Are Electric Toothbrushes Worthwhile?

Jul 21, 2015 by

Sonicare HealthyWhiteYou use an electric toothbrush, right? Okay, snicker if you want, but up until a couple of weeks ago I’d been using a manual brush my entire life. Yes, I’m what you might call a “late-adopter,” or even an “embarrassingly late-adopter” when it come to some items. (I still use a flip phone, and one of the two televisions in our home is thick-screen, not flat. 🙂 ).

Show Me the Evidence!

I’m not a Luddite—I like and appreciate technology—nor am I just too cheap to upgrade to anything new solely because it costs money. But I also don’t camp out in front of Best Buy to jump on every new gadget just because “it’s cool.” I like to see evidence first that the latest and greatest thing-a-ma-bob I’m being told I need will actually benefit me enough that I’m okay with the cost! Yeah, I know—old fashioned.

Why I Bought an Electric Toothbrush

My teeth are good. Actually, they’re very good (knock on wood). “Your hygiene is excellent,” quoting my dentist, is my routine answer to my wife’s question about how it went after a dental appointment. A prior hygienist asked me whether I used an electric toothbrush, and when I replied, “no—should I be?”, she declined to recommend the change on “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” ground.

But that hygienist moved on, and my new one recommended the Sonicare electric toothbrush. She showed me one, touched the vibrating tip to my finger (wow!), and gave me a $10 coupon! (I couldn’t suppress the naturally paranoid part of my brain: “hmmm…is she getting a cut somehow?”)

I thought about it for a few more weeks as I watched flyers for sales. On a mission to a local retailer to renew my supply of excellent dental hygiene instruments, I noted the Sonicares (there are several models, of course) were on sale. Normally CDN$149, the model I wanted was $119. I slso noticed that the Sonicare’s maker has embraced the “let’s suck ‘em in then gouge them on proprietary refills” business model perfected by printer makers. In addition to the hefty upfront cost, toothbrush refills cost about 5x more than a manual toothbrush. But with the sale, the $10 coupon, and my hygienist’s recommendation, I bit on the opportunity.

The Sonicare Toothbrush’s Features

I bought the HealthyWhite Sonicare model. Like most people my age, my teeth are getting dingy, and I am too cheap to pay for professional whitening. Plus I don’t want people thinking, “why would a guy so clearly in need of other more important renovations bother to have his teeth whitened?”

Promises on the Sonicare box include:

Removes up to 90% of stains for a whiter, brighter smile*

If my math is good, 0% is included in “up to 90%,” so that’s a fairly meaningless claim written by a toothy brand manager in consultation, no doubt, with a team of attorneys. You might think the asterisk leads to something like a supporting research citation. Uh-uh. It leads to “Than a manual toothbrush.”

Patented sonic technology

Sonic means, “of or relating to sound waves.” Does the Sonicare clean my teeth using sound waves? I don’t think so, but I’m not an expert. And patents are easy to get. I’m recorded as sole inventor on a patent, for example (see U.S. patent #6,238,726).

Clean and White mode whitens teeth up to 2 shades in only 2 weeks

There’s that oh-so-clever “up to” again. Here’s my newest pledge to my wife: “I will cut my toenails up to once a week.” And what the hell is a “shade”, an international unit of measurement of which I’m unaware?

More dental professionals worldwide recommended Sonicare than any other sonic toothbrush brand

Is there another “sonic toothbrush brand”? I thought the maker had a patent?

Improves gum health

My gum health is good, but I suppose there’s always room for improvement.

As you can see, I’m a skeptic (a characteristic which I’d suggest can save lots of money, though it can also annoy your friends and family). But I bought the Sonicare anyway, mainly because my hygienist recommended it. (Now how can I find out how she got a kickback and how much it was. Maybe there’s an individualized code on the coupon she gave me…hmmmm. I wish I’d thought to photocopy that baby.) Though the sensation it induces resembles holding a live wire against your gum, I do like using the Sonicare. It really feels like it’s doing something. Whether it only feels like it’s doing something, or is actually doing something, I’ll let you know.

When I next see the hygienist in about 5 months, I’m not going to tell her about the toothbrush change until after she’s done her thing. If she reports any sort of improvement in my mouth, then I’ll spill. If not, could be curtains for the Sonicare.

Did you or your dentist/hygienist notice any difference in your mouth after you began using an electric toothbrush?

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