• Dr. Timothy Smith

Article: Can the Oral-B iO Keep Me out of Trouble at the Dentist?

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

“How often do you floss?”

Most of us get this accusation-laced question from a disapproving dental hygienist while tilted back in the dentist chair while getting tartar scraped from our teeth. Of course, the question implies you practice lax dental hygiene. Millions of people a day across the nation get this question from dental hygienists during routine dental cleaning. The following dialog may also sound familiar.

“I notice some excess bleeding around your gumline.”


“Yes, you really should floss more regularly.”

The hygienist will invariably add, “How often do you brush?”

“Morning, night, and after meals,” you might burble just before the application of the suction hose.

“Hmm, your gums are receding in several places. You should not press so hard when you brush,” the evaluation continues.

Most of us share such a common experience when at the dentist and leave the dentist's office with some dental picks and the firm intention to floss more and not brush so hard. However, even with improvements in flossing and brushing, the above dialog seems doomed to repeat every four to six months. Recently, my hygienist suggested an end to this cycle. The solution lies with the latest artificial intelligence-driven, motorized toothbrush from Oral-B. Apparently, the Oral-B rechargeable toothbrush can save my gums with sensor-driven feedback that corrects brushing pressure. Furthermore, it can also score and record my brushing every day with a smartphone application to chronicle my road to better dental hygiene.

So, I went to BestBuy and picked up two OralB iO series 9 rechargeable toothbrushes (one for me and one for my wife), and I will review the technology in this post. In subsequent posts, I will evaluate the toothbrush's useability and report on how my hygienist reacts to my oral hygiene at my next cleaning.

The Oral-B iO series 9 toothbrush comes with the toothbrush handle, a magnetic charging station, four replacement brush heads, and a chargeable travel case. The Oral-B smartphone application is available for Apple iOS and Android phones through the App Store. The four-step setup instructions in the box were straightforward to follow to get your toothbrush activated, personalized, and connected to the App. In addition, the display on the toothbrush lets you know when the charge hits 100% and will provide feedback on brushing performance with simple smiling, neutral, or frowning emojis.

The technology inside the toothbrush gives it capabilities that separate it from traditional manual toothbrushes. The Oral-B electric toothbrush twists at 8,800 times a minute and vibrates at a high frequency of 40,000 times a minute, according to Animated-Teeth.com. In the article titled “Rotary (oscillating) electric toothbrushes – Braun Oral-B, Rotat-dent, Interplak. – Similarities, differences, capabilities, applications,” the author adds that research conducted by HJ Busscher and others show advantages of high-speed vibrations over manual brushing. The study suggests that high-speed oscillations create vibrations and microbubbles in the mouth that reach out beyond the brush itself to remove plaque in a process called non-contact cleaning.

In addition to the high-frequency agitation for cleaning, the OralB iO incorporates several sensors and artificial intelligence to guide your tooth bushing for optimal cleaning time, complete coverage, and safest pressure. According to OralB.com, the product specifications note that the toothbrush contains a pressure sensor to protect tooth enamel and gums from brushing too hard. In addition, they add, “3D Teeth Tracking and AI Recognition use an interactive color display to help guide you to your best clean for all areas of the mouth.”

With a tiny gyroscope and accelerometer located in the brush, the iO can map your mouth in three dimensions. The gyroscope is a spinning wheel that tells the brush every time it gets twisted or turned. Smartphones have tiny gyroscopes too. They sense when the phone turns from vertical to horizontal and flips the screen accordingly. The accelerometer has a tiny weight that signals when the brush gets moved back and forth. Think of how it feels when riding in a car and the driver slams on the breaks. The pressure you feel against the seatbelt makes you feel the deceleration. The accelerometer works in the same way, producing a signal for the toothbrush. All this data on twisting and acceleration teaches the toothbrush to map all of your teeth.

Every time you brush, the OralB iO uses the map of your teeth to see if you sufficiently cleaned each tooth, and if you did not, it shows on the OralB smartphone application which teeth need more attention the next time you brush. Furthermore, the OralB iO has pressure sensors that feel when you press too hard and let you know with a vibration and a change in color of the ring light on the toothbrush to ease up. Over time the brush will train the user on the best pressure to apply to protect their teeth and gums.

Proper dental hygiene has profound effects on overall health and quality of life, but as the regular lectures from the dental hygienist attest, it appears easier said than done. Recently, my dental hygienist suggested that I try the latest in rechargeable toothbrushes to improve my brushing game. So I bought two of the latest models from OralB for my wife and me to test. The Oral-B iO series 9 represents the newest rechargeable toothbrush in the line of Oral-B offerings and comes with a very high price tag at $299. The brushing technology has advanced features from high-frequency oscillations and vibrations to artificial intelligence-driven 3D tooth mapping and pressure monitoring for thorough and safe dental hygiene. I will report soon on the usability of the iO and then on my report card after my next dental hygiene visit. The very high price tag of the OralB iO series 9 requires comprehensive testing and evaluation of this electric toothbrush. If it could significantly improve dental hygiene to the point of fewer and better visits to the dentist, it may then justify the steep cost.

If you are interested in learning more about the Oral-B iO Series 9, you can find it here. Photo Source: Oral-B

Dr. Smith’s career in scientific and information research spans the areas of bioinformatics, artificial intelligence, toxicology, and chemistry. He has published a number of peer-reviewed scientific papers. He has worked over the past seventeen years developing advanced analytics, machine learning, and knowledge management tools to enable research and support high level decision making. Tim completed his Ph.D. in Toxicology at Cornell University and a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from the University of Washington.

You can buy his book on Amazon in paperback and in kindle format here.