When you think of a toothbrush, you probably don’t think about innovation and new technology.
But, you should do.
Although the evolution of the toothbrush can be traced back to 3500BC. The modern toothbrush as we know it came into existence in the late 1700’s, with electric brushes launching in 1969.
Despite new technology such as Bluetooth being added to electric toothbrushes in recent years, other technological progress in these devices has been relatively slow. And the fundamental design of toothbrushes has not changed all that much.
But since approximately 2015/16, there have been some interesting developments.
There are new ways of thinking, technology has evolved and is allowing for advances that we once dreamt of to become a reality. The 10 years or so look like they could bring about fairly radical changes. The future toothbrush may look and need to be used in ways that we do currently.
This article highlights all of the new technology and innovation that is impacting the humble toothbrush.
New toothbrush technology categorised
Each company or brand developing new products and services for the dental health market tend to have their own way of referring to their technological innovations.
As I see it, most advances can be grouped into several categories.
- Sustainability – Toothbrushes and dental products that are more environmentally considerate. This includes recyclable brushes and products made from biodegradable materials.
- Efficiency – Brushes that clean your teeth in a shorter space of time or achieve a higher standard of clean.
- Connectedness – Smart dental products that communicate with each other or other devices such as a smartphone to assist with improving oral hygiene routines.
So let’s jump straight in and take a look at some of the new products.
New toothbrush products arriving in 2019
2019 is the year that sustainability is being put at the forefront of toothbrush innovation and advancement. This is primarily as a result of the increased awareness of plastic pollution.
Companies, large and small are working out how they can make products that are less impact on the environment.
This is a manual toothbrush. A very stylish, and environmentally considerate toothbrush.
Tooth.eco uses recycled aluminium to from the handle and the magnetic stand that it comes with.
Unlike most manual toothbrushes, you do not throw away the whole toothbrush. Instead, you can pull off just the brush head and replace that.
The interchangeable head is the part you dispose of, reducing the amount of waste each time. However, rather than having to be thrown into regular landfill waste, this brush head is fully biodegradable, made from bioplastic.
A biodegradable manual toothbrush made from PHA (Polyhyeroxyalkanoate).
This manual toothbrush is another option for consumers like you and me to choose from.
The materials themselves are biodegradable but small touches like a hollow handle reduce the amount of material required to produce, but in turn, helps reduce the biodegradation time.
In fact, Swirl is even looking to have back used brushes so they can be remoulded into new brushes.
Oral-B Genius X
The Genius X is an evolution of the range of smart and Bluetooth enabled electric toothbrushes that Oral-B offer.
Using sensors built into the toothbrush handle and artificial intelligence built into the smartphone application, the Genius X can track the position of the toothbrush in the mouth.
The Genius 9000 that came before the X relied on a smartphone camera to track the movements. It worked but was fiddly.
The approach used by the Genius X is much more innovative and user friendly. It helps to educate users to brush for the dentist recommended time and reach all areas of the mouth.
When using the app on a smartphone, a set of blue teeth turn to white as all the areas of the mouth are cleaned. Remaining blue areas clearly highlight where brushing improvements or extra attention is required.
Toothbrush technology & products from 2018
2018 was quite an interesting years in terms of toothbrush evolution.
There really was a rethinking of just how the toothbrush should work and be used by you and me.
It was also the year that ‘eco’ products began to get more attention.
The ‘mouthguard toothbrush’ – a whole new style of electric toothbrush
One of the biggest innovations in tooth brushing technology was the introduction of what I like to call ‘mouthpiece toothbrushes’.
Mouthpiece toothbrushes we actually first introduced as a concept in 2017, but it was in 2018 that the first working models began to ship and arrive in users hands.
My article mouthpiece toothbrushes explained tells you all you need or would want to know about them.
But, here is a quick summary.
You pop them into your mouth like you would a mouthguard and they clean your teeth in as little as three seconds.
They clean all of the teeth at the same time. By doing so, it significantly reduces the amount of time taken by the current approach of cleaning one tooth at a time, one side at a time.
Believe it or not, this approach not only reduces the amount of time you spend brushing but actually delivers more brushing time to each tooth surface.
The innovators within this sector are:
- Amabrush – It cleans your teeth in 10 seconds. Amabrush was the first of these mouthpiece toothbrushes to be announced and begin shipping. I reviewed it here. Although it showed promise, the actual cleaning performance was poor. The company has subsequently gone into administration in 2019.
- Ufunbrush – Engineered to clean your teeth in 10 seconds, it is most similar to Amabrush. It is geared more towards children, with different sized mouthpieces available. It has suffered delays in production with units due to ship summer of 2019.
- Unico Smartbrush – Said to clean your teeth in 3 seconds this product launched as a crowdfunding campaign like Amabrush and Ufunbrush. It has come under quite a lot of scrutiny from backers, with delays, irregular updates and many false promises. Deliveries are supposed to have begun, but many have not yet received it, and those who have are not happy.
- Y-Brush – Designed to clean the teeth in 10 seconds, this mouthpiece style toothbrush relies on nylon bristles. It has been plagued by delays and is now on course to ship in late 2019.
On the back of the interest and demand for such products, many replica products have been released by enterprising far eastern companies. Sadly all of these perform terribly and are a waste of money.
Brushette toothbrush heads
Why replace the whole toothbrush head on an electric toothbrush when you can replace just the bristles?
Replacing just the bristles, means you are replacing just 1/6th of the brush head, resulting in a lot less landfill.
Whilst the product itself is not biodegradable, it is made from plastics and nylon, the approach is a more environmentally considerate one.
A battery-free, powered toothbrush
To use Be, you give a dial on the bottom of the brush two short twists and then press a button to power it on and off. These two twists are enough to last for a 2-minute brushing of your teeth.
