For the past month, I have been using a review unit of the Oral-B SmartSeries 7000 as my primary toothbrush.
Technology writers do not generally concern themselves with toothbrushes. But this toothbrush is the future, and I wanted to put the future in my mouth.
Attempt to wrap your brain around all of the technology that Oral-B has jammed into this toothbrush. The toothbrush comes with its own app, and it has Bluetooth as well as a pressure sensor; the toothbrush, which is rechargeable, comes with its own docking station, external display, and hard-shell carrying case; and the toothbrush knows when and where you are brushing and can tell you if you are pushing too hard or if you are not hitting the right parts of your mouth.
This is not your grandfather’s toothbrush, unless your grandfather is some sort of neochrome cybernetic robot. This toothbrush has been transported from the 22nd century by benevolent time travelers concerned with our present-day oral hygiene. This is the toothbrush that the precogs from Minority Report would use to keep their teeth clean.
This toothbrush is less a toothbrush than an E-lec-tronic, Bluetooth-enabled, app-connected, chip-loaded, German-engineered, rechargeable plaque-killing machine. It is a toothbrush whose ability to clean your teeth is incidental to the fact that it is a highly advanced computer.
A tooth computer
Indeed, the SmartSeries 7000 aims to be a technological, toothological marvel. This is a toothbrush that, per a recent press release, “set[s] the pace of innovation” in “digital health tracking.” It connects to an app that “helps maintain your attention and motivation while brushing with news, weather and oral care tips.” It features six distinct, programmable tooth-brushing modes. Later this year, Oral-B will open the SmartSeries 5000’s application programming interface and software development kit to developers, so that they can build apps for it. The SmartSeries 7000 could become the first toothbrush to feature its own version of Angry Birds.
Reading about the intimidating technological prowess of the SmartSeries 7000 made it clear that my current brush was not cutting it in the year 2015. I own an electric toothbrush, produced by Philips. My brush is rechargeable and it vibrates, but it does not feature Bluetooth connectivity, does not have its own app, and is not named like a $70,000 luxury automobile. I might as well be standing in front of my bathroom mirror in overalls and a coonskin cap, brushing my teeth with a pinecone glued to a twig.
The Oral-B SmartSeries 7000 is certainly sleeker than whatever you are dousing in toothpaste and shoving in your mouth. (Photo: Oral-B)
The SmartSeries 7000 works like many electric toothbrushes: It times your session to the optimal two-minute mark; it lightly buzzes every 30 seconds, notifying you when it’s time to switch to other parts of your mouth; and it vibrates as you brush.
But here’s where it gets truly futuristic. This toothbrush comes with neon lights, which run up and down the sides of the toothbrush like racing stripes. The lights glow blue when you’re brushing and flash yellow when it’s time to switch your focus to other parts of your mouth. If you use too much pressure, the lights burn red. It’s like you’re shoving a glow stick into your head each morning and night, transforming each brushing session into a kind of orthodontic rave.
The brush also uses low-power Bluetooth to automagically connect to the Oral-B app on your smartphone. Press the power button on the toothbrush to sync it to the app. You can do a frightening amount of tooth-related stuff on the app, but mostly, you can time yourself brushing your teeth. An animated diagram of a mouth shows you exactly where in your mouth your brush should be at each second. Below that, random articles and photos from the newswires display, as well as upcoming friends’ birthdays, sourced from Facebook.
After you brush, the app congratulates you and prods you to clean your tongue, floss, and use mouthwash.
“Did you clean your tongue, floss, and use mouthwash?” the app asks.
“Definitely,” I lied, every time.
“Great!” the app says, and then it awards you a digital smiley face.
Like most apps, the Oral-B app also includes several features you most likely won’t use, like the ability to search for nearby dentist locations and access to an e-store. You can view a trophy case of your achievements: streaks in flossing and using mouthwash and badges for brushing at lunch or after midnight, or improving your consistency, or reliably cleansing your tongue. There is a library of oral care tips: “If you have bad breath, use a mouth rinse daily.” “It is not normal for gums to bleed when you brush your teeth.” “Consume alcohol moderately.”
The hard tooth
You don’t need an app to do any of this for you. If the Oral-B app came standard with other toothbrush models, I might find it moderately helpful; paying an extra $100 for the privilege of tracking my flossing activity isn’t worth it. I’d rather spend that money on fancy toothpaste or replacement brush heads.
There are more problems. The toothbrush must be recharged every 7 to 10 days; this process takes a surprisingly long time. Once, I left the toothbrush plugged in overnight; it was only two-thirds of the way charged when I awoke the next day. I was also constantly forgetting to take my phone with me into the bathroom, completely defeating the purpose of owning a smartphone-connected toothbrush.
The SmartSeries 7000 comes as part of a larger wave of technologically enhanced home goods. As I brushed each morning with the SmartSeries 7000, I found myself wondering what other bathroom products could be turned “smart” and connected to an app. What about a smart hand soap product, which could precisely dispense the correct dollop of cleanser and let you track your hand-washing statistics? What about a smart razor, for an even shave and real-time feedback via the Internet on your chin strokes? What about a smart toilet brush or smart dandruff shampoo?
It’s all possible, of course. But it would be more expensive than the non-Internet-connected, Wi-Fi-enabled, Bluetooth-loaded version, and it wouldn’t do a much better job at what it’s designed to do, either.
My advice: Just stick with the toothbrush that is best at, you know, brushing your teeth. It will likely cost $100 less than this one, and it won’t need to be charged every week. The version that successfully integrates Bluetooth and pressure sensors and Angry Birds will come eventually. In the future. For now, it’s fine if your toothbrush is dumb.