A greener buzz?

When I was young, electric toothbrushes were something we laughed at.  Imagine being too lazy even to wiggle a toothbrush up and down without powered assistance! But as an adult, I discovered that most dentists now thought they were rather good, and recommended them.  

Electric toothbrushes did a better job of cleaning in general, they said, and the smaller head would get into places that manual toothbrushes wouldn’t reach.  Perhaps, I thought, gadget enthusiasts like me shouldn’t feel embarrassed about actually trying one.  I wouldn’t have to admit it to anyone..

“There’s a huge range”, I remember my dentist telling me. “Don’t go for the ones with silly prices and dozens of bells and whistles.  40 quid or so is probably about right.”

So, for a while, that’s the kind of thing I used.  They’re probably about 50 or 60 quid now.  They have a rechargeable battery, sit on a base that charges it inductively, and have a simple timer to help you spend the right amount of time brushing.  You know the kind of thing.

But one thing about them always bugged me: the batteries were rubbish.

Long before the motor or the casing gave up the ghost, the built-in, non-replaceable battery would die, or stop holding enough charge even for one brush, and the whole thing would have to go in the bin.  Then I’d buy a new one, which came with its own charging base, so the previous base, and cable, and plug – they all went in the bin too.

This was not very good for my wallet, and a great deal worse for the environment.

So I expect you will laugh, gentle reader, when I tell you that what changed my purchasing habits was brushing my dog’s teeth.  Yes, our spaniel gets her teeth brushed every night, and she enjoys her chicken-flavoured toothpaste, but won’t tolerate brushing for very long, so we got her an electric brush, too, to make maximum use of the time available!

We weren’t going to buy her any big 60-quid devices, though, so we looked online for ones designed for children, and Tilly now has a children’s Oral-B toothbrush.  It’s pink and blue and I think it has fairies or princesses or unicorns on it, but she doesn’t seem to mind.  

And as we used this, a few things struck me:

  • The motor mechanism looked as if it was just the same as my own expensive one.
  • It took the same brush heads.
  • It used replaceable AA batteries.  I had plenty of rechargeable Eneloop AAs.  (Take a look at my post from about 10 years ago to see why I like those. I’m still using much the same system now, and most of the batteries I had back then are still in use.)
  • This also meant I didn’t need to have charging bases and cables in the bathroom.
  • It didn’t have a timer.  But I could count elephants.
  • It cost about one quarter of the price.

And so I now have, and can recommend, a very basic Oral-B battery-powered toothbrush. Currently £14.99 on Amazon.  It has lasted longer than my previous expensive ones, and the two AA batteries hold their charge way longer than the built-in ones ever did.  Occasionally, I take them out to charge and swap in some fully-charged ones from my drawer — that’s why I love Eneloops and similar rechargables: they stay fully-charged in the drawer — and freshly-charged batteries seem to last for weeks.

Since I got this, some years back, nothing has gone in the bin except the occasional elderly brush head, and when it does eventually die, it’ll be far less wasteful than something that takes its batteries and charging base to the grave with it.

Oh, and best of all? Mine doesn’t have any princesses or unicorns on it.  Tilly is still bitter about that.

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    I did hear a nice chat with somebody who had linked their children’s toothbrushes to their home automation system, so the kids only got certain rewards/treats if the appropriate brushing had been done… I think it was a points-based system.


I was a clinical dentist for many years and still work within the profession. I advocated the use of powered toothbrushes as did my wife, a dental hygienist, the Oral B range were our favourite and we would recommend them to our patients, and sell the basic models in our practice. We used them ourselves and still do. The simpler the design the better, the more there is to confuse the user, or to go wrong, the greater the chance there is the tool will stop being used. One argument for rechargeable was the “run out of batteries’ excuse but you are quite correct to suggest rechargeable batteries.
The main drawbacks with a manual toothbrush are twofold. Firstly dexterity, most people are not familiar with their own mouths so develop a habit of missing areas that are more difficult to reach (watch any scene in a TV or a film where ‘normal’ ie non-dental people are brushing to see what they miss). Secondly, whilst I am usually an advocate for keep things as simple as possible but no simpler, I take issue you with the need for a timer, we are all tired at night or in a hurry in the morning so a two minute timer works to make them focus on what they are doing, most of us are not as motivated as you, or just lose count.
As for the linking their childrens’ toothbrushes to the home system for rewards, the resourcefulness of childhood means that many rewards will be earned by turning the brush on but not necessarily putting in the mouth – messy if there is toothpaste on the brush .
…..and don’t start me on cleaning in-between teeth, tongue surface etc, except to say there isn’t a mouthwash that will replace mechanical cleaning….and spit but don’t rinse….

The battery in the Oral-B handle I’ve been using for the last few years is starting to need charging more than once a week, so I’ve been keeping a look out for a replacement so this article has come at a good time. Thanks!

I’ve probably had it well over a decade but only started using it daily a few years ago. I’m not sure how long these things last for other people but I think I’ve done well because I always run it down completely before charging because I don’t even have a shaver socket in my bathroom, so I have to leave it in the kitchen!

I’ve also adopted a similar rechargeable battery system to you, taking your recommendations for the batteries, charger and GPS logger from your blog about 12 years ago. Thanks for that!
I am on my second batch of AAAs in that time tho’. The original ones still work but aren’t quite as good as the fresh ones: I can no longer get 2 days GPS logging from them but they’re still quite full after 1 day.

Thanks for the tips!

Oh, and to your question on your linked blog:

will be interested to hear how you find the Pro versions.

I hardly ever used them. I had 4 of them and the AMOD GPS takes 3. They last longer than the regular Eneloops but not a full day longer so they’re not any more useful in practice.

Earlier this week I took them out of the draw for a refresh charge. They seemed to charge fine but then didn’t work in my label printer. …so now they’re sitting back in the charger on a refresh cycle. If I can revive them they’ll probably end up in the label printer on a long term basis.

Those used electric toothbrush heads, and toothpaste tubes, don’t have to go into landfill any more, either. You can recycle them at Boots:
, along with many other difficult-to-recycle items.

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