The Gum Playbrush is an effective tool to encourage children to brush their teeth properly, but it’ll only work if your child is comfortable with the brush’s sonic vibrations.
It’s colourful and chunky. There’s a cute green dragon. It’s got games.
The Gum playbrush is a smart-enabled sonic toothbrush designed specifically to prompt children to clean their teeth properly. That is, brush for at least two minutes and all of their teeth, not just the molars at each side.
And it does this through gamification and rewards in a specially designed app. Every time your child uses the brush, they can play an interactive game and collect coins.
But does it work? And how does it work?
Let’s find out.
Design and features
Kids and Junior models
Comes with a charger and user manual
8 week battery life
Inside the box, you get the Gum sonic Playbrush and a brush head with extra soft bristles enclosed in a transparent plastic travel cap. The brush head is available in two sizes: Kids 3+ and Junior 6+. We’re testing the Junior model.
You’ll also get a charger that plugs into a UK power socket, and a user manual.
We went for the Junior 6+ in pink and aquamarine, but there’s also a blue and aquamarine model. The toothbrush is 23cm long from the top of the brush to the bottom of the base, and the base is 3cm in diameter, so it is quite chunky to hold. The brush head itself is 2.3cm long and 1cm wide with the bristles cut straight down with two slightly elongated sets at the top.
The power button is on a rubberised panel on front that features a grippy, raised bubble design; the back also features a matching rubberised, bubble design panel.
Alex Greenwood / Foundry
The charger is in white hard plastic with a pin that secures the toothbrush base to the charging plate, and it boasts a cable that is unusually long for a toothbrush charger – we made it to be about 117cm.
As we mentioned earlier, the charger plugs into a UK plug socket, not a shaving socket, so this is a brush that you’ll need to charge in a bedroom, kitchen or utility room, depending on how you have set up your child’s morning and evening routines.
Gum states the battery will last up to 8 weeks from a single charge.
Set up and performance
Two brushing modes
Interactive brushing coach
Selection of games
The set up is fairly simple. Download the Playbrush app from either the Apple app store or Google Play – Gum supplies a QR code – and you register on the app by supplying your email address, and a password. Then charge the brush. A green light will pulse while it is charging; once it is continuously lit, the battery is full.
When you remove the brush from the charger, it’ll start to blink blue. You activate Bluetooth on your phone, and open the Playbrush app. The brush should then automatically pair straight away. You can tell when the brush and app are connected because the blue light will be solid blue and the little toothbrush icon at the top right-hand side of the app screen will pop up in full colour.
You can then adjust the brush’s settings. You have a choice between power mode and sensitive mode, which basically adjusts the speed of the brush, and you can set the brushing time. You can also set up a profile specifically for your child, and you have a maximum of six profiles.
You open the app, pick up the brush, pick your profile, and choose a game.
First, there is an interactive brushing coach. You get a real-time, 3D cartoon, dental simulation of a pair of teeth, and the position sensor in the brush updates the graphic to show you where you’re brushing. As you brush, little cartoon bacteria disappear.
We found the coach a little confusing, however, as the brush position in the app did not seem to correspond to where the brush was in the mouth at the time, so some of the prompts to change sides left us darting the brush all around the mouth. It seems as though there is a delay in the motion sensor signal to the app.
Then there are brushing games. The first one we tried was an easy one, Utootha Paint, where your tooth brushing slowly colours in a picture. It’s a remarkably effective way to get a child to prolong their toothbrushing session because they just want to “finish colouring in the bird”.
The second game we tried was a medium one, called Superstars, where your brushing fills up a series of columns so you can catch stars and earn points.
In both games, your brushing directions and mouth quadrants seemed to direct the activity, but we found it confusing as to which part of the mouth to brush.
Then there is the headline game My Buddy Dayo. Dayo is a cute cartoon dragon and a toothbrushing version of a Tamagotchi. Dayo is a virtual pet that you hatch, feed, dress, and care for, all using coins that you earn through brushing sessions. It’s an ingenious idea, to be fair, and starts to change the associations some children may have about brushing their teeth – brushing becomes less of a chore.
There are also premium games. These are games that you need to subscribe to Playbrush to access. The Playbrush works without a subscription, but you can’t actually buy the Playbrush without also signing up for a subscription package.
The advanced settings include detailed brushing statistics, including brushing time, regularity and accuracy.
Gum says the Playbrush delivers 17,000 movement per minute. Now we obviously can’t test this claim, but what we will say is that the Playbrush leaves teeth feeling really clean.
Part of this might be that the games provide children with a reward system so they actually brush their teeth for two minutes – rather than one minute three seconds, say, because they are bored of standing in the bathroom and want to jump up and down on the bed instead.
Add to that the fact that the games also provide them with prompts to move the brush to another part of the mouth and, all together, it is that change in toothbrushing behaviour, as well as the sonic nature of the brush, that delivers such a fantastic result.
Of course, there is a fundamental issue with the Playbrush: you need a child that will use a sonic toothbrush. Some children, particularly those with sensory processing issues, are not going to cope well with the vibrations against their teeth. But if your child is happy to use a sonic toothbrush, we don’t see how the performance of the Playbrush could be improved.
The Gum Playbrush is available in Europe and the UK. It’s not currently for sale in the US. We’re testing the Junior brush, which is for children aged 6 and above. You can buy it from Gum for £29.99. Along with the brush, you’ll also get a 30 day trial run of the app. After this, it costs £24.99 per year. That is an additional cost to consider but you can test the app for a month and if your child likes it, spending £25 for a year of pain-free brushing is something most parents would probably consider worthwhile.
But Gum also makes a Playbrush for kids aged over three. You can buy it from Amazon or direct from Gum. Both Playbrushes come in a pink or blue colourway. Gum also makes an adult’s smart brush that apparently also has mini games.
Then there’s the subscription cost. The All-Round Carefree plan is currently £3.33 a month, with a 30-day free trial period, billed annually at £39.99, and you get free replacement brush heads, twelve games, statistics, advanced settings, and full access to My Buddy Dayo.
The Motivational Plan gives you all this without the replacement brush heads, and you can either pay £2.83 a month, billed every quarter at £8.49, or £2.12 a month, billed annually at £25.49.
We really liked the Playbrush. It’s colourful, it pairs easily to the app and there are games to keep children involved – it’s a terrific tool for kids.
Okay, you need to sign up for a subscription to both purchase the Playbrush and access premium games. Plus, to completely remove the stress of toothbrush time in your bathroom, you’ll want to create a permanent safe spot by your sink to site a phone or tablet, but, all in all, we do think the Playbrush is a reasonable investment in your child’s dental health, particularly considering the current cost of dentistry.
In fact, we’d go so far to say that we’d rather like a version for adults.
To see other electric toothbrushes we recommend, have a look at our round-up of the best electric toothbrushes we’ve tested.