Celebrating 30 years of Philips Sonicare – we hear all about the stories and history behind the name.
Aircraft, weapons, imaging equipment, signaling equipment, even pest control devices, all now utilise sonic technology.
However, in 1992 when a US company pioneered sonic tooth brushing, it was heralded as one of the most significant breakthroughs in technology – let alone for home oral care.
It started when researchers at the University of Washington found that exposure to acoustic energy lessened the ability of common oral bacteria to adhere to dental surfaces, which galvanised them to create a toothbrush based on this pioneering technology.
The microprocessor in the resulting brush generated 31,000 bristles strokes a minute. This coupled with wide sweeping bristle amplitude was shown to set up dynamic fluid activity in the mouth.
Laboratory studies demonstrated that even without direct bristle contact at this specific frequency and amplitude, the brush damaged the hair like fimbriae on plaque bacteria. After two minutes’ exposure, the fimbriae on the plaque bacteria were almost gone – reducing their ability to adhere to and colonies teeth and gums.
David Giuliani, an entrepreneur with a background in electrical engineering, learned about the research emanating from the University of Washington and formed GEMTech to develop a commercial dental hygiene device. GEMTech launched the world’s first sonic toothbrush in 1992 – the Sonicare Advance – and its pioneering technology started a revolution in the toothbrush sector and caused quite a stir.
High profile professionals
By 1995, the tech sector was burgeoning; Sony launched the PlayStation and Ebay was born. David Giuliani, who by then had founded of Optiva Corporation, received the US Small Business Administration’s Small Business Person of the Year Award.
In the same year Sonicare Advance was launched in the UK at a cost £125, which was half the price of a Sony Playstation. That same year leading dental academics, clinicians, dental school tutors and thought leaders from across Europe came together to learn about Sonicare.
In 2000, Philips acquired Optiva Corporation and changed its name to Philips Oral Healthcare, Inc. A few months later, Sally Goss, the then president of the British Dental Health Foundation, attended the first Philips Emerging Trends in Oral Care Symposium and became an early Sonicare adopter and key opinion leader. She recalls: ‘The event was mind-blowing.
‘I became a regular guest amongst a selection of incredibly high profile dental professionals invited to Philips’ international events. I never once looked back as I was confident that no other brush could beat the Sonicare toothbrush.’
This year marked an evolutionary change for the brush with the UK launch of Sonicare Elite. The new brush featured a flexible, long necked brush-head and a smart timer function to educate users to brush for the recommended two minutes.
Philips rebranded the Sonicare toothbrush as ‘Philips Sonicare’ in 2003 and launched a new range of brush heads in 2004. They advocated changing brush heads every three months to ensure the effectiveness of Sonicare’s performance.
A Super Study was published in 2005 which evaluated the effects of the Sonicare Elite on oral hygiene and plaque accumulation. The study found that 85% of patients experienced a noticeable improvement in their overall oral hygiene.
That year Philips Oral Healthcare sponsored sessions on intelligent aesthetics at the World Aesthetics Congress, and Dr David Winkler also became a passionate Sonicare advocate.
The Sonicare Elite E9000 was launched in 2006 and featured a Custom Care System, two speeds, two brush head sizes, a personalised Quadpacer and an extended brushing function. Sonicare HealthyWhite was also introduced to enhance the effectiveness of whitening treatments and remove extrinsic staining. It also helped to achieve additional oral health benefits when patients brush for longer.
Philips revealed that Sonicare was now backed by 140 published clinical laboratory studies in 2007 at more than 40 universities and research institutes worldwide. And in September of that year it launched Sonicare Flexcare, a power brush with a smaller handle, less vibration and a range of personal care settings to encourage patients to be more compliant.
A year later in 2008 Philips created the first combined UV sanitiser and toothbrush charger in which used ultraviolet (UV) technology to eliminate germs. The company also focussed its attention on the links between oral health and systemic disease and placed brush head contamination technology at the forefront of the awareness drive.
In 2009, Philips launched Sonicare for Kids, a new brush that removed more plaque than a children’s manual toothbrush and provided significantly better brushing performance than a children’s battery toothbrush.
