One may not think that the humble toothbrush is a particularly glamorous health device, but if you scour the Dentistry category here on Medgadget, you’ll quickly discover how important oral health is to your overall health. So important is dental health that October in America has been designated National Dental Hygiene Month. To help commemorate this important month, we were given two electric toothbrushes that have evolved into the “smart” category. These smart toothbrushes feature Bluetooth technology and pair with a smartphone app for additional functionality. Today, we’re taking a look at the Kolibree electric toothbrush and the Oral-B Genius 8000 electric toothbrush.
At first glance, both the Kolibree and Oral-B could not look any more different. The Kolibree is a simple white handle with a single button and LED indicator whose shape elegantly tapers as you move up. The Oral-B is a piano black handle accented with black silicone grips. Two buttons and more than half a dozen LED indicators vertically line the front of the brush, as well as a muti-color LED indicator ring that surrounds the collar. Both are plenty ergonomic and comfortable to hold, but the Kolibree is significantly lighter.
The brushes actually use different “brushing” technology to remove plaque: Oral-B’s round head rotates and pulsates, while the Kolibree uses higher-frequency, sonic vibrations. Clinical studies haven’t determined a clear winner in terms of effectiveness, so you’ll ultimately want to go with whichever is more comfortable for you.
Let’s talk about “position detection”, a feature that both brushes tout that allows them to know where they are in your mouth. For Oral-B in particular, it’s a feature that sets the Genius 8000 apart from its other Bluetooth brushes. While both brushes were able to detect their relative position in my mouth, the Kolibree was by far the more accurate one. That’s because the Kolibree brush contains an accelerometer to measure movement and changes in position as you brush. It did a decent job knowing if we were brushing on the left or right side of our mouth, and would almost immediately change what was displayed on the app in response. Perhaps due to the similar brush position, it couldn’t really tell whether we were brushing our upper or lower teeth, however.
On the other hand, we were disappointed with Oral-B’s version of this feature. We learned that that brush lacks an accelerometer and instead relies on the smartphone app that uses the phone’s camera to detect its position. This means in order to use the feature, you must mount your smartphone on your mirror at eye level using the included cradle, align your face to the on-screen guides, and remain in front of your phone while you brush. Even after setting up our smartphone properly and beginning a brushing session, the feature only worked about 50% of the time.
In terms of additional features, Oral-B gets extra points for the variety of brushing modes that can be switched directly on the brush. In addition to “daily clean” you can also choose “pro clean”, sensitive, “3D white”, gum care, and tongue clean. We can’t vouch for certain how well these other modes actually work.
Oral-B also includes a nifty travel case with an integrated charger. Additionally, the travel case can act as a smartphone stand and also has a pass-through USB port so you can charge your phone through it.
If you’re looking for an electric toothbrush that’s friendly for kids, Kolibree’s app is the winner here. With bright colors, cartoon avatars, badges, and, not one, but two games, brushing becomes far less of a chore for them. And the games aren’t too bad, either. The first, “Go Pirate!”, is an endless runner game where you play the role of a pirate collecting gold coins. Moving the toothbrush to another part of your teeth causes the pirate to move to collect the coins on the the other side of the pier. The other game, “Rabbids Smart Brush”, was developed in partnership with popular video game studio Ubisoft, and uses the toothbrush to control the speed of a rabbit running a crazy track-and-field race. For the young at heart, the Kolibree app tracks each of your brushing sessions and gives you a quantitative score based on brushing consistency, time, and quality. One feature we rather liked was the “Check up” screen that shows a map of your teeth and the areas that could use more brushing.
While Oral-B’s app doesn’t have any gamification features aside from “achievements”, it’s no less concerned about your oral health. The first screen you’ll land on is a timer that will start counting down when you turn on the toothbrush. A model of your mouth indicates the section of your teeth that you should be brushing at the time, although it doesn’t actually do any position detection; that feature must be accessed from another screen. And since Oral-B anticipates that you’ll be looking at your smartphone while brushing anyway (see the “Use” section above), the timer screen will display news headlines, oral health tips, and even your phone’s camera roll/photo gallery to help pass the time. It’s a nice feature, although if your brushing habits are like mine, you’ll tend to rely most often on the lights and vibrations on the brush itself to let you know when to change brushing positions. Other screens include reminders to change the brush head and see your dentist, view your brushing session history, and change some of the brush settings, such as the light color and brushing modes. While the app itself is nicely designed, we felt the integration with the brush itself was limited, and the app was designed more as an afterthought. The brush still works perfectly well without the app.
Price and Availability
At $149, the Kolibree is the clear winner here compared to Oral-B’s $275 MSRP. Replacement brush head prices are comparable at about $20 for a 3-pack. However, Oral-B, the older and more well-known brand, can be found at many popular brick-and-mortar retailers, whereas Kolibree can only be purchased online on their website.
Oral-B’s top-of-the-line electric toothbrush is flashy and has some neat features, but its Bluetooth connectivity and smartphone app doesn’t really add enough value to justify the higher price. So don’t count out Kolibree for being the new player in town; this brush was designed with “smart” in mind, and your kids will love it.