In this article we look at the latest offering by Philips in their Sonicare electric toothbrush range. With the first electric toothbrush being marketed in the USA as early as 1959, we’ll also take a quick look at how these devices fit into our lives, and why there is still a debate about them, more than 50 years on.
The Sonic System
These sonic brushes are all based on a vibrating action, which Philips say consists of 31,000 brush movements per second, and claim assists in improving patients’ oral hygiene. This compares to the higher frequency of ultrasonic toothbrushes, which are about 20,000 Hz, or 40,000 movements per second, and are generally the most expensive sort.
The other important comparison is with electric toothbrushes which just oscillate, or rotate the whole brush backwards and forwards, which are often slower and cheaper, but also appear to ‘do more’. Let’s look at the features of this sonic type.
The Philips Sonicare Flexcare Platinum
There are three cleaning modes (clean, white, gum care), as well as low, medium and high intensity settings, which are described as a choice of ‘nine brushing experiences’ by Philips. This particular model has parts across the entire brush which glow a different color according to which experience you are supposed to be having.
Philips also say that this sonic toothbrush is able to remove more than 7 times more plaque from in between teeth than the manual type. Increased plaque removal is something that many advocates of electric toothbrushes talk about, but actual scientific evidence for this is always much harder to pin down. A lot of dentists say, anecdotally at least, that patients indeed do better with a powered toothbrush, and this is probably the reason why the debate about them has lasted as long as it has.
One of the other main features of the Sonicare Flexcare Platinum is the ‘Built-in pressure sensor’, which alerts the user when they are using too much pressure during brushing. This is certainly something which not all of the competition have incorporated into their ranges, and in the opinion of the author this could be the secret to the success of electric toothbrushes. The problem of patients brushing much too hard, or even more commonly brushing the outside much too hard and barely touching the inside surfaces, is enormous.
One of the main things which electric toothbrushes achieve, then, is some more balance across the whole mouth. This handy add-on feature builds on this advantage, and helps patients know better how their brushing compares to a wider norm. Like driving skills, not many people say that their brushing technique is terrible, so buying a device that secretly hints it to you could be money well spent.
Downsides and Alternatives
From a skeptical point of view then, the main claim that inter-dental, or between teeth brushing is improved with this product is difficult to prove or disprove. It should be remembered that 90% of people are not genetically predisposed to serious gum disease. These people could use any old brush and might get away with it. There are 10% of people, however, who have serious gum problems, which often run in the family.
Such people do not just need an expensive toothbrush, they need to floss, properly, daily, and visit the dentist on a very regular basis. For them, this brush could be a red-herring.
However, for the rest of us, we are pretty bad at judging how much to or not to brush teeth. The pressure-sensitive feature on this Platinum toothbrush on its own, therefore, could mean the brush is worth the money. The other leader in this field is Oral-B, who also have a range of brushes with pressure sensitivity built in.
The majority of Oral-B brushes are not sonic like this brush though, they are the lower speed automatic brushing motion type. The relationship between over-brushing and these different sonic and oscillating brushes is presently unclear. Either way, the built in pressure sensor in both these types seems to have a pretty useful role.
Should you get one?
Although this article talks a lot about the pressure sensor, it’s probably not what most people are considering when looking at brushes in the drug store. But there is not that much evidence that sonic, or even ultrasonic brushes remove more plaque than a well used manual toothbrush.
But that may be the point. Spending 200 dollars on a brush might just make you use it more. Neither Philips or Oral-B will tell you that, but it could be another reason why electric toothbrushes are still popular, even though 50 years hasn’t been enough to turn up a huge base of solid evidence.
Click the button to visit Amazon and look at some more reviews of this Sonicare Flexcare Platinum model: