The dental industry is one of the few health and beauty areas where there hasn’t been much in terms of innovation in the last few years. Sure, Sonicare will release a cool new brush color every so often or Crest will launch a new tooth whitening system, but when you get down to it, everything “new” is more or less the same old thing with slicker marketing. Now, two brands are changing all that. Boie and Foreo have come out with disruptive takes on traditional toothbrushes.
Foreo’s brush is called Issa and comes in both a full-size and mini version, both of which are electric and made of silicone. Issa’s battery lasts a year and the toothbrush head needs to be replaced just once every six months. For comparison, Sonicare lasts about two weeks and the brush needs to be replaced every two to three months. Boie, on the other hand, is a manual brush and is made from a newly developed medical-grade rubber. Its bristles, unlike traditional nylon ones, have antibacterial properties and are meant to be gentler on teeth (it’s common for people to wear down their gums by consistently brushing too aggressively with their electric toothbrush). Both brushes have ergonomic designs. As with the Issa, the Boie brush head lasts about six months and, unlike other manual brushes, you just replace the brush head, not the entire toothbrush.
“Silicone bristles are an interesting concept because they are nonporous and carry less bacteria,” says Dr. Victoria Veytsman, owner of Cosmetic Dental Studios. “I love that they come in different colors and the design is unbeatable. However, I have not seen much research or clinical studies backing their effectiveness in removing plaque.”
Veytsman underlines that the single most important thing when it comes to toothbrushes is how well they can reach all the surfaces of the tooth and remove plaque and bacteria. “This is even more important than the toothpaste you’re using. My question would be, can those silicone bristles reach all the nooks and crevices between the teeth and every surface of the tooth? Once I see more data on that, I would happily recommend them to my patients. For now, there are electric toothbrushes with plenty of clinical research supporting their effectiveness.”
Dr. David Frey, author of Revitalize Your Smile, while also hoping for more research on the newfangled brushes, is intrigued by the innovation. “The Foreo toothbrush is electric and uses sonic waves to dismantle plaque and bacteria from the tooth’s surface. It’s innovative and sleek and seems especially appropriate for children, handicapped and manually disadvantaged people who have a hard time removing plaque effectively.”
In the same vein, New York City-based cosmetic dentist Dr. Brian Kantor of Lowenberg, Lituchy & Kantor highlights that the Issa is more ergonomic than some of the other toothbrushes on the market and it allows you to effectively reach every part of the mouth. “I also like that the Issa uses silicone bristles that are nonabrasive and soft, providing a gentler, more comfortable brushing experience. Another benefit is that the bristles are nonporous silicone, which is resistant to bacteria buildup. I typically recommend that my patients use a soft-bristled electric toothbrush with a timer, like the Issa, because they remove plaque and stains more effectively while still being gentle on tooth enamel and helping to prevent gum recession.”
Kantor says that what it ultimately comes down to is that the patient has to be comfortable with whatever brush they use or they won’t use it properly. “I do think the claims are legit and the Issa is worth the investment. This is one of the first big innovations in the toothbrush category that I have seen since the introduction of the Sonicare toothbrush.”
As for the Boie, it operates on the same principle as Issa, with an antibacterial and BPA-free bristle, but it’s a manual alternative. Dr. James Scapillato says that if you are going to opt for a manual brush, it’s always better to use a soft-bristled brush to reduce damage to teeth and tissue, which is something the Boie has going for it. “Stiff-bristled toothbrushes can further damage tissue and teeth and are falsely promoted to last.”
Dr. George Kirby of Downtown Dental Services, who has been practicing for 46 years, would not recommend the Boie. While he says he is intrigued, he’s troubled by the lack of literature supporting its actual effectiveness. “I have come to the belief that 75 percent of the population would benefit from an electric brush,” he says. “I always withhold that recommendation until after their first recall appointment when I can assess their home care. I am partial to Sonicare because of the ultrasonic action and head size, though Oral-B now offers that also.”
Kirby is also concerned about the size of the Boie head, which is somewhat large. He recommends a smaller head so it will fit into tight spaces behind the upper and lower front teeth. “You must remember that these manufacturers can claim anything, but it is clinical trials that will prove or disprove their effectiveness,” he says.
Innovation in any field is exciting, so let’s hope it’s not long before Foreo and Boie get some clinical proof behind these new devices so that we can have a better understanding of all the pros and cons of using a silicone toothbrush.