Technology meets Teeth 

Oral hygiene is often a neglected task so maybe technology can help improve the situation.

Judging by various reports in the popular press, and backed up by the experiences of a couple of my relatives, access to a dentist as a National Health Service (NHS) patient has become increasingly difficult of late.  More and more dentists seem to be closing their doors to new NHS patients or even going completely over to the private sector.  While it could not be regarded as an adequate replacement for affordable dental care, the arrival of a new toothbrush, using some of the latest technology, could help with some basic dental care but might cause pain elsewhere.

Developed by Oral-B, this is the company's Triumph? with SmartGuide? product.  Rather than being your common-or-garden variety, the Triumph sets out to be the royalty of toothbrushes by providing all the "bells and whistles" that your mouth could ever want.  According to dental expert Dr. Surinder Hundle, this toothbrush has been designed to help improve the way that people care for their teeth and gums by removing a lot of the guess work out of the brushing operation.  The Triumph with SmartGuide toothbrush advises the user as to how much time they have spent during a teeth cleaning session and which quadrant of the mouth should be the focus of attention at any given time.  This functionality is achieved through the use of wireless technology.

The Oral-B Triumph toothbrush unit contains not only the rechargeable battery, which should provide enough power on a full charge to give two weeks of use (twice a day for two minutes a session), but microchips embedded in the brush head and handle to monitor the brushing activity.  Not content with simple brushing, this technically-aware toothbrush can be set to operate in various modes including clean, sensitive and massage with clean being the default. 

The information gathered is then transmitted to the SmartGuide display unit.  Feedback is provided for the user in the form of icons representing the different brushing modes and the mouth quadrant to be tackled; timing information; plus informing the user if too much pressure is being applied.  And you thought that brushing your teeth required little though and no skill.

Unlike the Triumph toothbrush with its rechargeable battery and smart charger device with accompanying container for holding spare brush heads, the SmartGuide is powered by two AA batteries.  The SmartGuide can either be free-standing or mounted on the bathroom mirror using supplied adhesive pads.  When not in teeth cleaning mode, the display will show the current time in digital format.

Switching from my standard Oral-B model did require some minor adjustments but none that were insurmountable.  The Triumph unit was heavier and larger but the rear-mounted rubber grip and slightly curved handle more than compensated for this.  The tripling of battery life was a big plus and you are kept informed as to the battery level via an LCD display panel on the brush handle.

Getting use to the different modes and the slight juddering effect of the brush, signalling the need to move to a different quadrant, took a little getting use to as did the functions available from the two control buttons mounted on the handle.  With my old model, the top button turned the power on while the lower button turned it off.  The Triumph operated slightly differently.  The top button turned the power on and off while the smaller, triangular shaped button was for switching between modes.

Overall I was certainly impressed with the performance and functionality of the Triumph with SmartGuide.  However as I alluded to earlier, there is some pain and that is in the pocket.  The Triumph and SmartGuide has been priced at £139.99 which includes two brush heads (FlossAction and ProBright), charger, base station and plastic travel case.  It is recommended that brush heads are replaced every three months and, while I have no pricing details regarding the various heads supported by the Triumph, I would expect them to be priced higher than standard heads.  I do feel that the Triumph with SmartGuide is a product that will appeal mainly to those that can not resist the temptation to be first with a new product and are attracted by the desire to own a product making use of the latest technology.

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Comment by Gillian McLees, 19 May 2010 13:25

I was given a Smart Oral B as a gift and i loved it.  Apart from spending a fortune on all the different kinds of heads, it can become a little compulsive.  
However, all that changed when just a little over the 2 year guarantee, my tooth brush died, it just no longer charges.  I have spoken to customer services and apparently it seems my battery has come to the end of it's life expectancy.  Once this happens, the whole unit is defunct.  The dead battery can't be replaced, nor can you buy just a new hand held unit to use with your current smart system.  Apparently they expect the battery to last for 3 years, but this depends on how often you brush your teeth, three years is based on brushing for 2 min twice a day.  Naughty me must have brushed my teeth more than that since mine only lasted just over two years.  
So just be aware the unit will only last 3 years at the very most.  Then it will become landfill.
I think they should tell people this when you are looking to buy it.  Does the British Dental Health Foundation, who recommend it, know that the more you brush your teeth with this product the more you reduce it's working life.  Not the brush heads, that makes sense, but the whole unit becomes defunct!

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