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.
Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are helping too. It is now easier than ever to get financing, but also create awareness of new products and services.
For those creators that have something that captures the hearts and desires of the public, it is perfectly possible to finance their project with levels of money they may have only dreamt of.
The next 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 2020
2020 looks set to continue the trend of focusing on sustainability in dental and oral healthcare. This is incredibly important as we become more aware of the impacts of plastic and single-use items.
We will also see a continuation in the refinement in toothbrushing efficiency, as manufacturers and brands try to help me and you get better at cleaning our teeth and gums.
The iO from Oral-B brings a refined look and change to internal components, to make for a quieter, yet still very capable electric toothbrush.
Somewhat of an evolution from the Genius X real-time tracking is built-into this toothbrush, but there is to a small display on the brush handle to offer data and visualizations not previously seen on Oral-B toothbrushes.
It is a smarter and essentially more complete product offering to help you and I brush better.
Colgate Plaqless Pro
Optical sensors built into the brush head of the Plaqless Pro proactively detects areas of the teeth which are covered in the potentially harmful substance.
A light on the handle changes between a blue and white colour to alert you where plaque resides and when you have brushed it away.
It does this whilst feeding important brushing data back to your smartphone.
A biodegradable manual toothbrush made from PHA (Polyhydroxyalkanoate).
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.
An interesting product, Encompass is a J shaped toothbrush is a play on the mouthpiece toothbrushes we have seen previously.
The toothbrush is designed by a team that includes a former director of engineering at Sonicare.
It should provide the optimal pressure and angle to the teeth and gums to clean every tooth evenly, in just 20 seconds.
The shape means you essentially clean 1 half of the mouth (including upper and lower teeth) at the same time.
It actually achieved funding in 2019, but it won’t be shipping to those who backed it via Indiegogo until May 2020.
The focus of the BruBrushBrush toothbrush is to clean more of your teeth at the same time, but do so better than any of the existing products on the market.
It cleans all 3 surfaces of the teeth at the same time. This means you can clean all the teeth in the mouth in just 50 seconds and in theory achieve a better standard of cleaning at the same time.
The brush has 3 oscillating brush heads, that cup all sides of the teeth and get deep into interdental spaces. It can even be adjusted so the heads clean better around the different sized teeth you have at the front and back of your mouth.
Toothbrush technology & products from 2019
2019 was the year that sustainability was put at the forefront of toothbrush innovation and advancement. This was primarily as a result of the increased awareness of plastic pollution.
Companies, large and small began working out how they can make products that made 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.
Having successfully achieved crowdfunding in 2019, the first units will be shipping in the spring of 2020.
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 year 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 subsequently went 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 suffered delays in production but finally shipped in late summer 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. Sadly, the final product fell a long way short of backers expectations.
- 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 mid 2020.
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 early 2020, it still has not shipped due to delays in design and manufacturing.
Making use of light therapy technology to kill bacteria on the teeth and gums, Bristl has 3 modes of light (blue, red and purple) to help achieve better oral health.
Blue light helps kill oral bacteria that would otherwise lead to gum disease and also help whiten teeth.
Red light enables collagen secretion for the regeneration of gum tissue.
Purple light is made up of blue and red light combined to kill germs and strengthen gum tissue at the same time.
Bacteria is the key reason we brush our teeth, failing to remove it will lead to oral health problems, the inclusion of light technology helps reduce the risk by ensuring that bacteria is killed off.
The product shipped in 2018.
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.
You can view the ToothShower website here.
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 early 2020, 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 earlier
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.
Oral-B 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 2020 and beyond
2020 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, by introducing a 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.
Crowdfunded dental health products
As intimated in the introduction to this article, social funding, also known as crowdfunding, is a means by which individuals, organisations or companies can raise funds and awareness for their product, service or endeavours.
There are many crowdfunding platforms, some of the better known ones being Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
These websites enable fundraisers to collect money from a large number of people. It is most often startup companies that make use of this funding approach, but anyone can set up their own campaign.
Every campaign is different. Some offer a product or service in exchange for supporting, whilst others are simply donations.
The main types of crowdfunding are, peer to peer lending, equity crowdfunding, rewards based crowdfunding, donation based, profit sharing, debt securities and hybrid models.
What is being offered, the amount you pledge and the rules and conditions associated with that are outlined by each project or campaign listed on the various social funding platforms.
The use of crowdfunded platforms has become increasingly popular for new dental health products because often the innovations are coming from much smaller, less financially rich individuals and organisations, compared to those who bigger entities that tend to dominate this market.
One of the most popular is the rewards based social funding, whereby ‘backers’ (the people who help fund the campaign) get something in return. It is often a discount on a product or service, or the ability to be one of the first to own X, Y or Z.
For the sake of a simple example, a company may be offering a new electric toothbrush.
They have 4 different offers as part of their campaign.
- A backer can offer £10 as a token of their support and get nothing in return other than the satisfaction for helping.
- A backer can offer £30 as a token of their support and a t-shirt or some other low value item in exchange.
- A backer can offer £60 as a token of their support and will get 1 of the new toothbrushes as soon as they are available.
- A backer can offer £250 as a token of their support and will get 2 of the new toothbrushes, customised in a colour of their choice, a special presentation box and a t-shirt.
In almost all cases a funding campaign runs for a predetermined amount of time with a desired budget/goal to be achieved.
If the funding is achieved, the backer’s money is passed onto the creator to make the project a reality.
In many cases, if the funding goal is not hit, then what money is raised never reaches the creator and the backers usually get their money returned.
Creators usually pay a commission to the funding platforms from the amount they raise.
Where projects are successful it is then up to the creator to as best as possible to stay true to their campaign offering.
In almost all instances there is risk and rewards are not always guaranteed, subject to the terms of the platform.
It is at this stage where things can go wrong, but that is part of the risk with crowdfunding.
Creators may find it is not actually possible to deliver their product or service on time or within budget. There may be manufacturing or technical challenges which delay things or put a halt to things entirely. Creators can even misuse funds in rare instances.
Every project is different.
Creators should keep their backers up to date on what is going on and when they can expect their product, even if there are delays.
Supporters of the campaigns will generally get what they expected, but it might not be what they had expected, not quite what was originally planned. It may be better or worse than expected.
Risk and rewards
The risk and rewards are different depending on whether you are the creator looking for funding or whether you are the backer/supporter looking to help that creator out in exchange for a product or service.
The following are what I consider to be the main pros and cons to crowdfunding from the point of view of a supporter.
- Early access – By backing a project you can be amongst the first in the world to get hands on with what might be a new or innovative product.
- Discounts – By backing a project you often get a lower price than those who might only buy the product if and when it is available for general sale online or in the shops.
- Support – You are helping a creator realise a dream that might not have been possible without your support.
- Innovation – It is often a great place to see and experience the future before it becomes mainstream.
- Culture and community – You can become a part of a small group that have a particular interest in a product or service and make new connections and gain a sense of personal satisfaction and well-being.
- Risk – You are taking a risk, normally financially. You might not ever receive what you expected. Only ever support what you can afford to lose.
- Delays – Not all projects run to plan. What might be due in 12 months may arrive in 24.
- No equity – In reward based social funding you usually get something for the investment you have made, but it isn’t likely to be financial like a cash return or stocks or shares in a company.
If you are not familiar with social funding and want to learn more, then I encourage you to do your own research online to fully understand how things work.
A couple of useful links are:
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.