Read article on theguardian.com
When I was five, each time I brushed my teeth I was rewarded with a gold star on a homemade chart. It worked out quite well, as I haven’t had a toothpaste-induced tantrum for around 20 years. Toothbrush technology has improved as dramatically as my behaviour since then. A simple stick with some splayed bristles isn’t good enough for the information age – now, the star chart is on your smartphone and every brushing session is recorded via Bluetooth.
The Oral-B Pro 6000 is the Ferrari of toothbrushes. It comes with brush-head holder, travel case, and a wireless LED timer that congratulates you with a smiley face when you’ve brushed for two minutes.
The promotional bumpf says the toothbrush has “more calculation power than the Apollo 12 guidance system”. The bulky handle has a bright blue dashboard to show when it’s connected and rear lights that flash green when it’s time to move to another area of your mouth. If you press too hard, the lights turn red, the bristles slow down and an unhappy face scolds you on the timer.
As with other good electric toothbrushes, the powerful buzzing and oscillating heads of the Pro 6000 make for an excellent clean. The “whitening” setting gives a satisfying rev while the soft “sensitive” brush head makes my teeth feel like they’re being buffed by cherubs who live on the iCloud.
To connect the brush to a phone requires Bluetooth version 4.0, which rules mine out. I borrowed a better model from my datahead uncle and start to record my daily brushing habits with the Oral-B app. I can now see how long I have brushed for over a week and how close I am to beating my “brushing streak” record.
More animated faces and motivational slogans like ‘‘All right! You’re great!” add a strangely warm glow to something I had mistakenly believed to be a rather banal event. The app’s extra features read like a list of incentives for those who need a serious nudge when it comes to oral hygiene. You can win “achievement” trophies for remembering to brush your tongue every day for a week, or build in more allocated brushing time for problem areas. It also provides you with world news and facts, which lead me to sprinkle my uncle’s phone with fluoride flecks while leaning in to read them.
However, it is technical issues, rather than the absurdity of it all, that loses the brush points. The connection between the phone and toothbrush is relatively unstable and cut out at random. The Bluetooth function means that the handle takes a tedious 24 hours to charge and in my experience it lost power far quicker than the advertised 10 days.
Once, the brush’s power cut out at 1:56 and I only got a three-star rating, and no smiley face. I had to suppress my five-year-old tears and resign myself to old-fashioned hand power. I’d probably continue to use the brush for its cleaning credentials, even if I’m not going to be uploading my brushing stats to Facebook any time soon. And I can’t deny the twinge of pride I felt each time the smiley face appeared – perhaps the age of the adult star chart really is upon us.