IF BRUSHING YOUR teeth was easy, perhaps we wouldn’t have so many problems with them.
91 percent of American adults have had a cavity, according to the CDC. Five percent of adults under 65 have no teeth at all.
Colgate’s new electronic toothbrush aims not just to get you brushing more, but to get you brushing better. By tying a smart toothbrush “with artificial intelligence” to a mobile app, the goal is to direct you to any flaws in your technique while ensuring you brush long enough on the whole.
The E1 hardware is decidedly simple. Unlike some brushes which are festooned with buttons and options, the E1 has only a single power button, with no user-adjustable brushing modes. It’s kind of refreshing not to have to make a decision about brushing power first thing in the morning, though for my tastes, the overall force of the E1 is on the low side. A simple charging base connects to wall power. A green light on the brush handle—so bright I had to turn it to face the wall so as not to act like a beacon shining into the bedroom next door—is your only status indicator.
The sonic-style vibrating brush is quite slim and svelte, which makes it very easy to manipulate inside your mouth. With its small brush head, getting hard-to-reach areas, like the backs of the incisors or in between teeth that may not be perfectly aligned, is easier than with many electrics. Overall, the brushing experience feels complete and thorough, but some users may be itching for a little deeper action.
Of course, the real magic here is in the E1’s app, a surprisingly capable system that you might actually use for more than a week. While other brushes come with apps designed to direct you where to brush, they can be overbearing and tough to use, often relying on your phone’s camera to observe your technique. The E1 uses Bluetooth and positional data to relay info about where you’re brushing to the app. It’s surprisingly effective; it can detect in real time which of the 16 “brushing zones” inside your mouth you’re currently scrubbing.
You can see this in action in one of the four brushing modes within the app, two straightforward modes that display a 3-D toothscape and indicate where you should brush, and two games designed for kids but completely appropriate and not at all weird for a 46-year-old man to use. Out of all of these, I found the default Coach+ system to be the most effective at encouraging good brushing habits, though the app still needs quite a bit of work on the whole. One of the game modes, called Go Pirate!, mysteriously never worked at all, and another game, Rabbids, inexplicably showed some of the dialogue in French. In more general terms, while the app is good at digesting your most recent brushing session, it doesn’t keep a detailed history of them, so the next time you brush, the prior session vanishes.
One particularly nifty feature: The E1 will collect data even if you don’t use the app every time you brush. Once your device is in range, the app syncs to the brush automatically and reports on your performance. This didn’t always work for me, but as with the aforementioned problems, I presume this is an issue of an app that remains a work in progress.
As noted above, Colgate claims that the E1 is loaded with artificial intelligence. This is manifest, per the company, in the form of a “learning algorithm [that] develops brushing recommendations based on your individual brushing patterns and shares them with you via the app to improve your brushing performance.” But in reality, while the app is good at grading an individual brushing session, there’s nothing in the system that I would judge as “brushing recommendations” delivered over the long run.
That said, for $99, the E1 packs a ton of value into its package. That price makes it one of the most affordable electronic toothbrushes on the market, particularly among toothbrushes that include a mobile app. While it lacks frills like a carrying case and a cleaning system, it’s still an all-around solid package that makes it well worth considering for your e-brushing needs.