Additional Sonicare features -

The UV brush head sanitizer. / Charging units, designs. / Lithium-ion vs. NiMH batteries. / Travel features.

Various Sonicare models offer different features and options. And you may wonder which ones are important to have. On this page we out line the pros, cons and what-you-need-to-know about the following:


a) The UV brush head sanitizer.

The recharging stand of some FlexCare models has an integrated UV brush-head sanitizer. (The letters "UV" refer to ultra-violet light, which serves as the sanitizing agent.) Sonicare also offers a freestanding version of this unit (model number HX7990).

What does this unit do?

The Philips Sonicare website states that their 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 the above sounds, we must mention the following points.

a) This is a sanitizer, not a sterilizer.

Sonicare calls their product as a sanitizer, as opposed to a sterilizer, because that's what it is. Using it will reduce the number of microorganisms that reside on your brush head (sanitize it) but it won't kill them all (sterilize it).

That means even after using the unit your toothbrush really won't be germ-free. When you brush you will still be exposed to some quantity of bacteria, admittedly however, fewer of them. But any small number of microorganisms can seed a colony.

b) Sanitizing doesn't really protect you from anything.

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 soda can as someone else.)

But this isn't what most of us do. We don't share toothbrushes with others. We just use our own.

So, in the typical case (where you do just use your own brush), there will be microorganisms present but they will only be the same types that already live in your mouth. And there's no evidence that this scenario leads to any specific health problems or concerns (such as re-contamination, oral infections, or other adverse effects).

Is getting a UV sanitizer worth the money?

It's our opinion that spending money on a toothbrush sanitizer isn't necessary. But you do need to exercise some toothbrush common sense (which is free).

  • 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.
  • You should 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, take a look at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of Oral Health website. (And take note of the fact that they don't see a need for toothbrush sanitizers either.)


Sonicare toothbrush batteries: Lithium-ion vs. Nickel-metal hydride.

Most Sonicare models feature a rechargeable lithium-ion battery while a few have a nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) one.

Advantages of lithium-ion batteries.

Between the two types, choosing a Sonicare model that has a lithium-ion battery has some slight advantages.

  • In general, lithium-ion batteries tend to be smaller and lighter than their NiMH equivalents. That means the overall body size of toothbrush designs that use them can be lighter and smaller, which is generally a plus.
  • Lithium-ion batteries charge more rapidly. And the issue of "memory effect" is less of a concern with them (which occurs when a battery is recharged before it is fully empty).
  • Philips Sonicare information states that their models that feature lithium-ion batteries can be used for "up to 3 weeks" on a single charge. In comparison, they suggest that their NiMH models will only run for "up to 2 weeks."

As a disadvantage, lithium-ion batteries are more expensive. Our features review for each of the current models confirms that those that have a NiMH battery tend to cost less.

It's a shame that Sonicare batteries aren't replaceable.

In our opinion, it is a very valid criticism of Sonicare products that their design is one where it does not allow for battery replacement. That means battery failure always equates with toothbrush death (of what is possibly otherwise a fully functional unit).

Recycling instructions.

At that point in time when your toothbrush must be discarded, keep in mind that battery-containing products should be disposed of appropriately (and hopefully the batteries recycled).

The owner's manual of each Sonicare model (as well as Sonicare's website) provides information about removing the battery from the toothbrush's body (a one-time, non-reversible, destroying process).

The Sonicare PowerUp runs on disposable batteries.

Different than all other Sonicare models, the PowerUp (and historically the Xtreme e3000) runs on replaceable, off-the-shelf batteries (AA alkaline). For some people, in some situations, this may be a valuable feature.


Recharging your Sonicare.

Rechargeable models do so by induction. This means that instead of making a direct connection with your toothbrush (like plugging in a wire), you simply sit your toothbrush upright on it's charging unit (stand) and the process just takes place automatically.

The Glass charger.

This is Sonicare's newest twist on charging base design. Instead of placing your toothbrush directly on its charging unit, you place your brush in a glass (that's supplied) that sits on the charger.

The process is still an inductive one. We're unaware of any great advantage of the Glass charger design. The DiamondClean brushes offer this feature.

USB travel case charging.

Some models (Diamond clean for one) come with a "charging" travel case. The idea is that instead of having to take your regular unit a long, the travel case itself can be used to recharge your brush's battery.

A USB cable (included) is used as the electrical source. This can be plugged into a port on your computer or else on a electrical outlet adapter (also included), like you probably use with your phone.

Travel chargers.

Some Sonicare models that have relatively large charging stands have been designed where the actual charging device separates off from the unit. It's size is compact enough for traveling.

With models that don't offer this feature, it's likely that you'll find their charging stand is relatively small anyway.

Multi-voltage charging.

We're under the impression that all Sonicare charging units have a design where they can be used with power sources ranging from 120 to 240 volts A/C.

Despite the charger's compatibility with a variety of voltage ranges, you may need to purchase a plug adapter so your unit can physically be plugged into whatever style electrical outlet you encounter.


Traveling with your Sonicare - Cases.

Many Sonicare models do come with a travel case. (If having one is important to you, make sure to specifically check the packaging of the toothbrush model you plan to buy so you know for certain that one is included.)

[Above on this page we discuss: 1) The DiamondClean USB recharging travel case. 2) Sonicare multi-voltage charging features, a capability that might be important for some travelers.]

Traveling alternatives.

A travel case can be a convenience but a Sonicare can be packed easily enough without one.

  • All Sonicare brush heads (original and replacement) come with a hard plastic protective cap. In lieu of a case, these caps can satisfactorily protect the heads bristles from damage.
  • If you don't have a case, it's probably best to separate the brush head from your toothbrush's body, so to lessen the chance for damage.
  • Brush heads are best stored in a container and location that allows them to thoroughly air dry between brushings.

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

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