten-year-olds.

Frequency of brushing isn’t the only problem – people don’t know how to clean their teeth properly, say experts.

According to a 2017 YouGov poll, more than three-quarters of Britons are not using the dentist-recommended technique: gently brushing every tooth, and cleaning along the gumline.

And according to the Oral Health Foundation, the average time Britons spend brushing is just 45 seconds – half of what is recommended.

Studies show a common problem among Britons is brushing too aggressively and applying unnecessary pressure to the sensitive gums, leading to permanent tissue loss.

It also increases the risk of damaging the protective layer of tooth enamel.

Electric toothbrushes are said to ease this problem and improve your brushing technique.

Many feature an in-built timer, helping users stick to the gold-standard two minutes. Indeed, most dentists now recommend their patients make the switch. Dr Mervyn Druian, from The London Centre for Cosmetic Dentistry, is one of them.

‘Very, very few patients have that wonderful dexterity to brush their teeth and gums properly without the help of an electric toothbrush,’ he says.

One thing is clear: electric toothbrushes really do work. A 2014 review of 56 studies concluded that electric toothbrushes are better at removing plaque, the sticky film that builds up on the teeth and contains millions of bacteria.

As it accumulates, the bacteria uses food and drink to produce acids, which can then lead to tooth decay and gum disease.

Compared to a manual brush, using an electric device was linked with an 11 per cent reduction in plaque after one to three months of use, and a 21 per cent reduction after three months.

The gadget was also seen to reduce the risk of gingivitis, an early stage of gum disease.

But with so many new-fangled devices on the market – priced from just £6 – which one should you choose?

There are two main types, some of which are powered by replaceable batteries and others that are charged at a socket.

Rotating toothbrushes feature a round head which spins at up to 8,000 strokes a minute.

Vibrating or sonic electric toothbrushes move from side to side in a similar way to manual brushes. The devices pulse at extremely high speeds, disrupting and removing plaque from the surface of the teeth, and getting to even the most difficult-to-reach areas.

They also push toothpaste and water into the gaps between the teeth, ensuring a thorough clean. Both are said to be equally effective, with studies suggesting that circular head rotating brushes are slightly more effective than the sonic types.

The new Oral-B Genius X is an electric toothbrush with a difference. The rotating brush, which is loaded with features, connects via Bluetooth to a smartphone app and transforms your mundane bathroom routine. It uses artificial intelligence – based on information on the brushing styles of thousands of volunteers – to give advice on how to improve your technique. Motion sensors located inside the brush detect which teeth have been brushed and reveal any spots you might have missed.

This information is beamed back to a paired phone app, where a digital image of the mouth is displayed, giving real-time feedback on your cleaning session. Afterwards, you are provided with a percentage score showing how well you cleaned your teeth, with your performance tracked over time.

A coloured light on the neck of the brush (which can be personalised to suit your mood) flashes when you are brushing too hard, and also lets you know when you should start cleaning the next section of your mouth. And if you are competitive, like me, you will find yourself concentrating harder than ever to beat your previous brushing performance.

Having tested the Genius X, I can confirm what other reviewers claim: it’s fun.

And so if it makes the frankly boring process of a thorough dental hygiene routine enjoyable, you’re more likely to do it regularly. And that must be a good thing.

But does it have the edge on other models?

I also tested some of the cheaper toothbrushes on the market to see if they could compete. The Colgate ProClinical 150 toothbrush, which uses sonic technology and costs just £18, also features a two-minute timer and made my teeth feel just as clean.

If you want to spend even less, the £6 Colgate 360 Sonic Power Toothbrush felt equally powerful and did a thorough job, although a timer was noticeably absent.

Even the experts agree that you don’t need to break the bank to keep your teeth clean.

Dr Druian said: ‘The basic Oral-B model will be very effective and very efficient, because the mechanism is still basically the same.

‘The new technology just motivates brushers to keep going. But for the basic brushing, the normal electric Oral-B is terrific.’

While the more expensive models are nice if you don’t mind spending the cash, Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, said that even the cheaper ones will be more effective than a manual brush.

‘Some of the lower-end models have got a lower frequency of rotation, so they will be slightly less efficient,’ he said.

‘But I think they still are going to be doing a better job than a manual toothbrush can.’

Research suggests that bending the elbow could be a way of stabilising the head and maintaining good balance. 

However, scientists at Harvard in the US were surprised to discover that it takes similar amounts of energy to run with bent arms and to keep them in an unnatural straight position. 

The Harvard team are planning further experiments to find out why this might be. 

Forget using an exercise bike and spend 25 minutes in a sauna instead. Scientists in Germany found the heat raised participants’ heart rate just as much as a 25-minute cycle.

Regularly increasing the heart rate has been shown to strengthen the heart muscles, reducing the risk of heart disease.

However, researchers warn that people with low blood pressure should take care when using saunas.

Elizabeth Carr-Ellis who is passionate about the health of older women. She started the site when she turned 50.

It covers subjects including family and food, with lots of information about the menopause.


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