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How smart does a toothbrush need to be?

However, the volume of the powerful motor conducted through my jaw made it feel like I had a jet engine in my mouth. I was also surprised that it didn’t store data of previous brushes, so if you don’t have the app open when you brush it doesn’t sync. Since it costs the same as a budget smartphone, I expected more, especially because no one will remember to open an app every time they brush their teeth. Mornings are hard enough as it is.

The other big electric toothbrush company is Philips, which has the $469 Sonicare 9700 DiamondClean. While the Oral-B has a small, round brush head that oscillates, the Philips has a standard-shaped brush head and just kind of vibrates the plaque off your teeth.

The Philips Sonicare 9700 DiamondClean charges in a glass and looks a bit nicer than the Oral-B.

The Philips Sonicare 9700 DiamondClean charges in a glass and looks a bit nicer than the Oral-B.

This one is also very sleek, and has the feedback light on the bottom of the brush, which I prefer to the Oral B because it’s not as blindingly close to your delicate eyes. A two-pack of replacement heads costs $37.50.

Philips, too, has an app for you to track where it is in your mouth, but it also wants to track your location, which is just weird. I found that the app was pretty spotty on sensing when the toothbrush was in use, and on the rare occasions it did make a good connection it had zero idea where it was in my mouth.

I liked that on the app’s tooth map you can say where the dentist pointed out areas of concern, and I enjoyed the quieter motor. But the larger brush head meant there was significantly more dribbling, which somewhat ruined the aesthetics of it all.

Overall, I found the smarts of the Oral-B to be more accurate and the brush left me feeling cleaner. But the Philips is prettier, which is something.

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Dr Michael Foley, chair of the Australian Dental Association’s Oral Health Committee, isn’t sold on the virtues of electric toothbrushes in general, and expensive ones in particular.

“A $400+ brush may well be able to help some people,” he says. “I’m sure they both can tell you where you’re brushing and where you’re missing, but you could get your dentist to tell you that and lots more oral health information for less than $400. It’s not necessary to spend that sort of money on a brush.”

Although Dr Foley says some evidence suggests oscillating heads like Oral-B’s are more effective at removing plaque than other methods, that doesn’t necessarily lead to better health outcomes.

“Both toothbrushes are likely to be very good at removing plaque if you’re using them properly. If one of the brushes removes slightly more plaque, this doesn’t always translate to fewer cavities or less gum disease,” he says. “There are a range of other factors including diet and whether the brushing is done correctly.”

Whether an electric toothbrush of any level is right for you comes down to a lot of factors and — unless you have a disability or your dentist has said you need to get one — you might be just as well off with a manual brush.

“Electric toothbrushes are certainly worth considering, but if you’re already brushing well with a manual brush, don’t feel obliged to spend a lot more money getting an electric brush,” Dr Foley says. “The old tradie’s adage is appropriate here; it’s not the tool, it’s how you use it. If you do choose and use an electric brush, some of the bells and whistles might be helpful, but they’re not essential.”

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