The $400 Prophix toothbrush can help you watch your mouth

A new toothbrush with a miniature video camera lets users see inside their mouths with a smartphone app while they brush. It’s the latest consumer gadget aimed at those willing to spend big bucks on bells and whistles to keep their smiles healthy, but experts question the need for such a tool.

The $400 Bluetooth-enabled Prophix was developed by Wilmette dentist Craig Kohler, whose company ONVI began taking preorders at a $100 discount Thursday.

The camera and light allows users to “see in their mouth in ways they’ve never been able to,” Kohler said. “To clean the back teeth and molars and see the gum condition.”

“You can see it live,” he said. “You’re able to take photos of the different spots you might be interested in keeping track of, keep them in an album, and see if gum tissue changes color or look at a particular filling that you have questions about.”

Prophix’s price, though, could be a challenge for sales, said Ryan Tuttle, research analyst at market research firm Euromonitor.

“It’s an intriguing idea. But I do think the price point is likely to be a sticking point,” he said. “$400 is a pretty substantial amount to spend on a toothbrush.”

But Kohler said he figures users will save money by preventing costly dental procedures.

About 80 percent of people don’t brush long enough in at least one part of their mouths, said Kris Parlett, senior communications manager for Proctor & Gamble Oral Health.

Later this year, Proctor & Gamble is planning to launch its latest smart toothbrush, the Oral-B Genius. It’s expected to sell for about $200 to $220, Parlett said.

The Oral-B brush pairs with an app to indicate when a user needs to spend more time brushing in a particular area. It uses the user’s smartphone camera, along with a sensor, to track what areas are being brushed.

The Prophix app also tracks how often and how throughly users brush.

Such devices might be eye-catching but aren’t necessary for good oral care, said dentist Alice Boghosian, a consumer adviser spokeswoman for the American Dental Association.

“If there’s some kind of gadget that will spark somebody to brush their teeth and do it properly, it can be worthwhile,” she said. “But it can be simply accomplished with a manual toothbrush.”

But Kohler, a dentist for more than 35 years, said he believes the price is reasonable. The snapshot resolution is five times that provided in a typical dental office, and the video resolution is twice that typically available in an office, he said.

Right now, Kohl said he records every procedure in his practice and reviews the videos with patients. He figured they’d appreciate a device that allowed them to better see when brushing at home.

“When people understand, they usually take better care of things,” Kohler said.

Kohler said he has invested more than $1 million into the 5.5-ounce Prophix. The company plans to start shipping the toothbrushes in the first quarter of 2017.

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