Wired takes a long look at the rapid progress in oral health in the 20th century from this:
In 1899, the British Army was recruiting troops to fight in the Boer War and recruiters were appalled at the health of the men who were turning up. They were stunted, malnourished and had appalling teeth. “It became a national scandal,” Bairsto says. “No one was cleaning their teeth. Many couldn’t chew their food.”
to Philips selling a $270 electronic toothbrush (pictured above). Are electronic toothbrushes any better than a mundane brush? Put away your skepticism, Wired says:
All that said, the Cochrane reviews are pretty clear. They looked at plaque buildup and gingivitis (gum disease), finding that electric toothbrushes were, on average, more effective than manual ones. The effects were real. An average 11 per cent reduction in the degree of plaque buildup, in the short term, and a 21 per cent over three months term; a six per cent or 11 per cent reduction in gingivitis, depending on how you measure it.
Refreshing news! But there's still cause to be skeptical:
The question is where to go next. Apps that track behaviour and sensors that check you’ve brushed every tooth are already in place; how much more high-tech can toothbrushes get? How much more advantage can be squeezed from them?
One possibility is raising the stakes. There have been hints that periodontal disease is linked to wider health problems – sufferers are more susceptible to stroke, to heart attacks, to blocked arteries, to high blood pressure, and to cancer. Bircan mentions that they’re tracking users over long periods “to see the impact not just on their oral health but on their lives”
Read more about the arms race in electronic brushes at Wired.