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- The Autobrush is a hands-free electric toothbrush that works by cleaning all your teeth at once.
- It’s much gentler than most electric toothbrushes, especially on young teeth.
- However, some dentists aren’t sure if it’s as effective as traditional brushing.
Getting my 4-year-old to brush his teeth is like taking a housecat on a leash walk — it just doesn’t work out most of the time. We end up in a tantrum power struggle over a basic hygiene practice that I know could result in expensive dental work if unresolved.
Then we tried the AutoBrush and the tantrums ended. All thanks to its flashing lights, songs, characters, and general cool-kid vibe that made my 4-year-old ask to brush his teeth again soon after we’d finished.
But despite his enthusiasm, experts have concerns about the efficacy of the brush to truly clean as well as a manual or electric toothbrush.
Though research published by AutoBrush on its website states it’s 27 times more effective at plaque removal than a manual toothbrush, the dentists I spoke to for this review expressed hesitations, mainly around the fit of the brush and its inability to properly mimic real brushing.
Here’s what else they had to say, as well as how the trial run went with the kid’s AutoBrush.
What is the AutoBrush?
The AutoBrush is a handheld, electric toothbrush, that has a U-shaped mouthpiece (like the shape of your teeth) with tiny bristles. It works without much user input aside from putting foaming toothpaste on the bristles and simply holding the mouthpiece in place while it’s in use.
The AutoBrush is available in two main options: basic and Pro. What differs between the two is that the Pro is outfitted with a series of LED lights that supposedly work to improve gum health and kill bacteria. The Pro also comes in a variety of different colors while the basic is only available in gray or white.
You also have the option of choosing a top, bottom, or all-in-one mouthpiece. This ability to select what you want specifically makes the brand’s offerings a bit more versatile, and able to appeal to different users and user preferences.
How it works
The AutoBrush works by placing a foaming toothpaste on its bristles, turning it on, and holding it in place in your mouth for up to two minutes. The brand’s website recommends 30 seconds, 60 seconds, and up to two full minutes depending on the type of cleaning you’re doing.
According to the brand, the AutoBrush targets more tooth areas than a manual toothbrush. It’s also supposed to be better at removing plaque as its bristles are angled to scrub harder-to-reach crevices, whereas traditional toothbrushes have straight bristles.
When asked about these claims, pediatric dentist, Dr. Erin Isaac, expressed some concern. According to Isaac, patients she sees who “have switched to using the Autobrush almost always have significantly more plaque on their teeth than before.”
“The [AutoBrush] mouthpieces don’t often fit well in small mouths, so the rubber [bristles] may not fully contact the teeth,” she tells Insider. “The individual [bristles] don’t move and the whole unit just shakes. This isn’t effective for cleaning teeth, nor does it mimic the circular motions of true toothbrushing.”
Isaac says she also takes issue with the missed opportunity to develop a child’s dexterity through learning to brush manually, and that if they need to switch away from the AutoBrush, they’ll miss this skill later on.
A 4-year-old’s review
If you’ve never interviewed a 4-year-old product tester, you’re truly missing out. My son showed some serious excitement trying this product, including the packaging itself, which plays music, so he was dancing before we even got it all unwrapped.
He was able to assemble the power cord, charging station and dock, and even the mouthpiece almost entirely on his own. Though he wasn’t a fan of the brand’s foaming strawberry toothpaste, (“Yuck,” he says) he loved the buttons, vibrations, and songs.
When I asked what his favorite part was, he said, “The mouth thing. It’s funny because it makes me do this,” and then proceeded to dance around.
He added that it’s the best toothbrush because it “feels good” and is “just regular,” making for a five-star review and experience from his perspective. I noticed that his engagement with the product made me more interested than I initially thought.
Dentist Dr. Gary Silverstrom agrees that this is the main allure of the product. “The only benefit to this device is patient compliance,” he says. “If the child is more apt to use this device to brush than they would with a manual or electric toothbrush, then it’s a good tool.”
However, Silverstrom warned that it can’t offer the same level of cleaning as a toothbrush.
“We’ve proven that angling the brush head properly, with the use of what’s called the modified bass technique, along with flossing regularly, is the most effective preventative process for your teeth,” he says. “The [AutoBrush] is a substitute for not brushing. It’s not a substitute for brushing with a proper toothbrush, manual or electric.”
An adult take
Since my 4-year-old’s opinion about the AutoBrush mainly involved how shiny and musical it is, I also tested it l to get a more complete look at the pros and cons.
At first, I hesitated, because placing the product in your mouth has a bit of the same feel as getting an X-ray at the dentist — there’s a lot of plastic and it seems quite awkward at first. However, the soft bristles and complete fit around my teeth meant it became more comfortable as I got used to it.
The product is gentle on my gums and it did somewhat clean my teeth, though I didn’t feel as fresh and clean as with a manual or electric toothbrush. I ultimately felt it was not intense enough to accomplish a deep clean. Though it seemed like it reached all the spots on my teeth, there wasn’t a strong movement, as the bristles themselves don’t move.
There have been times in my life when a toothbrush designed to be more accessible for those with physical limitations and disabilities would have been helpful. A few years back, a muscular tumor limited my ability to use my arm, so I can see how this product would have been a must-have back then.
For others who go through periods of injury or more permanent physical impairments, the AutoBrush may be a lot easier to use as it doesn’t require you to produce motion with your arms and hands.
The bottom line
After testing the AutoBrush alongside my 4-year-old, I wouldn’t purchase it as a replacement to my manual and electric brushes, especially after talking to dentists about its inability to completely remove plaque.
But, there are certain cases when I would consider it, including having a child who refuses to brush and needs something fun and interactive. Another instance would be if I or my child had a physical disability preventing them from using other types of brushes.
Aside from these scenarios, I’m happy sticking to my other toothbrushes. My 4-year-old, however, has no plans of switching back. Who can argue with a tiger-covered toothbrush that plays songs?