It was a busy year as Flexcare+ was also launched in 2009 to provide dental professionals with the latest motivational tool for the mouth. It featured a Gum Care Mode, a new brush head and indicator bristles that changed colour over 3 months of recommended usage to ensure optimum performance was maintained.
In 2010, Sonicare launched the Easyclean sonic toothbrush, aimed at those new to power brushing. It was simple to use, had one button, and a failsafe timer that introduced users to measured brushing in four equally phased periods.
Sonicare for Kids was accredited by The British Dental Health Foundation in 2011 and had claims endorsed that the brush provided the best clean to date. It improved gum health in only 2 weeks, provided noticeably whiter teeth in just one week, and protected against abrasion and gum recession to help reduce sensitivity.
In the same year the stylish Diamondclean toothbrush dialled up the style in UK bathrooms. It featured a number of modes to allow users to tailor their brushing according to their needs and their dental professional’s advice.
Philips won 24 awards in 2012 for its innovative and technologically meaningful advances in the dental sector. This includes the Best Dental Hygiene Product of the Year award for Sonicare and its Diamond Clean was also awarded Best New Electrical Product.
Philips named the next addition to its portfolio of award winning sonic toothbrushes the Sonicare FlexCare Platinum in 2013. This advanced sonic toothbrush had a built-in pressure sensor to guide users to adopt a better brushing technique.
Philips added Sonicare Diamondclean Black to its portfolio. This was a sonic tooth brush with sleek lines and cutting-edge technology that improved gum health, whitened teeth and removed 100 percent more stains in just one week.
Philips launched a new version of its Sonicare for Kids toothbrush in 2014, aimed at children between the ages of four and 10. It came with eight funky designs for its interchangeable decorative front panels.
Philips launched an amethyst coloured Sonicare Diamond Clean in 2015, which was awarded a coveted Number 1 status in independent consumer reports. Tonguecare+ was introduced the same year. This was a tongue brush which transformed any Philips Sonicare toothbrush into a sonic-powered tongue cleaner in seconds.
The introduction of the Sonicare for Kids Connected, which harnessed Bluetooth wireless technology and featured an interactive app to motivate children to brush more effectively and independently, was introduced in 2016.
The brush’s connectivity technology allowed it to synch with a coaching app on a tablet or smartphone, and the app includes personal brushing instructions designed especially for kids. The app also offered real-time guidance designed to increase brushing performance, as well as tracking and training to increase compliance.
Philips launched its first ever adult connected proposition, the Philips Sonicare Flexcare Platinum Connected, featuring 3D mouth-map technology to coach patients into better habits. The brush introduced Smart Sensors to provide real time feedback on brushing habits and to store and share data with the dental professional.
Philips continued to innovate in 2017 with the introduction of the Diamond Clean Smart, the third connected Sonicare toothbrush. This toothbrush harnessed unique connected technology to inspire and motivate patients to take better care of their oral health.
The brush was the culmination of 25 years of Sonicare research and product development and was dubbed the most clinically effective and sexiest-looking Sonicare in the brand’s history.
Philips announced the launch of the Sonicare Protective Clean in May 2018 and the Sonicare in-practice trial kit in October 2021 to make the Sonicare range more accessible to more people – enabling patients to trial it before committing to buying it from their dental practice.
After thirty years of research and development, the company continues to build on its portfolio and study the results.
In July 2022 a new in-vivo study compared the effects of home oral hygiene with either a manual toothbrush or a Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean Smart with Premium Gum Care brush head on plaque and periodontal inflammation, in stage I/II periodontitis patients.
This followed scaling and root planing for up to six months. The study authors found twice-daily home the Sonicare was statistically significant in effectively reducing plaque and symptoms of periodontal inflammation including bleeding and pocket depth, compared with the use of a manual toothbrush.
Both toothbrushes were safe on teeth and oral tissues.
It will be interesting to see what the next thirty years of innovation heralds. But for now, for more information about Sonicare please visit www.philips.co.uk/c-m-pe/electric-toothbrushes.