This AI-Powered Toothbrush Is Like a Fitness Tracker For Your Mouth

By Victoria Song on at

Smart devices are supposed to be better than dumb ones. By the nature of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or some kind of companion app, you’re theoretically getting something extra for all that money you’re plopping down. Smart lights are programmable, for instance. By that logic, the smart Oral-B Genius X should be more than just an electric toothbrush.

Oral-B Genius X

What is it?
A toothbrush with artificial intelligence
Price
£170; £180 for the Genius X Luxe
Like
Squeaky clean mouth. Pressure sensor alerts you when you're brushing too hard.
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The app is jank. You don't get real actionable insights.

It sort of is. The difference between the Genius X and other electric toothbrushes is it’s like a fitness tracker for your mouth. You can monitor how long you brush, how hard you brush, and what areas you covered. There’s artificial intelligence built-in so the Genius X can evaluate your brushing style, but you can also manually track things like brushing your tongue, flossing, bleeding gums, and whether or not you used an oral rinse. You can view your results over months, embark on “journeys” (e.g, if you want blinding white teeth, you can select a two-week whitening journey), and unlock achievements. Like I said, a fitness tracker for your mouth.

I subject myself to all sorts of self-quantification for the blog. I can honestly say that doing it for my teeth has been the weirdest experience of them all. Part of that is because brushing my teeth is a habit I don’t really think about. I wake up, roll over, beg my pets to shut the fuck up, and stumble bleary-eyed into the bathroom for my morning routine. That involves sticking toothpaste onto a toothbrush, flossing, and swishing around some Listerine. Every six months, I go to the dentist and they admonish me for not being a perfect flosser. (“You don’t have to floss all your teeth,” my dentist says with a look, “Just the ones you want to keep.”) At night I do the same thing, and truthfully, probably put more effort into my 8-step skincare routine.

So having to drag my phone into the bathroom, open up the Oral-B app, and watch my phone as I brushed felt odd. I can’t tell you the number of times I’d start brushing, just to go “Oh shit!”, and scramble out of the bathroom to find my phone. It’s been a week of intense side-eye from my partner, who while used to my job, repeatedly asks me, “What is the point of all this again? Why would anyone want this?”

It’s a fair question, especially since the Genius X costs a hefty £170, which is a lot for a toothbrush. (Colgate’s AI toothbrush costs a mere £90.) The whole point of the Genius X is healthy teeth and gums. To that end, there’s a lot going for it.

So many modes. They range from daily care and sensitive, to whitening and tongue brushing. Switching between them, however, made the app seem to discard my session. Photo: Victoria Song (Gizmodo)

Forcing myself to use the app made me aware that perhaps, I was not spending enough time brushing my teeth with my regular toothbrush. The American Dental Association recommends people spend at least two minutes brushing twice daily to remove plaque, but according to a 2009 study, the average time Americans spent brushing is only 45 seconds. Two minutes of brushing can feel like a long time, but I noticed it took me a bit longer to actually get 100 per cent coverage – something like 2:30, or even three minutes. You don’t have to open up the app to use the Genius X; the brush can store data and will upload your sessions when you sync up later. But, the sessions where I didn’t open up the app were on average, much shorter at about 1 minute, 15 seconds. Turns out, our innate sense of time isn’t that great.

Another helpful bit is the Genius X will flash red when you’re brushing too hard. I took a brushing assessment and apparently, I use way more pressure on the right side of my mouth than I do the left. I imagine that’s because I want my teeth to feel clean and look whiter, but apparently that’s just a recipe for receding gums and worn enamel.

The Genius X will glow red if you’re brushing too hard. Photo: Victoria Song (Gizmodo)

But all the tracking aside, how effective was this £170 toothbrush at doing its number one job – removing plaque? To test that out, I ordered some dental disclosure tablets. If you don’t know what the hell those are, they’re the little disgusting tablets they give you when you’re a kid to preach the dangers of plaque and poor brushing habits. You chew them up, swish the weird tablet-saliva mixture in your mouth, and spit out the rest. What you’re left with is horrifying, humiliating evidence of how much plaque is sitting there on your teeth and how bad you are at brushing.

