While we all have levels of tolerance for the process, no one really enjoys going to the dentist. In fact, oral hygiene in general can be a nuisance. Though most of us have simply developed a routine and don’t put much thought into the act, it’s still a few minutes out of every day that you lose to a mindless, repetitive task.
While some innovations have occurred in the way of brush design and electronic toothbrushes, the actual time and process have remained essentially the same. Many people, particularly children, struggle to achieve a perfect brushing technique which results in imperfect cleaning and painful or expensive dental work.
The patented Unico Smartbrush oral hygiene device intends to change all of that. Instead of running a single brush head over all sides of each tooth individually, Unico features an ergonomically designed mouth unit designed to reach every tooth surface simultaneously. Unico makes the bold claim that you can achieve a thorough, whole mouth clean in only 3 seconds.
Unico launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to build awareness and fund the creation of the device. It was a tremendously successful campaign earning over 10 times the original funding goal with the support of over 6,000 backers.
Let’s take a look at this bold innovation in tooth brushing technology to find out if the world is ready for a Smartbrush.
What Is Kickstarter?
Before we look at the Unico, it’s worth reviewing the Kickstarter platform for anyone unfamiliar.
Traditionally, developing a new and innovative product presents a number of barriers to overcome. Prototypes can cost significant amounts of money to develop and raising money for non-existent products represents an understandable challenge. Larger companies have the necessary resources to fund research, development, and marketing, but the inherent limitations made it quite difficult for smaller businesses or individual inventors to get off the ground without incurring significant debt.
Then came Kickstarter. Launched in April 2009, Kickstarter is a modern phenomenon that has changed the game of product development. Instead of an inventor or company personally funding a project or going through the tedious process of finding investors, Kickstarter allows you to post details of a project, product, or concept. After posting details, you need to specify a minimum funding goal, timeline, and rewards for different contribution levels.
Your project is then posted publicly for browsing or sharing to social media. Any member of the public can contribute, but unlike traditional investors who generally want a percentage share of the company, Kickstarter backers generally only receive the final product at a discounted rate.
Kickstarter has been a phenomenal success even though individual projects may or may not find success. The site has tried to enforce rules to ensure only serious projects get listed, but once a project reaches its funding goal, there are not guarantees the backers will receive a product in a timely manner or at all! You must make your decision to back a project based on your impression of the creator and the proposal presented.
Generally, it’s a relatively low-risk way to support creators and hopefully end up with some unique new stuff.
Overview, Design, and Fit
As expected, Unico looks nothing like a traditional toothbrush. Instead, it’s a comparatively complex system of parts designed to work together to simplify the brushing process.
Given that there’s nothing else like Unico, we need to give an overview of the functionality of the various pieces before we can even describe the design. The Unico system comprises of a mouth unit, power unit, docking station, and separate, proprietary toothpaste. When you’re ready to brush, you add toothpaste inside the power unit, plug it in to the mouth unit, place it in your mouth, double tap the power unit to start, wait 3 seconds, and rinse your mouth to finish.
The mouth unit looks like a large mouth guard with brushes lining the inside and outside of both top and bottom. Comprised of an antibacterial, flexible silicone, once placed inside the mouth, it’s not very visible behind the lips. The external power unit, shaped roughly like a smaller, thicker deck of cards, remains outside of your mouth and can be shared hygienically among multiple people.
Aesthetically, Unico employs a minimalist, professional design available in Black, Glossy White, or Satinated Grey. Though it certainly isn’t as unobtrusive as a small toothbrush, the classy design fits in with most décor. Your guests may wonder what this device could possibly be, but at least it won’t look unsightly.
While everyone has physiological differences, Unico claims that they’ve studied and verified a correlation between height and mouth size. This led them to create 4 different mouth unit sizes. Extra Small works for children from 4 feet, 1 inch to 4 feet 6 inches, Small fits people 4 feet 7 inches to 5 feet, Medium works from 5 feet 1 inch to 5 feet seven inches, and large should work for anyone 5 feet, 7 inches and up.
While we don’t often discuss the features of a toothbrush, Unico isn’t any ordinary toothbrush.
In order to reduce the size and cost of the mouth unit, the external power unit contains the electric motor and lithium ion battery. Inside the mouth unit, a rubber belt drives the motion of all brushes simultaneously. Even with the power unit, the entire system remains light enough to hold in your mouth handsfree with slight tooth pressure.
