Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar
Doing it wrong.
GRIN AND BEAR IT

A quarter of a million people use an app to brush their teeth

By Leo Mirani

BARCELONA—When Oral-B announced a bluetooth toothbrush at Mobile World Congress last year, Quartz responded with well-deserved mockery. Why would anybody need, let alone want, a connected toothbrush, we asked. But it’s Procter & Gamble, Oral-B’s owner, that is having the last laugh—or at least a very broad, perfectly white smile. According to Michael Cohen-Dumani, Oral-B’s brand manager, nearly 250,000 people use the app connected to the toothbrush at least once a week.

Cohen-Dumani did not provide sales figures for the toothbrush, which went on sale six months ago and retails for between €150 ($166) and €250 depending on the version. But app usage provides a decent enough proxy to wipe the smirk off any cynic’s face.

The toothbrush is embedded with pressure sensors and bluetooth. A companion app tells its users which teeth to brush and for how long. Later this year, it will offer “dental care journeys” which allow users to set goals, such as “fresh breath,” “gum health,” or “whitening.” It also includes unrelated content such as the weather and news.

The early success is only encouraging Oral-B. Dumani says the company plans to use aggregate data to develop newer, simpler versions. Oral-B will also make some data available to third parties, “which will enable users to become a part of the increasingly connected oral care digital experience.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the toothbrush has been most successful in rich countries, with Americans, Germans, and Britons, accounting for two-thirds of all users. Oral-B is also developing accessories to make the experience “frictionless,” says Dumani. One example is a plastic iPhone holder, which saves people the trouble of holding their phones as they look at the app while brushing their teeth. However, users still have to look at the phone screen with their own eyes.