Oral-B electric toothbrush features (Updated April 2016) - a) The Bluetooth / Smartphone app. b) The wireless Smartguide unit.
This page explains various features and capabilities of the Oral-B rechargeable toothbrush line.
- The Smartguide/Bluetooth connectivity (with smartphone app) is a collection of features only found on higher-end brushes (the 7000 and 5000 models).
- Except for the Vitality, all Oral-B rechargeables have a brushing/quadrant timer and excessive brushing pressure indicator.
- Here's information to know about Oral-B recharging (including best practices), charging units and options for battery replacement.
The Bluetooth connectivity / Smartphone app.
Note: It used to be that Oral-B models would come with either the Bluetooth/Smartphone app capability or the SmartGuide unit (or else neither). Nowadays these two features come bundled together.
What does having Bluetooth connectivity do?
The Oral-B Bluetooth option allows your toothbrush to communicate with an app installed on your smartphone (iPhone or android) to give you real-time feedback about your current brushing session and past history. The app is free and can be downloaded from the usual places (iTunes, Google Play).
Oral-B would suggest that the phone app helps to motivate your brushing habits, as well as improve your session's effectiveness and safety.
What type of details does the app report?
The information shown on your phone includes: a) The brushing timer. b) Quadrant indicator and timer. c) Toothbrush mode setting. d) Excessive pressure warning.
Note: Pretty much all of this information is a duplication (albeit in a nicer visual form) of what your toothbrush already indicates to you via sound, light or vibration.
Special phone app features.
- Using the app, you can customize your toothbrush's brushing timer by configuring additional seconds for those areas of your mouth (quadrants) that require extra cleaning.
- The app displays your brushing history (number of sessions, session duration, assorted other statistics) over time. Up to 6 months of data can be stored. Sessions less than 30 seconds aren't included in the tally.
- The app can be configured to remind you to floss and brush your tongue after each brushing session. It can also remind you when it's time to replace your brush head.
- To help with entertainment and productivity while you brush, it displays news headlines, your calendar and weather information.
Is the Bluetooth/Smartphone app a valuable feature to have?
- For people who rely on a brushing timer, the fact that you can use the app to extend its duration and customize when its quadrant timer signals is a nice, possibly important, feature.
(Just so you know however, once an Oral-B's brushing timer has signaled completion the toothbrush doesn't automatically turn off. So you can, even without customization, just continue to brush for longer if you want. It just won't be a timed event.)
- For lackadaisical brushers, being able to review their brushing history could serve as motivation to brush more regularly or for longer.
- If your kids are problem brushers, the app might provide a way of helping to keep track of what their habits actually are. Also, as a means of motivation the app lets the user win "trophies," like having performed 7 consecutive days of brushing.
Advantage: Your child will have to brush for at least 30 seconds for their session to even be recorded.
Disadvantage: Just because the app detects the brush running doesn't necessarily mean that it's in their mouth.
- As mentioned above, besides the customized timer and brushing history features, the app reports little to you that your toothbrush doesn't already indicate to you on its own.
- Before you make this option the sole feature that you've based your purchase decision on, you should read the reviews for the Oral-B app on the iTunes and Google Play websites.
Doing so can give you an idea of the kinds of problems that other people have with using it (the reviews aren't universally positive). User satisfaction possibly varies with the platform (android vs iPhone).
- The news, calendar, weather and entertainment feature is as unimpressive as you might expect. By creating it Oral-B has found a way to help you burn through your monthly data allowance, just by using your toothbrush.
(2 minute brushing sessions X 3 times a day X 30 days a month = 3 hours of additional connectivity.)
Is it important to buy a model that has this feature?
If having the ability to customize the duration of the quadrant brushing timer, keeping track of brushing sessions overtime or the "trophy" motivational feature are useful items in your application, then yes.
Otherwise, we don't see why this would be considered to be a vital option. If you just need a longer brushing duration, why not use the timer that's already on your phone. You don't need an app for that.
A cost comparison.
Using Oral-B's suggested retail prices, bumping up to the first model that has the Bluetooth/Smartphone app feature will cost you roughly $60 more. That's in the neighborhood of the cost of 2 year's supply of replacement brush heads.
The wireless SmartGuide unit.
The Oral-B SmartGuide is a stand alone unit that communicates wirelessly with your toothbrush. It's not a control or a touch screen, it simply reports information to you via a LCD display.
In the current line up, the Oral-B's that feature this unit (7000 and 5000 models only) also include the Bluetooth connectivity/Smartphone app feature discussed above. That creates a lot of redundancy in what's reported to you as you brush.
- When the toothbrush is in use, the unit displays:
a) The brushing timer. b) The quadrant indicator (the dashed circle on the unit's screen). c) An excessive brushing pressure indicator. d) The brushing mode in use.
- When the toothbrush is not in use the unit serves as a clock and shows the time of day.
Oral-B Smartguide unit.
- The brushing timer can be set to count either up or down.
After counting down, the timer will automatically reverse and start counting back up. That way if you decide to brush for longer, you can keep track of how long.
- The unit displays a circular quadrant indicator. This helps you to keep track of which 1/4th of your mouth you should be brushing at the moment.
- The Smartguide is not rechargeable like your toothbrush. It runs on 2 disposable AAA batteries. Oral-B states that they should keep the unit running for about 1 year.
Is the Smartguide an important feature to have?
It's easy enough to dismiss a true "need" for having the SmartGuide unit. That's because so much of the information it relays is already signaled to you by your toothbrush via various sounds, lights or vibrations.
Having said that, some users may find that having this information relayed to them visually is beneficial.
- We do see how being able to track how long you've brushed for after the 2 minute timer has lapsed could be a useful.
