Additional Sonicare 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:
- The Sonicare UV brush head sanitizer. - What does it do? Is it necessary to have?
- Charging units. - Glass, travel, travel-case (USB) charging units. Voltage ranges.
- Battery types. - Lithium-ion vs. NiMH. Advantages and disadvantages of each.
- Battery replacement. - Possible options.
- Travel features and cases.
The UV brush head sanitizer.
The recharging stand of one of the FlexCare Platinum models still features an integrated UV brush-head sanitizer. (The letters "UV" refer to ultra-violet light, which serves as the sanitizing agent.) Sonicare also offers freestanding versions of this unit (HX6160/D, 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, see comments section below).
- 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.
Can you fly with a Sonicare that has a lithium-ion battery?
The FAA places restrictions on the size of lithium-ion batteries that passengers can carry. The cutoff point (checked or carry-on baggage) for consumer products appears to be 100 watt-hours per battery (FAA.gov).
What size are Sonicare lithium-ion batteries?
We checked the replacement battery offering of three different online retailers for the Flexcare (a product that's relatively new, yet old enough that there's a market for replacement batteries).
All three sell a 3.7 volt, .8 amp-hours lithium-ion replacement. Per the FAA.gov web page above, the equation for calculating watt-hours is:
- 3.7 volts X .8 amp-hours = 2.96 watt-hours
Extrapolating on that calculation, one could easily conclude that Sonicare toothbrushes fall below the 100 watt-hour threshold with ease and therefore should be allowed in both carry-on and checked baggage.
Replacing the batteries in your Sonicare.
We consider it a very valid criticism of Sonicare products that they're not designed for routine battery replacement by the brush owner. Because of this, battery failure generally equates with toothbrush death (of what might otherwise be a fully functional unit).
Battery replacement is possible.
If you've determined that what your brush needs is a new battery, you do have some options if you want to pursue them.
a) Buy a replacement battery.
It's easy enough to find websites or eBay stores that sell replacement rechargeable batteries for various Sonicare models. They typically describe how to make the swap. We've also seen a number of YouTube videos that explain the process too.
As far as skills go, doing the work isn't hard but it's not easy either. You need a few tools (a pair of vice grips) and the ability to use a soldering iron. Don't buy a battery until you've viewed a video and really think you're capable of performing the work.
b) Use a replacement service.
We've also run across some websites and eBay stores that offer battery replacement as a service. You send your brush in, they return it to you with a new battery installed.
We don't have any first-hand experience with using either approach but applaud anyone who seeks to circumvent Sonicare's intention of planned-obsolescence. If you have any experiences to share, please leave a comment below.
Either type of repair will involve breaking factory seals. And because of this it's likely that your brush won't be quite as water resistant as it was previously. So take precautions afterward so to maximize the lifespan of your rejuvenated brush.
At that point in time when your toothbrush, or a battery you've replaced, must be discarded keep in mind that these items 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). This type of design avoids the problem of battery failure causing the premature death of the brush.
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.
Some Sonicare models that have relatively large charging bases have a design where the actual charging unit can be separated off. That way when you go on a trip you can just take the smaller "travel" charger itself.
Some brushes don't offer this feature. But if not, take a close look. Often the charging stands of these models are relatively small anyway thus making traveling with them easy enough.
Charging best practices.
The Sonicare manuals we've seen state that it's OK to leave your brush on it's charger when not in use (this is true for both lithium-ion and NiMH batttery models). And per these same documents, it's suggested that it can take up to 24 hour for lithium-ion and 48 hours for NiMH battery models to fully charge up.
We'd take issue with the recommendation to leave your toothbrush on it's charger around the clock. We get that it's important to keep a brush adequately charged so it operates at maximum effectiveness. But depending on what type of battery your model has, there are some common best practices that should help to extend its life. We discuss them below in the comments section.
We're under the impression that all Sonicare charging units are designed to work with power sources ranging from 100 to 240 volts A/C. This information can be confirmed by looking on the bottom of your toothbrush's charging base.
Despite the fact that the charger is compatible with a wide range of voltages, 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.]
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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