Oral-B iO9 Electric Toothbrush Review: Say hello to your new toothbrush master
Quick verdict: Oral B’s smarter electric toothbrush provides an exceptional cleaning experience, but its price point will put it out of the reach of many.
- Great cleaning experience
- App encourages you to clean your teeth more
- Range of cleaning modes
- Travel charger included
- Doesn’t store brushings if the app isn’t running
- Gets covered in icky toothbrush scum easily
- It costs HOW MUCH???
The Oral-B iO9 is an interesting premium electric toothbrush. Interesting partly because its dark finish does make me feel a little like I'm stealing Darth Vader's toothbrush every time I perform essential dental hygiene, but mostly because of its price point.
Your dentist may well ask you to open wide when you visit for a clean, but Oral-B is expecting you to open your wallet even wider.
That's because it's an electric toothbrush with a $749 asking price.
That's a hefty price for a toothbrush, and ultimately, it'll be too much for many buyers. It's a shame in a way, because this really is an exceptional toothbrush… but probably not one worth $749.
- Black is eye catching
- Includes bathroom charger and portable charger
- OLED display is cute (but somewhat pointless)
- Custom heads for this range only
If you're going to drop $749 on a toothbrush, you're going to want to get a fair bit of toothbrush for your money.
Here Oral-B doesn't disappoint; outside the toothbrush itself you also score a bathroom charging plate that the toothbrush magnetically locks to, and a case that can also plug into a charger for those longer trips that… we're just not having right now thanks to COVID.
I can't blame Oral-B for that, obviously, and it's always nice not to have to pay extra for accessories in any case.
The actual Oral-B iO9 toothbrush is a rather imposing affair, because in Australia this particular model will only sell in the black finish at launch. It's a large and somewhat long toothbrush by electric standards, so if (for whatever reason) you wanted a toothbrush with a somewhat "décor" look, this would fit the bill.
The Oral-B iO9 electric toothbrush features what the company calls a "smart display", a small inset OLED screen that shows cleaning time, which cleaning mode you've selected and even smiles or frowns at you depending on how long you take to polish your ivories each day.
It's cute technology, to be sure, and it does somewhat help to justify the Oral-B iO9 electric toothbrush's asking price, but it's also not terribly useful a lot of the time.
The display does make it easy to see which cleaning mode you've selected, but when the toothbrush is in your mouth and the handle is in your hand, you're not going to be looking at it anyway. Your perspective may vary, but one of my kids also declared the smiling face it makes when you do at least 2 minutes of brushing to be "creepy".
What does work much more acceptably is the pressure sensor light. The Oral-B iO9 electric toothbrush detects your pushing pressure on the head and lights up a ring around the toothbrush to indicate if you're not pushing hard enough, if you're pushing too much, or if you're hitting that Goldilocks sweet spot.
You also get a pair of Oral B iO brush heads, and it's well worth noting that these are a new type of brush head, to accompany the differeng drive motor in the iOS models. As such, if you've got an existing Oral-B electric toothbrush, your existing spare heads aren't going to fit on the Oral-B iO9 electric toothbrush.
- Ai-led toothbrush is… unusual
- Great at training you in better brushing habits
- Pressure sensor works well
- Black finish can look pretty gross when you're finished
The big push for the Oral-B iO9 electric toothbrush is that it's an Ai-led toothbrush with a new motor type to handle a range of cleaning modes. To be specific, you get the choice between Daily Clean, Sensitive, Whiten, Gum Care, Intense, Super Sensitive, and Tongue Clean.
Before you can get to cleaning, however, you'll need to download the Oral-B app for iOS or Android, because a big part of this brush's Ai approach is led by you pairing your phone to it, using the display on that to show your cleaning progress and act, in essence, as a gamified way to get you to care more about your dental hygiene.
This introduces another wrinkle to the cleaning experience, because to make the most out of your Oral-B iO9 electric toothbrush, you're going to have to take your smartphone into the bathroom with you. Having a phone with decent water resistance is a good idea here, and it may take a while to work out your optimal placement position so that you can see the phone screen while you're brushing.
That's because Oral-B's claim is that the brush head and Ai-led internals of the Oral-B iO9 electric toothbrush track 16 zones throughout your mouth to give you a real-time picture of your cleaning progress. You get a picture of teeth – not your teeth, because nobody wants to look at closeups of their own mouth that early in the morning – gradually getting cleaner as you go.
