Monday, May 14, 2012


Toothbrushes are a huge money-maker for the industry.  Every month, it seems, some new style or type comes out, promising to change your life.

I have some clients in the dental-care industry, and it is interesting to hear about how it works from the inside.   And one of the most fascinating areas of development is in the toothbrush business.   Toothpaste is not really hot - let's face it, there isn't much you can do there that hasn't already been done.

And dental floss?   You can't sell the sizzle on a product that hasn't changed in over 100 years.  Even these modern floss picks have roots back to the 1800's - or at least Patents back that far.

But toothbrushes?    They keep changing those - on a monthly basis.  Fancy rubber handles or spring necks.  All manner of bristle combinations and colors, shapes, sizes, lengths, variable lengths, bend heads, whatever.  Some claim to whiten your teeth.   Others even have bristles that change color when they are worn out!

And then there are the electric jobs.  Various rechargeable kinds that rotate, pulse, throb, vibrate, or whatever.  And now they even have disposable electric toothbrushes!

Someone gave us a disposable electric toothbrush.   They told us to use it for the dog.  But whenever I got near her with that thing, she would run off yelping.   So I  put it in the camper, which grossed Mark out, as he said, "That's the dog's toothbrush!" to which I replied, "She never used it!" which she hadn't.

But perceptions are stronger than words, so he never used it.   I tried it and found it to be a little weak - the AAA battery that powers it (but cannot be removed or replaced) is not very powerful - the motor stalls if you brush hard.  And it has this loose vibration feel to it.   It is not like our rechargeable Braun.

Actually, we have two Brauns.  One died, when water got into it, and I disassembled it and dried it out.  I put it back together and it worked OK, but Mark had gotten another one in the interim.   The other day I dug it out and plugged it in, and it still worked - better than the newer one in fact.

Braun changed the head design on these (no doubt as the Patent on the original circular head had expired).   The wholesale club has heads in the old circular design, for a lot less than Braun charges for the new ones.  So we bought a package of these.  The old heads wear out over time, to the point where the bristles just bend over flat.

Like razor blades, the Braun replacements are not cheap.  But since we can now get these generic heads for it, I guess we will keep the Braun around for a while longer.

Would I buy an electric toothbrush today?   Hard to say.  My Dentist gives me free toothbrushes when I visit, twice a year.  So I hardly ever "buy" a toothbrush - even if the makers of these things claim you should get a new one every 30 days or so.  I have a drawer-full of the free ones from the Dentist, which I used when traveling.

As I noted in the flossing article, the big deal is fighting plaque buildup, and while brushing is an important aspect of this, flossing is even more important, as it going to the Dentist every six months for a good scrape.   I love a good scrape - I can whistle between my teeth after they are done.  My hygienist says I am the only customer they have to looks forward to a visit.  I love going to the Dentist.

Of course, here in Georgia, we see a lot of bad teeth.  Most people are on well water, so they never had the benefit of fluoride when they were younger.   Even the city dwellers here don't have fluoridated water, as the local John Birch Society denounced it all as a Communist plot.  And many admit they never visit the Dentist, and their teeth look predictably bad.

So what kind of toothbrush should you use?   Do what you want - it is like picking the "best motor oil" for your car - everyone has an opinion.   My opinion is that changing the oil once in a while is probably a good thing - anything beyond that is mere style points.

Similarly, with brushing, the cheapest toothbrushes will feel cheap.   But I don't think you need to spend tons of money buying some high-tech job every month or so.   If you had fluoride as a kid, your teeth are probably pretty healthy.  If you floss and brush regularly, and go to the dentist every six months, chances are, they will stay that way.

Fancy handles and tri-tone bristles are not really going to change that underlying formula very much.