Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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The flawed toothbrush

Introduction and some general remarks

For some years, I used electric toothbrushes. The below main text was written in 2012, maybe two years before the end of that period, but during a time when I was cut off from the Internet. This resulted in a delay of publishing (and a minor polish) until 2023.

The main text deals with some specific flaws, the majority resulting from having a built-in battery, that are not inherently present in electric toothbrushes (if they were, I would likely not have written it at all). However, the toothbrush discussed below has so far been, and will likely remain, my last electric one:

Any limited “value added” was not worth the extra hassle with charging and buying the right type of “heads” (lower availability in stores, higher costs, and at least the risk of purchasing the wrong type, relative regular toothbrushes). Cost-wise, we also have to amortize the cost of the main appliance over its lifespan, and consider the additional electricity costs (if likely very small and maybe offset by a savings in toothpaste). Then there is the issue of the environment, where I suspect that the environmental damage through the batteries and electronics exceeds the benefits of a long-term savings on plastic.

From a personal angle, I soon entered a long period of weekly commutes and other business travel, and travel with a regular toothbrush is easier, with regard to weight and space.

Whether the complications discussed below contributed to my decision, I do not remember, but it is very possible. This especially as built-in batteries with specialized chargers have grown more common in various appliances—just like I warned in the main text.

As to tooth health, I have seen no reason to consider electric toothbrushes superior (although, they might be for a young child or other beginner). In fact, the one truly major tooth issue that I have ever had, a molar that had to be removed, developed during my “electric period”.

Main text / a flawed electric toothbrush

My [2012; cf. above] electric toothbrush is a good example of how additional “service” to the customer can actually be a bear service. Worse, I suspect that many similar improvements or “improvements” are not at all intended to bring the customer a benefit, but merely to fool the unwary into believing that there is a benefit and/or superficially justifying an increase in price (or lack of decrease, as technology progresses and manufacturing costs are reduced).


The toothbrush carries no clear model name or number, but is from Braun’s Oral-B line. The additional claim “AdvancePower” could be a model name, signify a particular feature, or merely be empty bragging.

Its predecessor had two removable batteries. The current has an inaccessible internal battery and comes with its own charging device.

Advantage: Those few who do not have a generic battery charger have an easier time—but they would likely be better off buying such a generic charger anyway...

Disadvantages? Well, a likely incomplete list:

  1. There is an extra device to keep track of, and, if it breaks, the toothbrush would soon become useless.

    At a purchase price of ten Euro, it would not pay to buy a replacement charger. Of course, the price also means that this would not be the end of the world; however, there could be an interim phase from Saturday night to Monday evening with reduced brushing abilities, considering the lousy German opening hours and the need to be at work.

    (Most models are more expensive, and a replacement charger could conceivably be worthwhile for one sufficiently expensive, but at a total of time and money spent that is likely to be unpleasant. Getting hold of a replacement could, of course, add further days or even weeks to the aforementioned interim phase.)

  2. If the batteries run out, they cannot be replaced by other batteries during loading. (Again reducing brushing abilities.)

  3. If the life-cycle of the batteries grows shorter, as it usually does, this cannot be remedied by using new batteries.

  4. If the charger is not brought on a vacation and the batteries run out, there is no possibility to charge the toothbrush.

  5. There is no possibility to completely deactivate the toothbrush during travel (e.g. by removing the batteries)—implying that an unfortunate bump on the luggage can cause the toothbrush to turn on, drain the batteries, and possibly cause annoying noises. For a woman, worse, it can be highly embarrassing, because bystanders could think it was a vibrator going off.

  6. The cost for manufacture increases, as do the costs for transport and storage (due to the increased overall weight and volume).

Notably, these disadvantages should not merely be considered in the light of any given appliance—but with an eye on what would happen if more appliances came with the same flaw. (Some already do—and I strongly suspect that even more will. Apart from the reasons implied above, such a construction helps manufactures enforce highly unethical “planned obsolescence” schemes and increases their opportunities to charge money from the customer without providing any additional value.)

In contrast, what would a sensible improvement have been? An obvious and very easily implemented one springs to mind: Simply making the base wider, reducing the toothbrush’s considerable proneness to fall over. (Indeed, idiotically, it even tapers off strongly as it comes closer to the base, where the predecessor was more uniform. Further, I suspect that the predecessor, through the positioning of the batteries, had a lower centre-of-mass, which is also beneficial for stability.)