Naturally, it’s not going to clean your teeth as quickly as the above mouthpiece toothbrushes, but its footprint on the planet is much lower, and should you be away from a power point for an extended period, you’ll still be able to use a powered toothbrush.
Although funded in late 2017, it was due to begin shipping in 2018. As of mid 2019, it still has not shipped due to delays in design and manufacturing.
ToothShower is a toothbrush cum water flosser that you install in your shower. It uses the water pressure from your shower as a power source – no electricity is needed.
Toothshower is looking to address two of the things that can be off-putting when it comes to flossing – using string floss can be fiddly, and using a countertop water flosser can be messy.
This isn’t a product that works ‘out of the box’ because you need to connect it to your shower’s water supply, but once installed there’s no need for electricity, and you don’t need to worry about water going everywhere as you floss.
Toothshower comes with three different attachments; an irrigating dual-headed toothbrush, an irrigating tip, and an irrigating gum massager.
A few delays did occur, but it did ship in early 2019.
The Benjamin Brush from BleepBleeps aims to make brushing a more enjoyable activity by playing music via a built-in speaker while you brush.
It’s also waterproof, and charged via USB. The companion app records how long you brush for, keeping track of points so that you can compete with friends and family.
There are two varieties of Benjamin Brush – one for kids and one for adults.
As of mid 2019, this product has still not shipped.
Make any toothbrush, manual or electric smart.
A little add on module that straps to your toothbrush and makes the dumbest toothbrush smart.
Sensors track the movement of the brush and provide educational feedback via the smartphone application.
A brilliant approach to gain smart/tracking features without upgrading the toothbrush itself.
Read my Brushlink review to learn more.
Toothbrush tech from 2017 and prior and 2017
Boie toothbrush was a Kickstarter project that shipped in 2015 and is now available to purchase on boieusa.com with worldwide shipping available.
This is another 100% recyclable toothbrush. It also has silver, which has antimicrobial properties, embedded into the toothbrush head.
Genius 9000 & Sonicare DiamondClean Smart
These are the flagship devices from two of the biggest manufacturers in this space; Braun Oral-B and Philips Sonicare. The Genius 9000 launched in summer 2016 and the DiamondClean Smart was launched in the second half of 2017.
The standout feature of both devices is the way in which they connect to your smartphone and provide real-time feedback on how you are brushing.
The toothbrush connects to your phone using Bluetooth and shows you via an app how well you are brushing your teeth. For me the DiamondClean Smart is the better of the two (the app performs better) however, the price puts its outside of most peoples budget.
Something else these two brushes include is USB-charging via a travel case. This isn’t a huge innovation and isn’t a brand new feature (it’s been included in some previous DiamondClean models), but a nice convenience when compared to the charging stands that have been commonplace until now, and we can expect to see it included with more new models.
The DiamondClean Smart also makes use of microchipped brush heads. The microchip tracks your brush head usage and then notifies you via a yellow light on the brush when it’s time for it to be replaced.
New & emerging trends for 2019 and beyond
2019 has not yet introduced any completely new, never seen before tech, but continues to enhance what is already available.
The following points are a bit of a rehashing of the above here, but for the skim readers among you, here’s a quick look at the tech that’s making its way into the toothbrush market.
Biodegradable brushes and replacement heads
With growing interest from consumers in sustainable products, we can expect to see an increasing number of recyclable / biodegradable dental products hit the market.
Biodegradable toothbrushes aren’t completely new – this bamboo toothbrush from Save Some Green has been around for a while – but new designs are starting to emerge.
The Boie brush is one such product, which has a slick design and is also embedded with silver. Until now having a biodegradable brush has meant having a manual brush, but the Be brush will be 100% biodegradable and compostable and is powered by kinetic energy.
You are also seeing major brands like Colgate do their bit, but introducing toothbrush recycling programmes.
The ‘mouthguard toothbrushes’ I have mentioned above brush your teeth within 10 seconds or less; Amabrush and uFunbrush promise to clean your teeth within 10 seconds, while the Unico Smart brush claims to do it in just 3 seconds.
Sadly, what has shipped to date has been disappointing.
Devices powered without electricity
ToothShower is a toothbrush and flosser that is powered only by water, and the Be brush is powered by kinetic energy.
Improved battery life
Newly released brushes are using Lithium-ion batteries (the kind included with a smartphone), which last longer than the Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMh) batteries that have previously been used. This means that on the average electric toothbrush you’ll be looking at anything from 2 weeks right through to several months, rather than a few days typical of a NiMH battery.
The Foreo ISSA takes things even further and has a whopping 12 months of battery life.
If you own an electric toothbrush, chances are it’s connected to that annoying 2-pin shaver socket in your bathroom. This won’t be the case for much longer – it’s time for the 2 pin connector to move over and make way for USB.
Whether the cable is connected to the charging stand, to the brush directly or to the travel case, several brushes can now be charged via the much more convenient USB connector.
Plug the charging cable into a computer’s USB port, to a USB mains socket if you have one or to a USB mains adapter (like the one that came with your smartphone).
The Fairywill FW-917 and Xiaomi Mi already offer this, as do a few others. Particularly useful are those brushes that allow the toothbrush to be charged in the case via USB, the Sonicare DiamondClean Smart, being the best example of this.
An increasing number of brushes are coming with a companion app that records data about how well you are brushing.
Those apps are becoming more capable thanks to artificial intelligence and the increased amount of data that is being recorded by these toothbrushes.
Which features are you looking forward to?
Which of the above advancements excites you the most?
Are there any other features you would like to see in a brush?
Leave a comment below to let me know.
Or if you’re planning to launch your own dental product, get in touch with us here.