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- Great oral hygiene starts with brushing your teeth effectively — and it's just as important for your smile as it is for the health of your whole body.
- The Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart electric toothbrush ($250) uses high-quality pieces and smart technology to clean teeth more effectively.
- After using the brush for a few weeks, my teeth not only felt significantly cleaner, but the connected app helped guide me to better brushing habits and techniques.
- I consulted Dr. Hayley Sacks, DMD, of West End Dental Associates in New York City for her thoughts on the benefits of electric toothbrushes.
A smile is one of the first things people notice about you, so I've always tried my best to take good care of my teeth.
My brother had braces twice, so after my first go, I knew I had to develop good habits. That meant wearing a retainer most nights, brushing my teeth twice a day, dabbling in Crest Whitestrips, and keeping floss with me at (almost) all times. I'm happy to say that for the most part my teeth have stayed pretty straight and stain-free over the years.
But taking good care of your smile is important for more than just first impressions — neglecting your teeth can lead to loads of problems like bad breath and cavities. Even more seriously, poor dental hygiene can contribute a wide array of illnesses counting dementia, gum disease, and diabetes among others.
Visiting your dentist twice a year is important, but on those 363 other days of the year, taking care of those pearly whites is all on you.
The American Dental Association recommends you brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day, and floss at least once in between. You probably already knew that, but the key to clean chompers isn't how much you brush — it's how you brush. Most dentists agree that a manual toothbrush can clean your teeth just as well as an electric toothbrush — that is, when you focus on brushing properly, which means getting every inch of tooth and gum, moving the bristles fast, but not too fast, and making sure you stick it out for the full two minutes. Even as someone who prides themselves on solid oral hygiene habits, I've been guilty of cutting my sessions too short when I'm rushing in the morning and being a lazy brusher when I'm tired at night.
When my manual toothbrush had had its run, an electric toothbrush seemed like an easy fix for a better clean. With all the bells and whistles that work together to keep your teeth plaque-free, really all you have to do is hold the brush. So, when the opportunity arose to test out one of the top electric toothbrushes on the market, the Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart Sonic, I was excited, albeit skeptical. Could a $250 toothbrush really be that much more effective than a more affordable option?
Is an electric toothbrush even that much better than a manual toothbrush in the first place? According to Dr. Hayley Sacks of West End Dental Associates in New York City, it depends. "When you're brushing properly it doesn't matter what you use (manual or electric)," she says, "but most people don't brush with proper technique or for long enough, so I often recommend patients try an electric toothbrush as it encourages us to brush better. Electric toothbrushes are especially important for people with dexterity problems like kids, the elderly, or other people with disabilities." Knowing this, and seeing the high price tag, led me to test out the brush and do a quasi-case study of my own.
What comes with the DiamondClean Smart toothbrush?
The Smart Sonic arrives in what looks more like a box fit for a high-tech speaker than a toothbrush — that's to say it's pretty big. When you open the box, you'll find everything you could ever need from a toothbrush — one brush, four different heads, a USB travel case, a rinsing glass/charger, access to a tracking app, and instructions on how to use everything, including the app that helps you optimize your technique.
Using the toothbrush
When I got the package, I was so excited to use the toothbrush, I barely even looked at the instructions. It was already fully charged and ready for use, so I just slipped on one of the smart heads and turned the brush on. There are two buttons on the brush handle — the power button and the mode button. By pressing the mode button, you can select the optimal mode for your teeth-cleaning needs. Since this is a smart brush after all, the handle can actually tell what mode you desire based on which brush head you're using. So, when I clicked in the whitening brush head, my toothbrush knew to use the whitening setting.
The brush felt great on my teeth — I could feel the oscillating bristles reaching the oft-forgotten nooks and crannies. Suddenly, a bright pink light started flashing on the rim of the handle. I didn't know what it meant, so I stopped brushing. After experimenting with my technique, I came to realize this light was telling me to brush more gently. After some more time gently brushing my teeth, the brush automatically stopped — I guess that was two minutes.
I was so impressed with how my teeth felt after just one use — I felt like I'd just been given a deep-clean by my dentist from a quick two-minute brushing session. I was actually excited to wake up the next morning and brush my teeth — something I usually wouldn't really look forward to.
