PAT PILCHER finds out whether Bluetooth connectivity and a smartphone app make a qualitative difference to brushing one’s teeth.
Bluetooth has come a very long way indeed. Not so long ago it was little more than a technical curiosity limited to cellphones and headset users determined to achieve the Lt Ohura look without the Starfleet miniskirt.
Nowadays, Bluetooth is in just about everything you can pair a shaky smartphone with. Be it speakers through to kids’ toys and even the humble light bulb, Bluetooth has well and truly arrived. I can say this with confidence, because it is now even in a toothbrush.
The folks at Braun decided to add some smarts to their Oral-B electric toothbrush by gamifying teeth brushing to get people to achieve better oral hygiene. When approached to review the Oral-B Pro 5000, my inner sceptic wondered if like a lot of tech, this was yet another case of a solution looking for a problem to solve.
Doubts aside, the entire shemozzle comes with a fair few accessories. As well as suction cup phone mount and a stand with storage niches for up to eight brush heads, there’s also a travel case that’ll hold the Oral-B Pro 5000 and two additional brush heads. Both the stand and the travel case can act as chargers to keep it fully juiced-up and ready to go. Better still, the travel case will also take a USB cable connection, reducing the number of power adaptors needing to be packed.
Several additional brush-heads were also bundled, which is a good thing as most dentists say you should change your toothbrush every 12 weeks. It’s also where the first instance of smarties comes into play.
Central to the whole Oral-B 5000 Pro setup is a smartphone app that’ll helpfully remind you to change brush heads every 3 months.
Like most electric toothbrushes, a battery and motor arrangement makes the brush-head oscillate, spinning the bristles to make sure it gives your pearly whites a good working over. Not content with rapidly scrubbing my teeth, the Oral-B 5000 Pro also sensed when I was pushing it too hard (which can cause gum damage and lessen the efficiency of any cleaning efforts), turning on a flashing red LED in the top of the brush as well as the mobile app.
The other clever bit that gamifies the whole brushing experience is the app’s ability to track the position of the Oral-B 5000 Pro in your pie-hole when you’re brushing. After pairing the toothbrush with my phone, I launched the app. Firing up the toothbrush activated an on-screen timer in the app. The timer is displayed next to a 3D model of my teeth divided into four quadrants. By default, the brush is set to run for two minutes of brushing, during which the brush flashes and vibrates every 30 seconds so I know to move onto the next quadrant of my mouth. (This is handily highlighted by the phone app).
In theory, it sounds great. If you’ve configured the camera in the app and positioned the phone right, it works like a charm. I used the suction cup phone holder so I could have my phone level with the bathroom mirror. It worked great until the suction cup failed, resulting in my brand-new Galaxy S8+ crashing to the tiled bathroom floor. Thankfully, it emerged unscathed. In short, the suction cup sucked but didn’t suck, if you catch my drift.
Once my pearly whites had two minutes of brushing, the Oral-B 5000 Pro flashed a green LED and vibrated to let me know when I’d done enough to keep the dental hygienist at bay.
There was the odd time when I forgot to lug my phone into the bathroom. Sometimes the lack of time saw me brushing without it. Several times I ventured forth and found my phone, other times I just stayed irritated that I’d forgotten it before I could brush. Turns out that it didn’t matter. The Oral-B Pro 5000 can store data from 20 brushing sessions, and it’ll also upload them to your phone the next time it comes within range.
While there’s no doubt that the Oral-B 5000 encouraged me to do a better job brushing my shiny white chiclets, Braun have missed an opportunity that’d make it a sure-fire hit for the whole fandamily.
The app is might be nifty (even if the plastic phone holder isn’t great) but it only works for a single user. Having kids competing to get the best tooth-brushing score (based on pressure, coverage and duration) would surely be a smarter move.
So, was the Oral-B 5000 a solution looking to solve a problem? It did a good job cleaning my teeth. I liked the clean feeling I got after a good scrubbing with it. That said, I am dubious about its Bluetooth connectivity. It feels a bit like an afterthought. For one kidult there’s some solid incentives for taking care of teeth. But for multiple users (of all ages) it feels like a missed opportunity. PAT PILCHER