The AI and real-time claim is an interesting one, but it doesn't entirely stack up in real world use. What I found, pairing the Oral-B iO9 electric toothbrush with an Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max – not exactly a budget slow model phone – was that it tended to lag behind my actual movements by a good few seconds. If you switch from your upper to lower teeth, you won't see that change reflected for a little while in the app itself.
While the real-time claim doesn't stand up all that well, this actually promotes good dental hygiene, because what I've found is that I'm tending to slow my brushing and stay on single areas longer.
That's leading to cleaner teeth, essentially because the Oral-B iO9 electric toothbrush is bullying me into doing just that.
To further the dangling carrot approach, as you clean your teeth, the animation on them in the app goes from a dull grey to a sparkling white. Getting all the zones of your mouth to that sparkling white does take time and patience mind you. I'm yet to crack that perfect brush within two minutes, but then as long as you don't take it to excess, a little extra brushing is no bad thing.
If you do forget your phone (or don't want to use it) the Oral-B iO9 electric toothbrush does pulse every 30 seconds to give you an idea of your rough timing, but it lacks any kind of internal memory to allow you to "score" that brushing session relative to your phone connected ones.
It's the tooth brushing equivalent of going for a run without your fitness band or smartwatch on, in essence. You still cleaned your teeth, but if your phone doesn't know about it, did you really clean them?
The Oral-B iO9 electric toothbrush runs from a magnetically driven motor that's considerably quieter and far more powerful than the much cheaper Oral-B toothbrush I usually scrub my teeth with.
Throw it into intense mode and you'll emerge from the other side of the clean with substantially cleaner dentures, as well as a slight rattling feeling. Or maybe that's just me. I certainly can't fault the Oral-B iO9 electric toothbrush's ability to clean my teeth, or keep them feeling dentist-fresh, although I guess I'll have to wait until my next full dentist check-up to see exactly how much of a difference it's actually making.
Oral-B does claim that the iO toothbrushes are good for 100% more plaque removal and 100% healthier gums over an 8 and 1 week period of usage respectively, but those figures are relative to a manual toothbrush. I haven't used one of those for years now, and I strongly suspect the market that will drop $749 on a toothbrush haven't either. It does deliver a good cleaning experience, however, and at that price it totally should!
Aside from the sticker shock of the price, there's also another catch rather specific to the black model of the Oral-B iO9 electric toothbrush sold in Australia, and, with apologies, it's a bit on the gross side.
Most toothpaste you can buy is white, or froths down to white once you start using it. The Oral-B iO9 electric toothbrush is a matte black toothbrush – it appears other colours are sold internationally but apparently not here – and the combination of both along with the inevitable saliva that comes with a rapidly oscillating and pulsing brush head in your mouth isn't pretty. Toothpaste scum – that less-than-delightful mix of used toothpaste and saliva – collects and displays on the Oral-B iO9 all too easily.
Sure, the Oral-B iO9 electric toothbrush is entirely washable, and so is the charging base, but be ready to clean it every single time you use it unless you entirely live alone or don't care that you're going to seriously squick out any guests who see your used-toothbrush-froth-covered device. While this is an issue for any electric toothbrush, the white models do tend to hide it a lot better.
Battery life so far has been fine, and the display does light up with a pleasing graphic equaliser style bar when you drop it onto the charging plate. Oral-B says that it's good for up to 2 weeks of charge off the plate, but right now isn't a great travel time to be testing that out to speak of. If you are travelling, you do at least get the Power2Go Charging travel case to go with it.
Should you buy the Oral-B iO9 Electric Toothbrush?
- Buy it if you can afford it and want a premium toothbrush experience.
- Don't buy it if you want value for money or don't want an app-connected toothbrush.
I can't fault the Oral-B iO9 electric toothbrush on that score, because it's done a great job while keeping me interested in shining up my chompers, tracking my progress in a game-style way and making sure I'm using just the right amount of pressure on my teeth and gums as I go.
However, that's got to be balanced against that hefty official asking price, which simply puts it outside the sensible reach of most folks.
It delivers a great clean, but you could get close to it with a lower-cost electric toothbrush and patience for your everyday clean, and preferably in a colour that doesn't so obviously show off your post-brushing mouth goo at the same time.
Pricing and availability
Images: Alex Kidman
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