This $400 AI-Powered Toothbrush Left Me With That Post-Dentist, Just-Got-Robbed Kind of Feeling

This $400 AI-Powered Toothbrush Left Me With That Post-Dentist, Just-Got-Robbed Kind of Feeling
Photo: Catie Keck/Gizmodo

When I purchased my first electric toothbrush about a year and a half ago, a Quip, it felt like an outrageous indulgence. Fifty-five dollars seemed far too steep for something so silly, but I wanted to make a long-term investment in healthy teeth, and I was able to justify the expense — at least at the time — because the battery-powered toothbrush took the guesswork out of things like time spent brushing and adequate dedication to quadrants. So when I caught wind of the Oral-B iO Series 9, which retails for an eye-popping $US300 ($410), I was certain I’d be levelling up my oral hygiene big time. Instead, while reviewing one, I found myself frustrated by its needless complications and an app I rarely used. Plus, unless you happen to have 300 spare clams burning a hole in your pocket, it’s also obscenely expensive.

iO Series 9 Electric Toothbrush

WHAT IS IT?

An AI-powered rechargeable electric toothbrush with an associated app.

PRICE

$US300 ($410)

LIKE

Different modes target different brushing needs; comes with portable charging case.

DISLIKE

The app is a mess, and the brush alone doesn't quite justify the steep price tag.

Let’s start with what $US300 ($410) gets you with the iO Series 9 that doesn’t come with the slightly-less-painful Series 7 ($US200 ($273)) or Series 8 ($US250 ($342)): The biggest difference is the number of zones the toothbrush monitors. Whereas the Series 7 and 8 monitor six zones, the Series 9 more than doubles that coverage with 16 zones. Where the Series 8 and 9 have colour screens (though relatively basic), the Series 7 is limited to black and white. The Series 9 also has seven modes of brushing, whereas the Series 7 and 8 have five and six modes, respectively.

The Series 9 is the only toothbrush in the line that comes with a portable charging case, which I could see being handy for folks who travel quite a bit. The magnetic charging stand that comes with all three is small enough, which should come as a relief to anyone with limited bathroom counter space. It’ll fully recharge in about 3 hours, and Oral-B says you should get about two weeks of use from a single charge. (A spokesperson told Gizmodo battery life is the same for the Series 7 and 8.)

Image: Catie Keck/Gizmodo Image: Catie Keck/Gizmodo

Beyond that, the differences are fairly superficial. The Rose Quartz option is limited to the most expensive model, for instance. It also comes with the greatest number of brush refills straight out of the box (four). A Violet Ametrine colour option is available on the Series 8, but the most affordable of the three is limited to just black and white versions (which are fine). I’m going to be speaking exclusively to the Series 9 in this review, both for the fact that that is the one I’ve been using for the last couple of weeks as well as because the difference of $US100 ($137) or even $US50 ($68) is quite a hike for a toothbrush. In using this device, I looked at both its cleaning features and usability but also whether its overall package justifies its price tag.

There are plenty of things I liked about this toothbrush, and I’ll get to those in a moment. But more immediately evident to me were the things I did not like, specifically its associated app. The app can be used for things like setting goals, tracking your brushing over time, surfacing problematic brushing habits, and organising your preferred settings (a feature that did not seem to work for me, or only worked temporarily, regardless of how many times I tried to disconnect and reconnect my toothbrush). For good habits associated with your goals — things like whitening, bad breath, or tongue cleaning — you’ll win in-app medals. I found this to be very silly and didn’t much bother with the self-assigned challenges, but that’s just me.

