Sonicare features - The UV brush-head sanitizer.

The base (recharging stand) of two Sonicare models, the FlexCare+ HX6972 and the FlexCare HX6932, comes with an integrated UV brush-head sanitizer. (The letters "UV" refer to the fact that ultra-violet light serves as the sanitizing agent.)

Sonicare also offers a freestanding version of this unit, the UV Brush Head Sanitizer HX7990.

Is toothbrush sanitizing really needed?

You may wonder if toothbrush sanitization is important. We take the stance that it is not. This page explains why we have this opinion.

Philips and Sonicare are registered trademarks of Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V.

What does the Sonicare sanitizer do?

Information on Sonicare's website states that their ultra-violet sanitizer kills up to 99% of the bacteria and viruses that can live on a toothbrush.

This includes the bacteria E. coli (most strains are harmless but some do cause food poisoning) and S. mutans (a bacterium that causes tooth decay). It also includes the virus H. simplex (one of the herpes viruses).

Is toothbrush sanitizing really necessary?

As important as all of this sanitizing ability sounds, we'd like to offer the following points.

a) This is a sanitizer, not a sterilizer.

To start with, you should take notice of the fact that Sonicare has labeled this product a "sanitizer," as opposed to a "sterilizer." They've done so because that's exactly what it is. This unit is capable of reducing the number of microorganisms that reside on a brush head (sanitize) but is not expected to kill them all (sterilize).

This means that you can't expect that your toothbrush will ever be regularly and reliably germ-free. You, the toothbrush user, will still be exposed to some quantity of bacteria (however, admittedly fewer of them). But any small number of microorganisms can seed a colony.

b) What are you trying to protect yourself from?

We'll agree there is no question that toothbrushes can harbor microorganisms. And it is a documented fact that sharing a toothbrush can spread microorganisms from one person to another. (So can kissing, or even just drinking out of the same cup or soda can.) But this isn't what most of us do. We don't share toothbrushes with others. We just use our own.

So, in the case of a single person who just uses their own brush, there will be microorganisms present but they will only be the types that already live in that person's mouth. And there is a lack of evidence that shows that the microorganisms involved with this type of situation will lead to any specific health problems or concerns for that person (such as re-contamination of a person's mouth, oral infections, or other adverse effects).

Is having a UV toothbrush sanitizer worth the money?

We would be of the opinion that spending money on a toothbrush sanitizer is really unnecessary. However, the care of any type of toothbrush (manual or electric) does need to involve some common sense.

  • You shouldn't share your toothbrush with others.
  • You should rinse your brush off after you have used it and store it separately from (no contact with) other people's brushes.
  • It's a good idea to allow your brush to thoroughly dry between brushings (even if it means alternating between the use of more than one toothbrush or brush head) because damp environments are more conducive to bacterial growth.

For more information about toothbrush care, here's a link to a page on the federal government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of Oral Health website. Take notice of the fact that they don't see a need for the use of toothbrush sanitizers either.

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