getting my 'first' electric toothbrush
"First" is in quotes because this isn't actually my first electric toothbrush. I vaguely remember having one as a kid and leaving it behind because I didn't like it. A decade and a few fillings later, I value my teeth more, so when I saw an ad for an electric toothbrush in my Costco newsletter, I decided to try one again.
The process of buying an electric toothbrush illustrates much of what I don't like about products today. For starters, there are two leading brands of electric toothbrushes: Oral-B and Phillips Sonicare. They use slightly different technologies to clean your teeth. When I tried to look up which was better, though, I found that Oral-B had commissioned studies which showed their technology was superior, whereas Phillips had done the exact same thing, with completely opposite results. "Science" commissioned by corporations looking to use them for marketing feels slimy and dishonest. Don't they know that we can see right through it?
The other gripe I had about choosing an electric toothbrush was just how poorly designed and overengineered they were. I didn't even opt for the fanciest toothbrush they had in store, but my toothbrush still came with a whole host of features I didn't need, like Bluetooth connection, customizable lighting, ~5 different brushing modes, 2 different brush heads (of a possible 5), and a corresponding smartphone app. To be fair, some of the features I did find useful, like a built-in timer that makes sure you brush long enough and pressure sensors that warn you when you brush too hard. But the vast majority of the features being advertised I found completely useless and even counterproductive. Who wants to hold up their phone in front of their face while they brush to get a "comprehensive" analysis of their brushing habits anyway?
When I tried my new toothbrush for the first time it was not hard for me to see why I didn't like them as a kid. The vibrations are jarring if you're not used to them. I felt like I was putting a jackhammer in my mouth, and when I took it out to take a break the spinning brush head sprayed frothy toothpaste everywhere. Like I mentioned earlier, my toothbrush comes with an industry-standard vibration timer that vibrates every 30 seconds to tell you when to move to a different part of your mouth. I appreciate this reminder, because it made me realize that I usually don't brush my teeth for the full two minutes that dentists recommend.
I did give the Oral-B app a try, but found it pretty useless. I didn't realize that I have to hold up my phone in front of my face while I brush in order to get an analysis of my brushing habits. If you're like most people and don't want to take a continuous 2-minute front facing video while you brush your teeth, the app doesn't do anything except track the amount of time you brush your teeth each day. And for someone like me who already brushes their teeth twice a day without fail, this is a pointless feature. I will likely delete the app in a few week's time once its novelty wears off.
It's hard for me to judge whether my electric toothbrush cleans my teeth any better than a normal one does, but for what it's worth, my teeth do feel a little bit cleaner. I can't ascertain whether this is due to the placebo effect, but in any case, having a new toy to play with has made me a bit more eager to brush my teeth everyday, which I figure is a good development even if it is likely short-lived.
The jury's still out on whether I think an electric toothbrush is a good long-term investment, but I think a basic model is at least worth trying for the curious. None of the bells and whistles of my higher-end model do me any good, and electric toothbrushes are expensive enough as is. That being said, independent labs have found that they do clean your teeth better, so for now I'll be sticking to my electric toothbrush in the hopes that it will help keep cavities at bay.