Unico claims that studies show traditional toothbrush effectiveness depends much less on bristle arrangement and more on brushing technique. While manufacturers love to tout their new angled brush heads, bristle design, or any number of features du jour, dentists recommend the circular brush movements of the Bass method. By design, Unico achieves this circular motion which proves challenging with manual and even many electric toothbrushes.
In addition to the unique mouth unit brush design, the Unico system isn’t complete without using their proprietary toothpaste. A special bottle design allows you to easily inject the low-viscosity toothpaste into the power unit. Then, in addition to driving the brush heads, a micro pumping system delivers toothpaste directly to your teeth and tongue. This all in one toothpaste and mouthwash cleans, whitens, and sterilizes your teeth, gums, and tongue for all day freshness with minimal waste.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Since we’re told to replace our standard toothbrushes after 3 months, it’s natural to wonder how to treat such a vastly different brushing system.
First, it’s important to acknowledge that most of us do little to clean our brushes besides a quick rinse from the sink. While this may eliminate excess toothpaste, it can’t effectively clean out bacteria trapped between dense bristles. The moisture creates a perfect environment for bacteria to multiply. We know that’s a little gross, but it’s reality.
Unico takes advantage of the docking station to greatly improve sanitation. Rather than just a holding container, each dock contains an ultraviolet light that actually sterilizes each mouth unit. Since each mouth unit has a separate dock, you can ensure you’re always getting a clean brush rather than dragging out bacteria or mold that could hide in your old toothbrush.
Given that Unico costs much more than a basic brush, it’s also fair to wonder about longevity. While you should replace your normal brush after 3 months, you’re also generally brushing for 2-3 minutes each time. Given that Unico only requires 3 seconds, Unico makes the fair assumption that each mouthpiece will last 60 times that of a standard brush. Fortunately, since the motor and battery reside within the power unit, replacement mouthpieces don’t cost much. Of course, if Unico’s estimates hold true, you may only need a replacement once every 15 years!
Usage and Effectiveness
We were a bit uncertain before trying the Unico. We’ve used a number of toothbrushes throughout the years including numerous manual and multiple electric models. Despite always looking for a good, effective brush, we must admit the thought of spending 3 minutes brushing never really seemed particularly daunting. That said, we were certainly curious to try it out.
Although a number of pieces were involved, once we had everything set up properly, the process wasn’t particularly complicated. We squirted toothpaste into the power unit, snapped it in place with the mouth unit, bit down and activated the power.
It was a very unique sensation. Although brief, it felt a bit like our teeth were in an automated car wash. The toothpaste tasted good and left a very fresh, clean feeling in our mouth. While our teeth did feel quite clean, it was a bit challenging mentally to accept the idea that we’d just finished brushing that rapidly.
Unico also offers an app for Android, iOS, and Microsoft devices which allows you to set rotation speed and brushing time for multiple users. Everyone still maintains their individual mouth unit since the app communicates with the power unit. While fairly convenient, it’s a bit impractical to have one device controlling multiple users since the phone will probably only be available for the primary user.
Clearly, the Unico Smartbrush exists in a class by itself. While we can’t compare it to other devices that are similarly designed, we can certainly compare it to more traditional brushing methods.
All in all, it does achieve its goals. We brushed our teeth in such a short amount of time it was hard to believe we were done. While difficult to evaluate without spending months with the Unico, we can say our teeth and mouth felt quite clean.
We did miss a bit of the feeling of control. With a manual or electric brush, you can reach problem areas or spend more time where you find it necessary. While Unico seemed to fit our mouth well enough, if you have a unique dental situation you might need to keep a manual brush to supplement your cleaning.
A manual toothbrush is a simple, inexpensive device that causes you to spend approximately 3 minutes, 2-3 times daily brushing your teeth. Unico, on the other hand, is a relatively complex system than can bring brushing time down to a few seconds. We imagine some people may appreciate the additional 8 minutes of free time while others will consider one more device to charge and maintain an unnecessarily complex solution to a simple problem.
Ultimately, you’ll need to decide if you find a device like Unico beneficial. Regardless, we always applaud inventors looking for bold solutions to old problems.