So, you've heard about the new Oral-B toothbrush, the Oral-B iO, and then you've seen the price tag. And you're left wondering if it's really worth spending that much on an electric toothbrush. How special can it actually be?
Well, we've put together this detailed guide to help you decide. We'll look at:
- Oral-B iO features
- The iO 7 vs 8 vs 9
- What makes it different from other Oral-B toothbrushes
- What it's like to use
- Some alternatives to consider
Hopefully by the end of this Oral-B iO review you'll be able to decide on the right electric toothbrush for you.
Table of contents
- 1 The new Oral-B iO toothbrush
- 2 Oral-B iO review
- 3 iO toothbrush review summary: Pros and cons
- 4 Conclusion
The new Oral-B iO toothbrush
The iO launched in the UK in July 2020, bringing a new kind of technology to the market and setting a new standard for competitors to follow. Its 3D teeth tracking AI technology and new-style motor help you get your teeth cleaner than ever. We'll get into the details of product features and much more in a moment, but here's a quick summary of reasons why you might want to buy this toothbrush:
- You know your brushing habits and technique need some improvement
- You want better plaque removal and gingivitis reduction than the best Sonicare toothbrush provides
- You're frustrated with the noisy motor and poor battery life of your current electric toothbrush
- You're interested in trying out the latest technology
You also must be willing to spend a fair amount. The RRP ranges from £399 to £499 for the different models, although you can usually pick it up for around half that price at Amazon or other online retailers. Even with 50% off, it's still a considerable purchase.
If this is out of your budget, the good news is that there are plenty of other affordable electric toothbrushes around. They may not have quite the same bells and whistles but they will still get your teeth very clean. Check out our full guide to the best electric toothbrushes to browse some more products at different price points.
What makes it different to other Oral-B toothbrushes?
Most of Oral-B's other current toothbrushes are more or less the same on the inside, with more premium models having advanced technology added on. With the iO, though, they have completely revolutionised how the toothbrush works. It still has the familiar round head with an oscillating-rotating motion. But inside, it is powered by a frictionless magnetic drive which efficiently delivers micro-vibrations through the tips of the bristles. Along with some other new features, it's definitely not ‘just another' Oral-B toothbrush that's had a facelift. Although it does look pretty good too.
If you're familiar with Oral-B brushes, you'll notice these differences with the iO:
- A much quieter motor
- Longer battery life
- 3-hour charging time
- Magnetic charging base
- Interactive built-in display
- A new style of brush head
Some of the most common complaints about Oral-B brushes are the loud motor, short battery life and long charging time. Most of their other models take 14+ hours to charge and last for a week or two at most. The new design of the iO addresses these problems, making it feel much more modern and convenient to use.
This short video sums up the key features pretty well:
AI brushing technology
Aside from the better charging time and battery life, the star feature is the AI technology which tracks how you are brushing and helps you improve your technique. If you're consistently missing part of your mouth when you brush, or using too much pressure, this toothbrush will be able to tell you. And that's a pretty cool feature if you want to keep your teeth in tip-top condition.
How does it work? The brush connects via bluetooth to an app on your smartphone. Sensors inside the brush track where you have brushed and for how long. At the end, you get a score and feedback to help you improve for next time. The pressure sensor also displays a red warning light if you brush too hard.
This is not a completely novel idea; the Oral-B Genius X and Sonicare DiamondClean Smart both offer similar technology. What's different about the iO is it incorporates 3D tracking technology to monitor 16 different zones in your mouth; the 3 surfaces of each of the 4 quadrants. So it can tell you specifically that you need to focus on the biting surface of your left upper molars, for example. However, the 3D teeth tracking is only available on the iO9, the top-of-the-range model.
Oral-B iO toothbrush heads
The new brush heads are presumably necessary for the new style of motor, but unfortunately they are not compatible with Oral-B's older toothbrushes. Nor are the older style heads compatible with the iO.
One thing that set Oral-B apart from Sonicare up until this point was the cost of replacement brush heads. Oral-B CrossAction brush heads and other variants cost around £2-£4 per replacement, whereas Sonicare heads cost £5-£10 each, depending on the type and quantity purchased.
