Toothbrush Can Chip Teeth and Cause Choking

When using your electric toothbrush, you don’t expect parts of the device to pop off and chip your tooth, fly into your eyes or get stuck in your throat.

But that’s exactly what has happened to some users of the battery-powered Arm & Hammer Spinbrush—or the Crest Spinbrush, as it was called before 2009.

“It’s important that consumers know how to avoid the risks associated with using the Spinbrush,” says Shumaya Ali, M.P.H., a consumer safety officer at the Food and Drug Administration. “We’ve had reports in which parts of the toothbrush broke off during use and were released into the mouth with great speed, causing broken teeth and presenting a choking hazard.”

FDA regulates toothbrushes—whether manual or electric—as medical devices that are intended to help prevent tooth decay. Safety precautions should be taken with all kinds of electric toothbrushes.

“Electric toothbrushes can be very effective in removing dental plaque, and so they can help prevent dental decay and gum disease,” says Susan Runner, D.D.S., chief of FDA’s dental devices branch. “At the same time, it’s important to supervise children when they use these brushes, and to look out for any malfunctions of the toothbrush that might cause an injury.”

Injuries reported from using the Spinbrush powered toothbrush include

chipped or broken teeth
cuts to the mouth and gums
swallowing and choking on broken pieces
injury to the face and eyes
FDA is alerting the public about the potential for injury while using the following models of Spinbrush:

Spinbrush ProClean
Spinbrush ProClean Recharge
Spinbrush Pro Whitening
Spinbrush SONIC
Spinbrush SONIC Recharge
Spinbrush Swirl
Spinbrush Classic Clean
Spinbrush For Kids
Spinbrush Replacement Heads
Parts Popping Off
The Spinbrush handle contains batteries and a motor that operates the brushes, which are attached to a brush head. In the models of Spinbrush made for adults, the brush head is removable and can be replaced.

But the brush head should not pop off during normal use, says Ali. “In some cases, the brush head popped off to expose metal pieces underneath that can—and have—poked individuals in the cheek and areas near the eyes, causing injuries.”

The “Spinbrush for Kids” models, which have different handle designs, such as Spiderman and Thomas & Friends, do not have removable brush heads. Nonetheless, problems with the Spinbrush for Kids have also been reported, such as cut lips, burns from the batteries, and bristles falling off and lodging in a child’s tonsils.

“FDA’s concern is that the unexpected release of any part of this battery-powered toothbrush during use poses a risk of injury,” says Steven Silverman, director of the Office of Compliance in FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “And the risk is higher in children or adults who may need assistance but are not supervised while using the toothbrush.”

 

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Dr. Reizenson, the founder of Clearsmile, has been in dentistry for over ten years and has worked with many sick and elderly patients as well as very young children. Both types of patients have dexterity problems. Years ago, he encountered elderly, bed-ridden patients while doing his residency program at the Veterans Hospital of Western New York. Dr. Reizenson was greatly saddened to observe the lack of attention to oral health care in this fragile group. It was impossible for staff to continually brush and floss this group of patients in a proper and effective manner. Some patients could hardly sit up, some could barely open their mouths. This was what sparked the thought: “Why isn't here a machine that can effectively clean our mouths while being small, easy to physically handle and be easy to use?” Once this need struck Dr. Reizenson, he began to imagine this ideal oral hygiene device.

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