Is there anything that won’t be connected in the years to come? Philips’ latest Sonicare toothbrush is ‘smart’ with Bluetooth connectivity and an app to help foster better brushing and gum health.
It’s a noble undertaking to be sure, and one that has always underlined the company’s Sonicare brand of electric toothbrushes. Improved technology over the years, with unique cycles geared towards sensitive or whiter teeth, has made it among the best options for anyone looking to abandon the manual route in maintaining those pearly whites.
To hammer that home, this electric brush comes with an app to keep users honest which guides brushing technique and offers other ways to improve their oral situation.
A toothbrush with an app — it seems like an odd mix, and one that is perhaps overkill, so I dove right in to see if there was a notable difference that added value.
Learning to brush
My familiarity with the Sonicare line goes back almost a decade, so I’ve probably gone through four or five iterations leading up to the Sonicare FlexCare Platinum Connected. Philips might do well to shorten the full title of the future versions though. It’s an electric toothbrush, not a camera — but that’s just my opinion.
The funny irony in pairing this with an app is that it implies your brushing technique may have been wrong for a long time. Dentists and dental hygienists harp about this all the time. And yet, that’s the whole point in going with an electric toothbrush that uses an app to illustrate what you should do to improve the health of your teeth and gums.
Sensors within the brush recognize both the pressure and motion used while brushing, with vibration and audible alerts indicating when it’s too much. The app does this too. Philips says the two brush heads included in the box vibrate 31,000 times per minute, except they feel soft enough not to require much pressure anyway.
The brush offers three modes. Clean is the standard cleaner. White alternates, cleaning and massaging for two minutes, plus another 40 seconds to polish the front teeth. Deep Clean skews toward more massage time for three minutes to help the gums. Vibration intensity levels are adjustable for each mode, ranging between low, medium and high.
Each of these have green LEDs to note what is selected, with physical buttons to toggle between them.
Where the app comes in
Pairing the brush with an iPhone and Android phone and the free Sonicare app took seconds once I launched it and turned the brush on. The primary purpose is to store brushing data for the last two weeks, but its real benefit is in what it does during real-time brushing.
It shows an image of your teeth separated into six sections, three on top and three on the bottom. A visual halo appears over the area you should be brushing with a timer for each section. When finished, you can pan and tilt the resulting 3D graphic to see areas you covered or missed. White naturally indicates good coverage with degrees of yellow noting the opposite. There are sections for pressure and scrubbing, but this all goes even further.
You can set goals to reach, like fresher breath, gum health, plaque removal, whitening or a custom one you create yourself. Tools presents options to specify a region of the mouth requiring additional care or connecting directly with your dental professional to not only track your appointments, but also share what you’re doing with the FlexCare Platinum Connected for their own feedback. I also liked that it kept track of how long the brush head would last before needing replacement. It should be 200 sessions or three months but could be even less if the higher settings are consistently used.
The level of detail in the app was surprising, but also enlightening. Seeing a yellow area on the app gradually turn white felt like I was accomplishing something. Granted, there’s no way the brush could tell how much plaque or tartar it was dealing with, but the point was getting the technique and cadence right.
Whiter and cleaner
I can’t be sure if the combination of a newer brush head, longer brushing time and the app keeping me honest was the reason I noticed cleaner and whiter teeth after only the first week. While I’ve always been good about brushing two or three times per day, my brushing time and technique probably needed work.
Scrolling through previous sessions and swiping down laid out more tips on what I could do to get them even cleaner, be it flossing or holding the brush at a 45-degree angle to maximize plaque removal. Dental professionals are like broken records when highlighting these points, and while just as easy to shrug off, I found the app helped me stay on track.
One thing I will say is that keeping a smartphone close while brushing teeth with an electric brush is a weird contrast. My main concern was splattering toothpaste from the vibrating brush head, which did happen more than once. Easy to wipe off, but still. A screen protector or waterproof case might not be a bad idea when always choosing the highest vibration.
Either way, the difference in my teeth was visible. I noticed less plaque and a slightly whiter sheen on the front teeth. The truth is, the app’s timer kept me honest, and I cite that as the biggest reason why I achieved better results. Proper technique over the full allotted time was literally visualized for me.
Brightening that smile
It might seem silly to have to rely on an app to do something as simple as brushing your teeth, but staving off gingivitis and other oral issues begins and ends with maintenance. Philips’ Sonicare FlexCare Platinum Connected is one of the best electric toothbrushes I’ve tested to date, and the app’s assistance was a big reason why in my particular case. I’m not due for a cleaning until the summer, but will be curious to see if my hygienist sees a difference.
Buying in isn’t cheap though. At $199.99 or less, depending on the retailer, it costs as much as a teeth cleaning session with a hygienist.
It’s the residual value that stands out because better maintenance lowers the number of cleaning sessions, especially if you’ve become prone to being lazy when brushing. Given electric toothbrushes aren’t generally known to be really inexpensive, this one is worth trying.
"The funny irony in pairing this with an app is that it implies your brushing technique may have been wrong for a long time"   8.5/10