The new iO replacement brush heads have an RRP of about £12 each but are available for £6-£8 each at some retailers. There are two types available: Ultimate Clean and Gentle Care, in black or white to match your brush handle. This is still cheaper than some Sonicare heads but it does add to the ongoing cost of owning an electric toothbrush.
Colour indicators on the bristles show you when it's time to switch to a new head – roughly every three months with normal brushing. But, for a more precise measurement, the app keeps track of this for you as well.
Different models: iO7, iO8, iO9
iO is actually not the name of a single brush, but of a new range of brushes from Oral-B. This follows their Pro, Smart and Genius series.
Anything not mentioned here is the same on all three models. So, does the iO9 provide £100 of extra value vs the iO7? If you're wondering whether to pay the extra for the top model, here's our take.
- Two extra brushing modes are nice but you'll probably never really use them. The Tongue Cleaner mode is just programmed to turn off after 20 seconds, but you could do the same thing manually with any other mode. And actually, we recommend you try using a tongue scraper if you really want a clean tongue.
- A choice of colours is also nice to have, and since the buttons are black on all models the black version looks a bit sleeker. Same goes for the colour screen.
- 3D teeth tracking is probably the best extra feature, but only if you're committed to using the app every day.
- A charging travel case is a great idea but, unlike many other brands which supply a USB cord, the Oral-B case has a special mains charger. This makes it much less compact, taking up almost as much space as the regular charging base.
So, if you don't want the white version and you're serious about improving your brushing with the app, go for the premium model with all the features. Actually, if you're spending this much on a toothbrush, don't you want to go all-in on the best of the best anyway? If you can snag a good discount on Amazon then the difference between the iO9 and the iO7 might be more like £50.
Oral-B iO review
Now we've explained what features the iO has and what the difference is between the various models, let's talk about what it's actually like to use.
All comments here relate to the iO9, which is the version we tested for this review.
It should go without saying really, the iO toothbrush leaves your teeth feeling super clean. You'd expect that from a toothbrush that has six years of research and over 250 patents behind it.
These results have been proven in clinical trials, too. It's been shown to remove six times more plaque along the gumline than a manual brush, also contributing to a reduction in gingivitis (gum disease). After eight weeks of use, 82% of people using the iO had healthy gums, compared to just 24% who used a manual brush.
It has also out-performed its main competitor, the Sonicare DiamondClean. In a similar study comparing the two brushes, 84% of people using the iO had healthy gums after eight weeks versus 53% who used the Sonicare.
The way the motor delivers power makes it feel gentler than previous models, too. Not in a less effective way, but certainly less aggressive.
Timer and pressure sensor
As has become quite standard on electric toothbrushes now, a built-in timer signals when your brushing time is up and a quad-pacer tells you when it's time to move to a new section of your mouth. For the standard Daily Clean mode, this is set to two minutes broken into four 30-second intervals. You can adjust these settings via the app if you wish.
The pressure sensor is also not a particularly novel feature, although the iO brings a new twist to it. Using the light ring around the handle, it not only tells you if you're applying too much pressure (red) but also if you're not applying enough (white). You're aiming for green, which shows you're doing it just right. The red light is accompanied by a slight reduction in the motor speed.
You can customise the colour displayed on the LED ring when the brush is on but not in use; a fun but completely unnecessary feature.
A timer, quad pacer and pressure sensor are all very helpful electric toothbrush features. But don't buy the iO simply for these. You can pick up the Oral-B Pro 2 2500 for around a tenth of the price.
App and built-in display
The display screen on the new Oral-B toothbrush is a big step up from having one or two tiny lights communicating information to you. It says ‘Hello' when you pick it up and lets you select your cleaning mode and check the battery life. A timer shows how long you've been brushing for, although it's hard to view this without stopping and taking the brush out of your mouth.
Once you have finished, you get either a happy face or a sad face depending on how effectively you brushed. That's fine, but it would be helpful to know specifically what you could improve. Did you brush too hard? Stop too soon? Or did you get distracted and only clean one side of your mouth? You'll have to check the app to find out.
Oral-B have developed a new app to go along with this brush, with a revised design incorporating the Brushing Recognition AI. If you have it open as you brush, it displays your progress in real-time. Once you finish, it gives you an overall score based on your brushing time, coverage and pressure.
