Gadget of the Week: The toothbrush that talks

My long-time dentist, now retired, was never a fan of electric, smart or sonic toothbrushes. He said he couldn’t tell the difference between patients who used these and ones who used traditional brushes.

However, he had only been exposed to the standard electronic devices, where smart meant an accessory that timed how long one brushed upper and lower teeth.

More recently, smarts expanded to connected toothbrushes and phone apps that could both measure and analyse one’s brushing. Can that make a difference?

Well, a number of studies have shown that recent models of electronic and ultrasonic toothbrushes resulted in plaque decreasing by up to 21% after three months of use. That doesn’t sound dramatic, and probably would not have been enough for my dentist to have noticed. But multiply that by several years of use, and chances are that neither the dentist nor the patient would fail to notice the difference.

Further, oral health is a massive focus area for technologist working in this field, and toothbrushes are evolving every year.

Now, inevitably, artificial intelligence (AI) has arrived in the toothbrush. At the CES 2024 tech expo in Las Vegas in January – long a launchpad for consumer health technology – a brand called Oclean emerged with the first of a new generation of AI-powered toothbrushes. And now, mere weeks later, the Oclean X Ultra S has arrived in South Africa.

I was eager to see whether this could be the device that would convince me, if not my dentist.

The first thing one notices, when unboxing it, is the care that has gone into the packaging. This is not merely cosmetic: it showcases the device and its accessories as one removes each successive layer.

Plug in charging stand and place the toothbrush in it, and its standout feature leaps out at you: a built in touch screen intended to provide instant feedback while one is brushing teeth. It’s called a Brushing Health Clover, and it displays time, duration and a score for brushing on the interactive colour screen.

It looks gorgeous, but the moment you start brushing, the main drawback of this device becomes obvious: it’s not practical to look at or operate the touchscreen controls while brushing. I almost wished for the kind of standalone accessory that guides more old-fashioned connected toothbrushes.

But then my toothbrush began talking to me. No, I wasn’t hallucinating, even though no one else could hear it.

The toothbrush has an AI voice guide built in, to give feedback on your brushing, from inside your mouth. It uses bone-conduction technology, meaning that the audio is transmitted via one’s jaw to the ears. It’s not exactly a conversationalist: its’s advice is limited to basic advice and warnings. For example, it warns when one is applying too much pressure, or not giving enough attention to a group of teeth, and gives guidance on how to improve one’s brushing technique.

It really does feel like you have your dentist with you, giving tips on how to make sure that the newfangled technology will meet with his or her approval.

According to IVOhealth, which distributes the Oclean range, the ultrasonic FlexFit brush heads produce up to 84,000 movements per minute with an algorithm called TurboClean. It is powered by a Maglev 3.0 motor, which provides stability and power in the mouth, and offers a choice of 5 modes. A pressure sensor with white and red light also gives simple notifications while the brush is in use.

Most remarkably, its rechargeable battery delivers up to 40 days battery life from a 4.5-hour charge

The toothbrush works in conjunction with the Oclean Care app, which allows for customisation of the brushing experience, or at least personalising one’s routine.

I have little doubt that a combination of the ultrasonic brushes and continually improving technique will make the difference that my dentist would have liked to see.

What does it cost?

Recommended retail price: R3,999 at

What are the biggest negatives?

What are the biggest positives?

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx, editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee.

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