Review - The Sonicare HealthyWhite electric toothbrush.

Sonicare's HealthyWhite line of brushes lies at the transition line between their top and lower-end models.

We're typically not such big fans of Sonicare's higher-end toothbrushes. Our general feelings are that these models can be so flush with features and options that they simply do not represent the best "bang for the buck" in a sonic brush.

The HealthyWhites, however, don't seem to be as burdened with extras as some models. And many of the features they do have can't be found in the lower-end brushes.

» Model names and numbers.

The HealthyWhite line is comprised of the R732 (HX6732, HX6733) and R710 (HX6711) models.

The HealthyWhite R710 is the less full-featured model. It's important to note that it does not have Sonicare's Sensitive operating mode. It also only comes packaged with a single Standard-size brush head, whereas the R732 comes with two. (Be aware that features and model numbers can change, so check the packaging before you make a purchase.)

» What features does the HealthyWhite line offer?

The distinguishing characteristic of the HealthyWhite line of toothbrushes is their Clean and White brushing mode (a brushing action that Sonicare states can help to whiten a person's teeth). They also feature Clean mode, and the line's top model includes a Sensitive mode.

Additionally, these toothbrushes use Sonicare's newer snap-on style brush heads (ProResults, HydroClean), come with a multi-voltage travel charger, have a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and feature Smartimer, QuadPacer and Easy-start functions.

Philips and Sonicare are registered trademarks of Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V.
Easy-start and QuadPacer are registered trademarks of Philips Oral HealthCare, Inc.

Features -

1) Brushing modes.

» The Clean mode.

This setting produces Sonicare's hallmark 31,000-brush-strokes-per-minute brushing action. This very effective tooth-cleansing action (the one we feel most owners should use) is not unique to just HealthyWhite models. All Sonicare toothbrushes, even less expensive ones, offer this equivalent setting.

» The Clean and White brushing mode.

The HealthyWhite line also features what is called Clean and White mode. When this setting is selected, the brush first runs in (full-power) Clean mode for two minutes, followed by 30 seconds of White mode. The White mode is otherwise non-selectable.

Sonicare's intentions seem to be that the user should use the initial two minutes of Clean-mode operation for brushing all of their teeth. For the last thirty seconds, while the brush is running in White mode, the user is supposed to brush the front side of their upper and lower teeth for an extra fifteen seconds each.

Does the Clean and White mode really whiten your teeth?

Sonicare claims that using the Clean and White mode can produce a noticeable ("2 shades whiter") difference in the color of a person's teeth. This may be true but it's probably not for the exact reasons you might expect.

There are two different kinds of "whitening."

With dental-product advertising, it's considered legitimate to refer to two very different methods of producing a color change with teeth as simply "whitening."

1) The first technique has to do with the use of some type of bleaching compound (usually peroxide) that changes the intrinsic color of teeth. This type of whitening has nothing to do with the brushing action of a toothbrush.

2) The other type of whitening refers to the lightening effect created when stain is removed from the surface of teeth. This is the kind of whitening that the HealthyWhite can provide.

How does the Clean and White mode creates its "extra" whitening.

When the HealthyWhite switches to White mode, two things happen.

  1. The vibratory motion of the brush changes to a brushing action that Sonicare evidently feels is better at removing tooth-surface staining.
  2. The user is instructed to brush just their front teeth for 30 seconds longer.

How we interpret things.

It would be our opinion that, between the two factors listed above, it's the extra brushing time that's the most important one. But don't just take our word on it, read on.

What does Sonicare's research state?

As evidence of our opinion, we refer to the findings of two of Philips Sonicare's "data on file" research papers that can be accessed on their website. One evaluated their HealthyWhite model, the other their FlexCare. The articles are:

  • Evaluation of tooth shade change following stain induction and Sonicare HealthyWhite use. - Putt M, Milleman J, Jenkins W, Wei J, Schmitt P, Strate J. Data on file, 2007.
  • Evaluation of tooth shade change following stain induction and Sonicare FlexCare use. - Putt M, Milleman J, Jenkins W, Wei J, Schmitt P, Strate J. Data on file, 2007.

The findings of both of these studies (each of which evaluated a different Sonicare model) drew the exact same conclusion:

...the FlexCare/HealthyWhite (depending on which study's conclusion you are reading) ... "was shown to be effective in removing commonly observed extrinsic stain-forming pigments from tooth surfaces. An improvement of 2 Vitapan Classical shades was seen following 2, 3 and 6 weeks of product use."

Both of these research papers have the same findings?

Our point would be, since both of these toothbrushes were documented as producing the same whitening improvement, yet the FlexCare series of brushes does not offer the Clean and White mode (its "top" speed is simply Sonicare's full-power brushing mode, just like that found on any other model), what's so special about the HealthyWhite's Clean and White mode?

We can't really answer this question. We don't doubt that it does provide some stain-removal advantage. But we would also suggest that it doesn't seem to have been documented as producing a giant benefit over the use of other Sonicare models in their standard full-power (31,000 brush strokes per minute) brushing mode.

» The HealthyWhite's Sensitive brushing mode.

Beyond the Clean and White mode, the HealthyWhite R732 (the higher-end model) also features a Sensitive brushing option, which may be an important feature for some.

» Other HealthyWhite features.

As you would expect to find on any higher-end Sonicare, HealthyWhite brushes feature the Smartimer and QuadPacer functions (timers that help to guide a brusher's activities). And for those who need an introductory period for getting use to using their brush, the Easy-start function.

2) Brush heads.

» The HealthyWhite line utilizes ProResults and HydroClean brush heads.

The HealthyWhite series utilizes Sonicare's snap-on style ProResults and HydroClean brush heads. ProResults heads come in both Standard and Compact (Mini) sizes, the HydroClean only in Standard size. Our brush-heads page provides more details (advantages, disadvantages, comparisons) about different Sonicare brush-head types.

3) Recharging / batteries.

The HealthyWhite line offers the advantage of utilizing a lithium-ion battery, which also helps to make these models smaller and lighter than previous generations of Sonicares. It also comes with a multi-voltage travel charger. We discuss the comparative advantages of these components on our Sonicare power-features page.

4) Other features.

Model-specific problems.

As our brush-head page (see link above) explains, some users report that snap-on heads have come off during use. And, as with other Sonicare models, the HealthyWhite's design does not allow for the possibility of battery replacement in the case that it fails.

Our conclusions about the HealthyWhite line.

After having read the information above, you probably won't be surprised to learn that we personally wouldn't be inclined to buy a HealthyWhite sonic toothbrush just because it offers the Clean and White mode. Evidently, other models should be able to produce the same whitening effect (according to Sonicare's own research), especially if you'll brush with them for an extra 30 seconds like you do with the Clean and White mode.

As an advantage, with the low-end HealthyWhite model you don't have pay for the Sensitive mode feature (this, of course, assumes that you don't need it). And these brushes do feature a multi-voltage charger, a lithium-ion battery and snap-on brush heads, whereas lower-end Sonicares do not.

Sonicare Toothbrushes
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