I Used a Tooth-Brushing Robot for a Month—Here’s What Happened

When I initially tested Willo—the first direct-to-consumer robotic toothbrush—I was standing in my apartment bathroom as my roommates looked on in disbelief. I inserted the mouthpiece and let my hands drop while Willo tightened around my teeth and brushed.

My roommates know I am a health writer, but this was strange—even for me. The suction noise and feeling were peculiar but slightly satisfying. And per Willo's instructions, I took the mouthpiece out when I was done, cleaned it off with water, and turned off the machine without rinsing my mouth.

Even though the first use garnered some surprise from my roommates, the machine eventually blended into the normalcy of my bathroom counter. Here's what I thought of the month-long experience of letting something else brush my teeth, what an expert thinks of this gadget, and if it works.

What is Willo, and how does it work

The Willo is the size of a shoebox, with two compartments on top for water and the manufacturer's toothpaste. A tube runs from the machine's base to one of six removable silicone mouthpieces. The mouthpiece features bristles that clean your teeth as the device sends water and toothpaste up through a tube into your mouth. Additionally, the mouthpiece contracts and relaxes, encouraging the bristles to rub against the teeth and gums to remove debris and plaque.

Is this robot toothbrush effective

Willo is marketed for children (it's even possible to sync sessions with a phone so that parents can keep track of brushing habits). However, I imagine the device would be helpful for people with disabilities.

When asked whether Willo is effective, Rob Raimondi, DDS, and co-founder of One Manhattan Dental, explained that it is a case-by-case scenario. There are numerous teeth cleaning devices on the market, and some of them are more effective than others, he says. Ultimately, the determining factor is how your teeth look at a check-up—whether you are achieving cleanliness and your teeth are cavity-free.

The American Dental Association (ADA) outlines that you should brush your teeth for two minutes, twice a day, with a soft-bristle brush (and you should floss once a day).

Willo does meet the requirements for time and bristle coverage, but it doesn't have ADA's Seal of Acceptance. The ADA's seal indicates that a device has been reviewed, tested, and is effective. Though the Willo has not received the seal, the brand says their clinical trials are underway.

Do I love Willo

The machine really did leave my mouth feeling clean and refreshed, but I ended up giving it to a friend who wanted it due to a disability. I found the experience exciting because I love innovation and creative solutions, but the mouthpiece did activate my gag reflex (which I attribute to personal preference). As the month came to a close, I found myself wanting the simplicity of my typical tooth brushing routine after a while. But, if Willo were my only option, I wouldn't mind.

Will it protect teeth in the long term? Only time will tell, Dr. Raimondi says. Dental care needs to be tailored to an individual's needs. So if you're considering trying a Willo device—ask a provider if it could be right for you.


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