I’ll be honest, an initial tutorial was somewhat helpful for identifying when and where I was brushing way too hard (an illuminated ring on the brush itself will glow red when you do this), but beyond that introductory run-through, the app wasn’t helpful — to me at least — for much else. Part of the reason why is because much of what you need to know about your habits is displayed right there on the device. A green light indicates you’re doing a decent job, while a red light means you need to ease up a bit. A smiley face will appear on the toothbrush’s colour display when you’ve brushed for 2 minutes, but god forbid you cut your session short for any reason. Sessions shorter than 2 minutes put you at risk of getting the dreaded frowny face, something that frankly bummed me out every time I grabbed my toothbrush for a quick clean after lunch. Brush for more than 2 minutes, though, and your virtual dental hygienist will leer out at you from behind its black window with stars for eyes. This is good. Shoot for stars.

Photo: Catie Keck/Gizmodo Photo: Catie Keck/Gizmodo

As is a standard feature on many electric toothbrushes, the iO will shortly buzz every 30 seconds to indicate it’s time to move on to another quadrant (a long buzz will happen at the 2-minute mark, but the toothbrush will remain vibrating). On the Series 9, you have up to seven modes of brushing from which to choose: Daily Clean, Gum Care, Intense, Sensitive, Super Sensitive, Tongue Clean, and Whitening. Be forewarned: The whitening setting will make you feel like your skull is vibrating, but this sensation — however unnerving at first — is likely something you’ll get used to with regular use.

The overall brushing experience for me wasn’t too bad once I figured out how to reconfigure the toothbrush for sensitive brushing, but it was a little awkward. The iO uses the rounded brush style seen on other Oral-B toothbrushes. Oral-B says the brush head on the iO “combines oscillating, rotating movements with micro-vibrations to ensure an unprecedented deep clean that reaches every contour.” I found, however, that the brush head and its wider neck could be tricky while attempting to reach my back teeth. I have a smaller mouth, and the design of this toothbrush was a little uncomfortable for me. This is a personal design gripe, though. It’s entirely possible — and likely, given the Series 9 has for weeks been completely sold out on Oral-B’s website every time I’ve checked — that this isn’t an issue for other users.

Image: Catie Keck/Gizmodo Image: Catie Keck/Gizmodo

What I will say of the Series 9 is that despite the clunkiness of the app and the issue I personally had with the design, you will feel like you’ve just left the dentist’s office every time you brush with this thing. Whether or not that’s something you want, though, is really a matter of preference. I found that after a couple of weeks with the iO, I’d sometimes still reach for my Quip just because I wanted a fuss-free, easy experience with a toothbrush that didn’t fling toothpaste all over my bathroom mirror. (And reader, this will inevitably happen, if not the first time you power the iO on, then when you’re least expecting it.)

What I’m trying to say is that the Oral-B iO Series 9 is a very good toothbrush, and if nothing else, you will get a superior clean with a few tips for how to brush better. If you’ve been seriously considering the iO and have the budget for it, I say go for it. But is this toothbrush really worth $US300 ($410)? For most people, no. This toothbrush serves one purpose and somehow costs more than an Apple Watch SE, which can not only answer your stray questions and track your fitness but sense when you’ve fallen and alert the authorities. The iO will, you know, brush your teeth.

If you’re unsure about dipping your toe into the premium toothbrush waters but don’t want to break the bank, I might suggest even considering Oral-B’s significantly cheaper — albeit AI-free — Pro 7000 from the company’s Genius series, which is currently priced below $US130 ($178). If you, like me, just need something with gentle vibrations to help remind you to brush for two minutes twice a day, then buddy, a $US300 ($410) AI-powered toothbrush you need not.

README

  • The iO Series 9 is a $US300 ($410) electric toothbrush with a portable charging case and magnetic charging stand. Out of the box, it comes with four brush heads.
  • It has seven brushing modes, including two modes for sensitive brushing and a tongue-cleaning setting.
  • Its companion app can help you identify some poor brushing habits, but it’s not something you’ll likely use long-term unless you’re prepared to stare at your phone for two minutes every time you brush.
  • While a display on a toothbrush is neat, $400+ is a bit much for a gadget that does exactly one thing: brush your teeth.