The idea is that all of this technology in the iO trains you to brush your teeth more effectively. Over time, you should see your score improve. You also get awarded medals for certain milestones, such as scoring 90% or more for three consecutive days. This gamification of tooth-brushing might appeal to some, while for others it comes across as a bit gimmicky and childish.
If you're guilty of scrolling on your phone when you brush and not really paying attention to what you're doing, the app will certainly help you focus. But you do have to be committed to using it to get the most out of it. If you don't have the app open as you brush, some information will still be stored in the brush and transmitted to the app next time you open it.
Charging and battery life
Top marks to Oral-B for addressing two of the most annoying things about many of their other brushes.
Although the advertised battery life is two weeks – the same as their previous brushes – we found it lasted much longer and many other Oral-B iO reviews seem to concur. If you're using it for the recommended four minutes a day, you might find it lasts for a month or more between charges. If you use the more intense brushing modes, brush for longer, or share it with other members of your household, then of course this will reduce. In any case, it's bound to be an improvement on any other Oral-B toothbrush you own.
To add to this, charging takes just three hours with the magnetic charging stand. Again, this is a huge improvement on having to charge your toothbrush for the best part of a day. Plus, you can check via the display exactly how much battery life is left.
The Oral-B iO is quite thin on accessories. In the box you get:
- iO Toothbrush handle
- 1 x iO Ultimate Clean brush head
- Magnetic charging stand
- Refill holder
- Power2Go Charging travel case (white or black)
- Travel case power adaptor
You'd think that for £500 they could give you at least one extra head to put inside the refill holder. But no. Anyway, the charging stand is a nice update. The base is almost flat but magnets hold the handle in place until you need it again.
The iO travel case could be executed better, though. It's certainly handy to have a protective case when you go away, but this one only has space for one brush head. If you need to take another, you'll have to bring the refill holder along as well. And, as we mentioned earlier, the actual charging cord for the case is quite bulky. Rather than a simple USB cable, which some other toothbrush charging cases have, this one uses an adaptor which is almost as bulky as the regular charging stand.
The good battery life means you might not need to charge it while you're away. But considering that the charging travel case is one of the premium features of the iO9, it doesn't really add much to the product.
iO toothbrush review summary: Pros and cons
Here's a recap of the main pros and cons we've mentioned in this Oral-B iO toothbrush review:
- Excellent cleaning performance
- Encourages better brushing habits
- Interactive display
- AI tracking gives detailed feedback
- Sleek and stylish design
- Charges quickly
- Good battery life
- Quiet motor
- Cost of the brush and replacement heads
- Only one head included
- Charging travel case not very convenient
- Built-in display could show more details
- App requires some commitment and can feel gimmicky
If you're happy with everything you've heard about the iO and want to give it a try, we recommend checking Amazon and other retailers so you get the best price. You certainly won't have to pay the full RRP if you shop around.
If your budget won't stretch that far but you still like the idea of a smart toothbrush, check out the Oral-B Genius X instead. The AI technology may not be as refined as in the iO, but it still lets you see where you have brushed and tracks your overall progress. You'll save quite a bit compared to the iO, but it's still a significant purchase.
Or, go for a lesser-known brand and buy the excellent value Oclean X. It also has built-in tracking and, unlike the iO, its display screen shows you where you've missed. With an RRP that's only one tenth of the iO and a two-hour charge lasting 30 days, it has a lot going for it.
If you've decided that you don't need a smart toothbrush after all then you'll get all the basics at a good price with the Oral-B Pro 2 2500 or the Fairywill FW-507. You can even get toothbrush heads on subscription with a brand like Quip. Our detailed electric toothbrush guide explains more about these and other options.
The Oral-B iO is an excellent toothbrush and if you use it as directed, along with the app to track your brushing habits, it's going to help improve your oral health. The same could be said of many cheaper brushes as well.
There is no one thing about the iO that really justifies the price tag, but when you add it all up: the micro-vibration technology, the smoother clean, the quiet motor, decent battery, LED display… you end up with a toothbrush that's fun to use and leaves your teeth feeling great. When comparing the iO7, 8 and 9, it seems worth paying the extra for the top model, as long as you've found it with a decent discount.
We hope this Oral-B iO review has helped you decide whether this toothbrush is right for you. If you're still undecided, why not click through to Amazon and read some more consumer reviews? You might also be interested in our guide to the best water flossers to complete your oral hygiene routine.