First I brushed with the Genius X for 2 minutes, 31 seconds. The Oral-B app told me I’d had 100 per cent coverage, with a grade of 97 per cent for brushing (I had a few seconds of too much pressure). Then I chewed up the tablet, spit some disgusting purple swill down the drain, and checked the mirror. Not bad! Most of the remaining plaque was on one or two of my front teeth, and areas between teeth usually covered by flossing. It wasn’t the 100 per cent I was promised, but it was pretty darn close – and now we all have this wonderful cursed image to look at.

Happy Halloween! Enjoy this cursed teef tablet photo. It was not my idea but I’ll do anything for the blog. Photo: Victoria Song (Gizmodo)

My main beef is with the £170 price tag. I don’t think the Genius X’s strengths merit it. At least not yet. For a toothbrush that’s supposed to give you more data about how you brush, I found the app to be half-baked. You can’t really view individual sessions aside from your most recent one. That seems like it was in an effort to keep things simple, as you can view aggregate data over weeks and months, but it’s a bit frustrating. I ran into an issue where after switching brushing modes, my session was completely erased. When I finished, my 2+ minutes of brushing in the whitening mode simply disappeared and I was left with a 30-second session in tongue-brushing mode that was discarded for being too short. I reached out to Oral-B, but was told that changing modes shouldn’t have ended a session. Except it did. Multiple times. It’s possible that’s a software bug, and Oral-B is investigating the matter.

Also, while it was nice that the Genius X comes with a travel charging case, that alone can’t possibly make up its £170 price tag. And for that amount of money, I wasn’t exactly impressed with the built-in timer. Like other electric Oral-B brushes, it vibrates every 30 seconds and three times at the two-minute mark. Except, I wasn’t quite aware that’s what it was doing – it felt more like a mild stutter than a proper alert. Plus, that’s not a feature worth a premium price tag. You can find plenty of other similar toothbrushes on Amazon for a lot less, too.

Don’t judge my bathroom or skincare collection. Photo: Victoria Song (Gizmodo).

Given that no brushing session is likely to 100 per cent get rid of plaque, and you’ll still have to floss and swish anyway, £170 is a high ask for an AI toothbrush. Arguably, if you just had the built-in pressure warning and a timer, you could conceivably get similar results with a much cheaper electric toothbrush. This is especially true since I didn’t ever get truly personalised advice. What I was expecting was something like, “Hey Victoria, you spend the least time brushing your front teeth. Spend more time on those pearly whites!” or “Hey Victoria, you’re over-brushing your back molars! Keep it moving!” Even a breakdown of how long I spent brushing each section of my mouth would’ve been more illuminating than just averages of my overall time spent brushing. I know I spent an average of 2:26 brushing per session, the AI says I averaged 100 per cent coverage each time and averaged nine seconds exerting too much pressure. Is that good? What am I supposed to do with that? I don’t know.

If you happen to have an extra £170 just sitting around in your couch cushions and you love oral hygiene, the Genius X does make your mouth feel squeaky clean. But, so has every other electric toothbrush I’ve ever used. Considering the iffy app experience and the not-so-comprehensive data, I suspect you’d get similar results with a cheaper electric toothbrush, or an egg timer. Would it be as good as the Genius X? Probably not, but sometimes good enough is well, good enough.

README:

  • An AI toothbrush! Monitors where you brush, how long you brush, and how hard you brush.
  • Costs a whopping £170. Comes with a charging travel case and extra brush heads.
  • The app is half-baked and needing your phone to brush your teeth is annoying.
  • Doesn’t get rid of plaque 100 per cent, but your teeth will be squeaky clean!