Playbrush: toothbrush review (yes, really)

Two Playbrush units and a press account with access to all games were provided by PR for the purposes of this review. 

“Wait a minute”, I hear you say (my hearing’s pretty good). “Are you… are you reviewing a toothbrush?” No, of course not!

I’m reviewing two toothbrushes.

There is, of course, more to it than that. While gamification has arguably gotten out of control in some areas, most notably with companies determined to reap as much of your personal information as possible by association percentages and achievements with how “complete” your account with them is, gamifying toothbrushing for children makes all kinds of sense. It’s not a new idea – kids’ toothbrushes that play sound for the ideal length of brushing time have been around for ages – but Playbrush is very much a proposition for the modern first-world child.

It’s an electric toothbrush in more than one sense. Electric in the sense that it has a vibrating brush head and makes a buzzy sound, but electric also in the sense that it has a built-in rechargeable battery… and Bluetooth. A toothbrush with Bluetooth. A Bluetoothbrush! Why didn’t they call it that?

The Playbrush itself.

Playbrush connects with the free to download app (you’ll need an account; completely free with your Playbrush purchase, but a subscription is needed if you want access to more than the four included games). Connecting to, navigating, and using the app is nice and easy. I tested Playbrush with my two youngest girls, aged 10 and very nearly 7, and both were able to use the app without issues. However, there is one watchout. The Bluetooth is activated with a gentle tap of the appropriate button – so gentle, in fact, that it’s very easy to activate it accidentally. Not really a problem, but, you’ll need to be aware of this if you have more than one child using Playbrush. The app will connect to the first brush it detects, so bear this in mind.

Within the app is a selection of games (again, four are free, more available with a subscription), split into two age groups. The brush acts as the child’s wireless controller, and it is in this way that the app prompts the child to brush the correct areas, for the correct time, at the correct pressure.

For example, one game is a sort of Guitar Hero lite, where brushing teeth correctly according to instructions keeps the music going. Another has a remarkably happy little person on the screen dancing, busting enthusiastic moves so long as teeth are being brushed correctly. All the while, to guide and encourage the child, a voice will shout out encouragements and advice. “Now the other side!” “Too hard!”, that sort of thing. The elder daughter found this a little bossy, but still complied. While I’d raise an eyebrow if you tried telling me that the app’s detection of brush movement was perfect, it definitely works well enough.

One potential disadvantage, as my wife pointed out, is that there will probably be a lot of parents’ phones dropped in sinks…

After their first use, I was undeniably impressed. They both enjoyed the app, and we’d even say that their teeth were noticeably cleaner. I’d go so far as to say that brushing their teeth became something they looked forward to. Even a few days later, my youngest, just after using the app, said “I wish I could brush my teeth all the time!”. It sounds like an implausible line from an advert, but that’s actually what she said. It made encouraging them to brush their teeth twice a day easier… if far from guaranteeing success.

Once a week or so had passed, however, the novelty of the app had visibly worn off. They weren’t always using it (though they were using the Playbrushes themselves). While my youngest may go back to it, I think my older daughter is probably pretty much done with the app. Importantly, the brush heads, while of course bespoke, are good quality. The necks are solid, and the bristles so far showing no signs of wear as cheap ones rapidly do. They certainly do a good job of cleaning teeth and, yes, you would flippin’ hope so.

The RRP is £34.99, but you can get one for about a tenner less if you shop around. Not too cheap, then, but I strongly recommend giving it a go if you have a young child that dislikes or actively hates tooth brushing. Every child is different of course but, from my personal experience, I think it has a strong chance of creating a brief period where brushing is something to look forward to (which would then hopefully lead into a normalised period of less resistance to the idea), if nothing else. Worst case, you’ll be left with a good quality, if expensive, rechargeable electric toothbrush for your child – and that sounds like a pretty good worst case to me.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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