The DiamondClean smart features
After using the DiamondClean smart brush for about two weeks, it needed to be recharged — when the battery is low, you'll see a blinking battery signal on the brush. I went to get the charger, which was still in the original box. That's when I realized I hadn't been taking advantage of one of the brush's coolest features — the app that helps you monitor, improve, and maximize your four minutes spent brushing each day.
Getting started on the app was a pretty intuitive process. Once downloaded, you create a profile filling out some basic data as well as your tooth-related concerns (e.g., is your main goal to whiten or focus on gum care?). Once that's done, you connect your brush via bluetooth and brush your teeth. This is where things got interesting.
I was a skeptic — I know how to brush my own teeth, I thought, as I waited for the app to download on my phone. I questioned what this app could possibly do other than be a gimmick. Well, I ended up impressed — this app gave me some helpful information that motivated me to become a better brusher. Here's how:
When you start brushing, you'll see a mouth map and a timer on your screen. The map outlines which areas to focus on, and for how long — it split my mouth into six sections, and told me to spend about 20 seconds on each section. The brush has a smart location sensor and tracks movement in real time, so it can tell when you're not following the given directions and will redirect you. When I moved my brush out of the designated brushing range, the app alerted me to use less motion. Similarly, when I brushed any specific area too hard, the app (and the light ring on the end of the handle) alerted me to use less pressure.
When the two minutes is done, the app will use its TouchUp feature to show you any spots you missed. This part was kind of shocking — the mouth map shows the areas you missed in yellow, and I had a lot of yellow. The intention here is to help you see which areas have not been brushed enough, so you can give them a second go. As you clean, you'll see the yellow turn to white on the app, signaling that your teeth have been sufficiently scrubbed. This made me question the effectiveness of my usual brushing methods.
After the final round of cleaning, the app asks if you've brushed your tongue, flossed, and rinsed. Answer yes or no based on what you've actually done — the app keeps this info logged on a calendar, so you can keep track of how often you actually do these extra teeth-cleaning tactics.
The in-depth mouth map not only helped me clean my teeth more effectively in the moment, but made me think about how I can brush more efficiently every time. Seeing the areas you missed kind of functions as a fun little challenge — motivating you to do better next time. And, the compliments I've received on my teeth tell me they really are looking whiter.
The final verdict
Overall, I've loved my experience with the DiamondClean Smart toothbrush thus far. The brush itself gives you a gentle but powerful clean every time. The app leaves nothing to the imagination, and tells you everything you need to know about improving your brushing regimen — it's also very simple to use, with lots of easy-to-follow directions, a particular benefit for those who don't count technology as one of their strong suits. The app will even sense when your brush head needs to be changed, and can automatically order a new one for you.
The charging glass not only looks sleek on a bathroom counter, but ensures that the brush won't topple over — something that always frustrated me about electric toothbrushes in the past. I haven't had the use for the travel case yet, but knowing that I can bring this toothbrush on a trip with me while keeping it clean and charged is a weight off my shoulders — after all, if you're paying for a great toothbrush, you shouldn't have to buy another for a trip.
If you're someone who has trouble getting yourself to brush your teeth regularly, the intuitive, engaging features of this smart brush could help to motivate you. Though, I do think this a great product for anyone looking to up the ante on their brushing routine.
Still, a toothbrush for $250 is undeniably expensive, especially when you compare it to a $5 brush you could get at the drugstore. If you think of this as solely a toothbrush, it is a lot, but if you think of this as a smart wellness device as well, the price may not seem as exorbitant.
Of course, there are plenty of great electric toothbrushes out there at much more affordable prices. Dr. Sacks recommends looking for a brush with the ADA seal of approval first and foremost, as well as a brush with a two-minute timer and a pressure indicator, since many of us brush too hard. Many of my coworkers swear by one you could snag for $50, which is definitely an easier amount to part with.
If you choose to buy it, you can be sure the DiamondClean Smart toothbrush will leave you with a sparkling smile — and more mindful brushing habits for years to come.
Get the Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart electric toothbrush, $250, available at Amazon
Check out our guide to the best electric toothbrushes you can buy.
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