Dentists tell us that we should brush our teeth for two minutes, twice a day. I'm sure we all aspire to do that, but does anybody really do it? Even with electric toothbrushes that have timers built in, and tell you when to move from one 'quadrant' of your mouth to the next, there are some quite shocking stats about how long most people actually take. It’s nowhere near 2 minutes. No wonder the teeth of British people have a reputation overseas that's on about the same level as that of our ‘cuisine’ and our football fans.
Enter the Y-Brush, made in France. This, frankly grotesque-looking, device promises to clean all of your teeth in 10 seconds flat. It promises, in fact, nothing less than a total reinvention of dental cleansing. I've tried it and it sure is interesting.
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Y-Brush looks almost like a denture attached to a stick, sat on top of a vibrating base – like something a practical joker might pull out at Halloween. On closer inspection, however, you can see that the mouth-shaped part is lined with bristles. You place the entire thing in your mouth and it vibrates all of your upper teeth clean. Then you take it out and turn it downwards, and it does all your bottom teeth.
Anyone who's used an electric toothbrush, especially the Philips Sonicare ones which noticeably 'vibrate' to clean, will find the sensation of the Y-Brush at work quite familiar. It's got three power settings, which wobble your mouth clean in ever decreasing amounts of time. The idea is that you wean yourself onto the Y-Brush by starting with using once per day on the lowest setting, then gradually work your way up to twice per day on the highest setting. At this point, you have risen to the highest level of Y-Brushness, a bit like Going Clear in Scientology, and your teeth will be perfectly clean with just two brushing sessions – morning and night – of 10 seconds each.
Well, that's the theory. I asked a dental hygienist what she thought of this idea – I did not offer my Y-Brush to her to use, as I thought she might find it unhygienic. So her reply is not specifically about the Y-Brush, but it's still of interest: "I've seen these things creep onto the market before but they've never really taken off. In my opinion the efficacy of them is inferior to a standard manual or electric toothbrush. Mainly because everyone's jaw size, tooth position, alignment and inclination are all different. With this brush being one size and shape [nb: there are actually two sizes but they're strictly one for adults, one for kids] it may not be accurate enough to remove enough plaque effectively."
It must be said that Y-Brush has a marketing programme aimed at dental professionals… but also one aimed at influencers, and its website is not exactly awash with scientific papers. However, it says that its toothbrushes 'are made with certified medical or food grade materials. This ensures that they will not interact with your body, especially when in contact with your mucous membranes,' so that's reassuring.
As you can probably tell by the slightly odd English there, Y-Brush is French, and another of its mission statements is 'To manufacture in France, by our teams, and locally, whenever possible.' Alors, pas de problème, mec. The Y-Brush ships outside of France, though – worldwide, in fact. The intention is to sell through Amazon very soon, although at present it's via the Y-Brush website only.
So, that's the theory out of the way: cleans your teeth in 10 seconds; but there could be issues with Y-Brush’s 'one size fits all' approach. What about the practice?
I've been using it for the last 2 weeks and what I have found so far is that Y-Brush cleans very well, considering how rapid it is. It doesn't leave my teeth feeling as clean as my Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 does, but it's not bad at all.
There is a bit of an issue getting toothpaste onto it as you have to apply a weird adaptor to your toothpaste tube, so it squeezes out only a very thin line of toothpaste. Said adaptor makes your toothpaste tube resemble Jeff Bezos' spaceship, which is not a great start. More seriously, it seems to have been designed for 1970s-style metallic toothpaste tubes with a cylindrical end. But I, and surely most people in the UK, use those larger plastic toothpaste tubes with more of a conical end.
As soon as I clapped eyes on the Y-Brush toothpaste adaptor I thought, 'No way is that going to stay on my toothpaste tube on its own' and sure enough, I was right. Still it is possible to use it, with a bit of holding/fiddling, or you can do what I did, which is to give up and smear toothpaste on without the adaptor. This seems a little wasteful of the planet’s dwindling toothpaste resources if you're only going to run it for 10 seconds, mind.
Y-Brush: what’s the cleaning like?
You then pick your power setting – for the purposes of writing this I decided to graduate myself to the top power setting more quickly than was recommended. With a long press of Y-Brush's one, big button the device then whirs into action and 10-30 seconds later – depending on intensity setting selected – you're all done.
To clean your teeth you have to saw it from side to side in your mouth. This is how Y-Brush gets around the thorny 'one size fits all (or doesn't as the case may be)' issue; the idea being that your back teeth won't get missed. While doing this, however, you must also chew on the brush quite rapidly – to ensure the tops of your teeth and the gum line get thoroughly scrubbed, presumably. If you struggle to rub your stomach while tapping your head, this might be hard for you, but I multi-tasked it like a boss.
Now, I found two problems with this process, however. 1) I refused to believe my mouth was done, so I promptly ran it for another 10-30 seconds every time. And 2) I then had to rinse off and put away this gross-looking, mouth-shaped device. It comes with a special stand so that 'liquid', eg: the rinsing water and a soupçon of saliva and toothpaste runs off rather than setting and making the bristles all claggy. Mmm-mm. Lovely. I left this on my bathroom shelf, to the considerable annoyance of my boyfriend, who wanted to know why I was leaving my false teeth lying around.
But aesthetics aside, I've been impressed by Y-Brush. I don't think I would ever throw away my toothbrush and go Full Y, but I would use this alongside it. With the toothbrush for pre-bedtime and the Y-Brush for mornings and/or when I just can't be arsed, my anti-teeth-falling-out arsenal has never looked stronger.
Bottom line is, if you really do brush your teeth for two minutes every time, you don't need this. If you're incapable of doing that, Y-Brush could be your dental saviour. Or at least it could mean your teeth are less 'British' than they might otherwise be.
Y-Brush price and availability
Y-Brush frequently seems to be on special offer and while it has an RRP of from €125 – there are various 'packs' available at different prices, it currently starts at €89.
The 'Summer pack' that I got sent, including the stand, costs €99. That's equivalent to £85, $120 or AU$160. With each head lasting three months and replacement heads costing €25 (£21, $30, AU$40) that compares fairly favourably to the more premium end of the electric toothbrush market.
• Buy Y-Brush direct from the brand (opens in new tab)