Hands-on review: The Oral-B IO Series 9 electric toothbrush - it's pretty smart
Editor's note: In February 2022, Just eight months after receiving the product for review, I noticed that the toothbrush holds very little charge now (three days at most). I'm not sure whether this is because of user error or a fault and I am investigating the issue. In the meantime, I'd advise potential buyers to be a little wary of battery life in the IO 9.
We put our teeth through some pretty harrowing experiences that sometimes land us in the naughty seat at the murder house. Annual (or biannual) dental checkups are pretty much par and part of being an adult, but unfortunately many of us dental health is a bit of a guessing game.
There are countless tooth tools and gadgets, pastes and rinses, washes and treatments on the market - but when it comes down to it, there’s one tool that bears the burden of tooth responsibility: the humble toothbrush.
But the downside of almost any toothbrush is that it's hard to tell if I’m doing a good job of brushing. My teeth feel clean and look polished, but are they really? Oh, and did I miss any spots?
Oral-B’s IO Series 9 (IO 9) is a smart electric toothbrush that makes the brushing experience so much better because it tells its user how well they are doing, all in real time.
In the words of P&G Health Care CEO Steve Bishop, the IO 9 is a reimagining of how a brush performs, cleans, and feels.
In my case, it was indeed a reimagining of the very concept of an electric toothbrush. The IO 9 was a huge step up from my cheap but reliable Oral-B Braun (the kind you find on supermarket shelves). I’m no longer left wondering if I apply the right amount of pressure on my teeth, if I’ve missed certain areas of my mouth and whether I could take more action to protect my gnashers.
The IO 9 toothbrush came in the Black Onyx colour variant. The toothbrush features an interactive colour LCD display and two buttons. It looks pretty much as close to a premium toothbrush as you could possibly imagine, and it does aesthetically pleasing against a predominantly white bathroom backdrop.
Every pack includes the brush, a charger, a travel case (that can also work as a charger), a case for the toothbrush heads, and 2 Ultimate toothbrush heads (replacements retail for around $40 for a pair).
The IO 9 toothbrush is built with a combination of pressure sensors that work with the toothbrush head to figure out where you’re brushing and analyse how well you’re doing the job.
‘Hello,’ it says when I power it on. Even my toothbrush is keen to greet me now.
There are seven different brush modes: Daily clean, sensitive, gum care, whiten, intense, super sensitive, and a tongue clean mode.
The pressure sensors are perfect - they not only tell me if I’m pressing too hard or soft, but it also adjusts the speed of the toothbrush to prevent damage. Red means too much pressure, green is the recommended pressure, and white means low pressure. Similar warnings also appear in the app.
The IO 9 connects via Bluetooth to the Oral-B app (available for Android and iOS). This app is where users will find all the insights about every brushing session. It coaches me and helps me to do a good job through a variety of two-minute brushing sessions.
The app also helps to keep track of 16 zones in the mouth to make sure that I’m not missing any areas. It isn’t 100% perfect all of the time - for example, it would often detect the wrong area of my mouth that I was working on), its accuracy would probably be within the 85-95% range most of the time.
In gum care mode, It will also ask if gums have bled after every session - it’s a useful question because bleeding gums can be a sign of more serious gum problems. Of course, it can’t measure how well I floss or what foods I eat (sweet tooth be damned), but this toothbrush is actually pretty revolutionary.
The app also provides the ability to customise the colour of the light ring (an LED strip just below the toothbrush head), sort of mimicking the simpler times when the only way to tell the difference between the family’s toothbrushes was the colour of the brushes themselves.
A timer stutters every 30 seconds when it’s time to move on to the next area of the mouth, and stutters for a longer period when the brushing session is complete. This is more likely to happen if you’re not using the app to guide you during your brushing session.
The toothbrush even provides a little smiley (or sad) face based on how well I’ve used the toothbrush. Only brushed for 30 seconds? *Sad face*. Brushed for 2 minutes? *Happy face*. Oh, and it throws in some bonus stars for effort.
There is the ability to set a reminder in the app when my toothbrush head is due to be changed. Like other Oral-B toothbrush heads, the blue bristles will start to fade as they are worn down. But why take note of the bristles when the app will remind me - down to the day - to replace the head.
Charging takes approximately 3 hours - it’s so easy to keep the toothbrush performing at its best. The motor is also much quieter than the one in my Braun, which means the entire brushing experience is no longer plagued by the clunky, chaotic whir of a toothbrush going haywire - instead, it’s a soft whir of a premium and very smart toothbrush.
My dentist noticed a noticeable difference in the state of my teeth after just a couple of weeks of using the IO 9. This speaks volumes about how the correct brush, techniques and focus can significantly improve the health of your teeth.
The Oral-B IO 9 retails for around NZ$750 - while it seems like a steep price to pay at first, my experience has shown that it's a worthwhile investment. I hope it could even help to prevent some eye-watering dentist bills from appearing in my future.