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What Is a Toothbrush Timer?

By Judith Smith Sullivan
Updated May 21, 2024
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A toothbrush timer is a device that helps individuals brush their teeth for the recommended two to three minutes and is commonly used with children who are developing their oral hygiene routines. Likewise, adults can also find toothbrush timers, which may be included with electric toothbrushes, beneficial. In addition to being part of a toothbrush or toothbrush accessory, these timers can be digital clocks, computer applications, or simply hourglasses.

Some children's toothbrush timers are built into the toothbrush. These timers may light up or make a noise for the duration of the brushing time. When the light or noise stops, the child knows that it is time to stop brushing.

Brushing accessories may also have built-in timers. For instance, a toothbrush stand may have an ultrasonic cleaning system and a timer built into its base. It may also have a decorative or colorful theme, like cheerful animals or popular cartoon characters. There are a variety of styles of toothbrush timers designed to coordinate with a variety of decor themes and personal styles.

Not all toothbrush timers are programmed the same way. Many timers actually offer multiple indications to help the individual remember to switch from front teeth to molars, or from the top row of teeth to the bottom row of teeth. This feature is not available on hourglass timers, however.

Although parents may find that a toothbrush timer is a helpful way to get their children to brush their teeth properly, adults may also benefit from the use of a toothbrush timer. Many individuals find it difficult to judge how long two to three minutes lasts, so they use a toothbrush timer. There are computer application programs, which can be downloaded onto a computer or cellular phone that are designed to function as toothbrush timers. These timers, in addition to having multiple timer options, can also provide reminders for dental appointments and other useful features.

Many high-end electric adult toothbrushes have a built in timer. Clinical studies have shown that electric rotary toothbrushes, similar to the type used in the dentist's office, remove more plaque than traditional manual toothbrushes. Some studies showed these results regardless of whether a toothbrush timer was used.

Instead of a timer, some individuals substitute the recitation of a poem, counting to a hundred, or listening to a song. Most popular songs are between two and three minutes long, which corresponds to the recommended amount of brushing time. Alternatively, a common egg timer, which is usually set for three minutes, can also be used to time brushing.

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Discussion Comments
By ZipLine — On Jul 23, 2014

@fify-- I see what you're saying. But very young children do not know the importance of hygiene and have to be taught. I agree that children need to make brushing a habit, but starting out, they do need some motivation and certain rules. A toothbrush timer helps in that regard. Also, very young children don't really know how much time has passed and won't be able to judge whether they've brushed for two or three minutes until they're older.

I bought a very cute children's timer for my daughter. We don't only use it for brushing, we also use it for play time and TV time. We basically use it throughout the day and it helps both of us plan the day right. I actually urge parents to get a multi-functional childrens' timer that they can use for other tasks as well.

By fify — On Jul 22, 2014

Dentists used to give out free sand timers for their patients before. Have they stopped doing that? I don't think that a toothbrush timer would be on top of my list of things to buy. I can use the timer on my watch if I need to.

I also dislike the idea of using something that beeps when the time is up. Brushing for two minutes is the minimum, but kids should brush more than that if they want to. Having an alarm go off at two minutes will make most kids quit immediately.

I think children need to learn to enjoy brushing and taking care of themselves. If they see it as a chore with timers and alarms, they will probably stop brushing when they're older.

By ysmina — On Jul 22, 2014

Hourglass sand timers are probably the best as a toothbrush timer for kids. There are two minute ones specifically made for brushing. I don't think it's a good idea to keep electronic watches and timers in the bathroom as they may end up in the sink by accident. I think kids enjoy watching the sand as well. That's what we use in our house.

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