Oral B's smartphone-connected brush
Ten out of 10 dentists agree: toothbrushes are getting smarter in 2015 thanks to the Internet of Things. It's giving otherwise dumb household electronics cutting-edge makeovers.
Oral B's SmartSeries 5000 electric toothbrush is my latest gadget to go all Jetsons on me with smartphone syncing technology that goes way beyond my old manual toothbrush.
It's more than just a pulsating brush with nifty lights. An iOS 8 and Android app coaches me all the way to the two-minute mark and tracks my brushing habits.
Okay, full disclosure, I love brushing my teeth and my father is a dentist and my sister is in training. But it turns out I had been brushing for an average of 46 seconds then flossing.
That's actually the average time people brush their teeth, according to Oral B. The Procter & Gamble-owned company boasts that it's closer to 2 minutes and 22 seconds with its app.
So I spent the month brushing up my act. Would brushing my teeth with my Samsung Galaxy S5 in hand and the free app provide me with feedback that Dr. Daddy Naziri failed to give?
Here's what I found when I tried to realign my crooked tooth-brushing regimen with the Oral B SmartSeries 5000 while under a caring doctor's supervision.
The price of a better smile in the case of this SmartSeries toothbrush is $199, even though it pretty much acts like every other other high-end electric toothbrush out there.
It's complete with replaceable brush heads, a wireless charger, a blue hard plastic travel case and five different brush modes: daily cleaning, deep clean, whitening, gum care and sensitive.
Of course, that's not what is special about this particular brush. The app component is what makes it a more intelligent toothbrush whenever it's paired up with an iPhone or Android.
I found it easy enough to link to my smartphone once I downloaded the free app. It worked like any other Bluetooth-connected device thanks to a small pair button on the giant handle.
After that first connection was established, every time I lifted the toothbrush off of the included charger, it automatically paired with my phone, eliminating one step toward a better smile.
An app 3x a times a day...
The toothbrush immediately began tracking my daily brush activity via the app: how often I was brushing, how long each session took and whether I or not I was doing it right.
Meeting that dentist-recommended two-minute Crest tsunami three times a day was the first task on my tooth rehab checklist. Two minutes is longer than you think when you don't count.
My busy life sometimes (read: always) wants to cut it short and rush out of the bathroom, but the app did its job of motivating me to continue on to the full two minutes.
Though it lacked puppy dog eyes, whenever I prematurely shut off the toothbrush, it guilted me into continuing with a 30-second timer. It'd reset to a new session after it reached zero.
I'd always make the excuse that I was just taking a short break to add extra toothpaste for that lasting polish, and I followed through every time.
My smartphone acted as a motivator as much as it was a "remote control" to watch the time and adjust to a custom target session length (I stuck with the normal 2 minutes).
Fine-tuning the toothbrush even further, I selected my preferred mode (whitening, please) and could add +10 second "focused care" to 16 different places within its human mouth diagram.
...Keeps the dentist away
Brushing with the right technique was a little harder to stick to at first. Manual brushers almost universally use too much force in the transition to an electric toothbrush. I was already starting at a disadvantage.
Alarmingly, too much pressure can strip your enamel, so that's why it's fitting that red alarms (but no bells) went off on the app and within the toothbrush handle whenever I used any force. I had to learn to let the brush do all the work or the app would freak out.
This was such an important metric that, at the end of the two-minute session, the app added up all of the pressure-filled seconds and made it visually apparent in an animated timeline.
In the morning and at night, it supplemented the numbers-heavy stats with reminders in the form of questions: did I floss, clean my tongue and rinse? It tracks these answers too.
Plaques for getting rid of plaque
Oral B's app gamifies brushing your teeth with stats tracked over time as if this were another fitness tracker that syncs with your smartphone.
Digging into the menu, I found an Achievements pane that tracked my personal bests and awarded me a few trophies.
My session length and brushing streak were counted in minutes and seconds, while the flossing, tongue cleaning and rinsing streaks were measured in consecutive days.
More significant down the road is ability receive dental care recommendations from dentists, including setting up reminders, focused care areas, custom timers and tips.
This My Dental Professional menu is also a great in-app way of searching for a dental office, information that is pipe into the app via Google Places geodata.
Getting clean can be messy
Oral B's SmartSeries 5000 isn't always squeaky clean outside of the mouth, as revealed by my sometimes toothpaste-spotted Galaxy S5.
Taking my phone into the bathroom - which I refuse to admit ever doing before this - and holding it at eye level made it prone to splattering toothpaste droplets or pieces of dinner.
Luckily, the brush worked even when my phone wasn't present for the two minutes. It pulses in the handle and shined a yellow flashing LED when it was time to switch to a new quad.
In fact, the SmartSeries stored information on my last 20 sessions within the handle so that when I did finally connect with the app, my history was automatically synced.
The only issue I had was with the charger. I needed to remember to bring it with on trips longer than a week.
There were benefits to safely keeping my phone in my peripheral vision, though, as it communicated while it clean. It went beyond just issuing pressure warning too.
The app tried to entertain me with weather forecasts, fun facts, oral tips, news headlines and even your calendar events so I don't get bored as I brushed.
I was so engaged and distracted that I effortlessly tripled my usual brushing time after seeing phrases such as, "Get every tooth" or "Almost there!" pop-up at the bottom panel.
Owning a toothbrush that syncs with my smartphone isn't essential to my health, but brushing better is just as important as every other Internet of Thing gizmo out there.
Two minutes isn't a lot, but it's a lot easier with a little help from the Oral B SmartSeries 5000. It got me thinking about my brushing routine thanks to daily stats, reminders and yes, even achievements. I put it up there with the Nest thermostat and Nest Protect fire alarm.
Even Dr. Naziri was surprised by the SmartSeries and how it can easily motivate and improve the younger generations' brushing behaviors and focus on problem zones within the mouth. After all, most of them already have their phones with them in the bathroom.