- And if someone who brushes via quadrants actually has trouble keeping track of which one they should be on, the "quadrant circle" would be a help too.
- As a point of interest, Oral-B actually did a study to determine how the use of a remote timer (the SmartGuide) affected user's brushing habits.
They determined that using one encouraged users to brush for at least 2 minutes and to maintain a stricter brushing regimen.
We will point out however that the study period only ran for 30 days. A time frame during which we'd expect that the novelty of using the Smartguide hadn't worn off yet.
A cost comparison.
Using Oral-B's suggested retail prices, opting for the lowest-end model that has the Smartguide feature will cost you roughly $60 more. As mentioned above, that's about the same amount as 8 replacement brush heads (2 year's supply).
Oral-B brushing and quadrant timers.
All of the toothbrushes making up our all-models list come with a brushing timer.
- For the most part, this is a 2 minute one. (When a brush is set to Deep Clean brushing mode, the timer extends to 3 minutes. Only the 7000 and 5000 models feature this mode.)
- As the timer runs, its quadrant feature signals 30 second intervals (45 seconds when set on Deep Clean.) (The Vitality models don't offer a quadrant timer.) See below for how this is used during brushing.
The signal that's used varies by model but is typically a beep or stuttering sound coming from the toothbrush.
- Unlike some other brands of toothbrushes, once an Oral-B's brushing timer has lapsed the brush continues to run (it doesn't automatically shut off). That means you can seamlessly continue brushing for longer if you want. This is a nice feature.
How to use the quadrant timer.
- Imagine your teeth in terms of quadrants (e.g. upper right, lower right, lower left, upper left).
- As you brush, when each 30 second quadrant signal sounds off, you advance to the next quadrant in your brushing plan, brushing it until the timer signals you to advance again.
- There's nothing really special about brushing this way. It just helps to insure that you don't overlook brushing any one area for an adequate amount of time.
Customizing the quadrant timer with the Bluetooth/Smartphone app.
The brushing/quadrant timer of toothbrush models that feature the Bluetooth/Smartphone app can be extended (see above).
The Oral-B pressure control feature.
Most mid and higher-end Oral-B electric toothbrushes feature an excessive brushing pressure indicator.
While the specific design of this feature varies by model, in general when your brush detects that excessive pressure is being used:
- It signals via a light, sound and/or makes a change in your brush's brushing action that you'll feel or hear.
- Toothbrushes equipped with the Smartguide or Bluetooth/Smartphone app features also show a signal on their screens.
Brushing with excessive pressure can cause tooth wear, gum tissue abrasions and theoretically even gum recession. It will also tend to wear out brush heads prematurely.
In regard to gum recession, studies have shown that the use of either Sonicare (McCracken 2009) or Oral-b (Rosema 2014) powered brushes do not place the user at risk of damage [page references]. And for that reason we don't favor one brand over the other, despite the fact that Sonicare products do not offer this same type of warning system.
As a best practice, when you brush with an electric toothbrush just hold it in contact with your teeth and let it do all of the work. There's no need to press hard or scrub.
Recharging your Oral-B.
Oral-B rechargeable toothbrushes charge by way of induction. This means you simply set them on their charging stand, no direct connection (like plugging in a wire) is made.
All Oral-B's feature a battery charge indicator, although its design (level of sophistication) varies by model.
- Some simply indicate that the unit has charge enough to perform (or not).
- Others give you an idea of the actual level of charge the brush still holds. This may be an important feature for people who want to travel without taking their charger.
Oral-B states that you can help to insure that your toothbrush's battery will maintain maximum recharging capacity by using it straight through (multiple sessions, no charging in between) until it's fully discharged. They suggest doing this at least once every six months.
120 volts only.
It bears mentioning that the charging unit that comes with an Oral-B product is only designed for use with the electrical system that is predominant in the country/area in which it was bought.
That means USA/Canada models are intended for use only with 110 volt systems. Units bought in other countries (such as European ones) are typically designed just for 220 - 240 volt ones. (In comparison, Sonicare products feature multi-voltage charging units.)
You'll have to check the specifics of the product you own. The voltage range yours has been designed for is printed on its base. Those specifically marked "100 - 240 volts" can be used globally without the need for a voltage converter. All others will require a converter to operate on any electrical system other than the one they were designed for.
Replacing the batteries in your Oral-B toothbrush.
The design chosen by Oral-B for their rechargeable toothbrushes is one where the batteries housed inside aren't intended to be replaced by the consumer (at least not in a simple, straightforward way). That means battery failure generally correlates with unit death.
(Note: Oral-B does sell "battery operated" toothbrushes, meaning models that run on replaceable off-the-shelf disposable batteries. Our website doesn't recommend the use of these types of units because the brushing action they create is subpar compared to that of Oral-B's rechargeables.)
Battery replacement options.
We have run across some websites and eBay stores that appear to offer replacement rechargeable batteries for various Oral-B models. While we have no first-hand experience in dealing with them, what they offer seems to fall into one of the following two categories.
- Some sites appear to just sell the replacement batteries themselves, implying that you the consumer perform the repair task on your own.
Typically the website will provide instructions. We've also run across some YouTube.com videos that demonstrate how to perform this procedure. At minimum, you'll need to be proficient with using a soldering iron to make the switch.
- Other companies state they offer battery replacement as a service. You ship your inoperable toothbrush to them. They make the repair, check the outcome and then return it to you.
It seems to us that if the route of battery replacement is chosen, afterward it's unlikely that your brush will retain its original level of resistance to moisture (factory seals have been broken). Taking extra precaution in that regard should help to extend the lifespan of your repair.
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