Our Dental Insurance Sent us “Free” Internet-Connected Toothbrushes. And this is What Happened Next

When the product is “free,” WE are the product.

Last December, we changed dental insurance. The new insurer included in its offering a set of “free” electric toothbrushes, the vibrating “sonic” kind called evocatively “Beam Brush.” One for each of us. My wife chose the colors when she ordered the brushes, as you will notice in a moment.

Electric toothbrushes are nothing new. We had one at home when I was a teen.

What’s new is this:

  1. They’re “free”
  2. They’re connected to the Internet of Things, via Bluetooth and an app on your smartphone.

The app on the smartphone does all the good stuff, such as adjusting the speed of the brush. And off the data goes into the cloud.

So forget that thing. When the box arrived in January, we put it unopened into the closet to be forgotten.

Three months later, we get a second and nearly identical box:

This was a gentle reminder that these brushes were “free” for a reason, and that therefore we had to connect them to the internet and use them, and that the company knew we hadn’t opened the first box because the brushes hadn’t beamed, so to speak, any data back to Beam. The brushes were part of the deal, and we better set them up, download the app, and beam back data from the inside of our mouths – that was the message.

We dilly-dallied around for a week or so. But last night, after we double-checked to make sure Bluetooth was turned off on our phones, we opened the first box:

It contained two tubes of special toothpaste, two rolls of floss, and the two toothbrushes, each in its own color-coded box, greenish-yellow for me and pink-red for her. OK, cool colors, I get it. Note the paring knife, which was not included: it was needed to remove the shrink-wrap that was around each individual item:

And there were the instructions. They came in two forms. Here’s the big print, a sheet that was right there. It shows what to do first. So this would be easy.

“Connect your brush to unlock all its magical features,” it says at the top. And here are the tree steps:

  1. “Download app” from the App Store or Google Play.
  2. “Sign in” with the email and password “you used while creating your Beam Dental account.”
  3. “Follow setup. Make sure Bluetooth is on, brush is in hand and the app will do the rest.”

Once the thing is set up, you have all kinds of awesome options via this app, it says: “View Insurance Card, Find a Dentist, Quadrant Time, Control Brush Speed, Earn Rewards, Family Gaming.” This is going to be fun. Got it?

Not quite so obvious was the second set. It’s printed on the inside of the cardboard box that the plastic toothbrush box was in, and you have to tear the box apart and unfold it:

In very small print, it lists the standardized warnings (for example, “Do not submerge or place in water or other liquid”), instructions for setup, brushing of teeth, adjusting the speed via the app, and cleaning of device. Buried in the middle of the list, it also includes this little paragraph:

“Data Syncing: Data will automatically sync as long as the Beam Brush is pared to a compatible device that is sending and receiving data.”

That “compatible device would be the smartphone with the app.

And there’s the part you certainly are not supposed to read because it’s the compliance language about radio interference, compatibility with US, Canadian, and European standards, in English and French, etc., etc. No one reads this stuff. So I read it because this is a “free” toothbrush, and I better read everything.

I find the real name of the device: “Usage Monitoring Sonic Toothbrush.” And this gem:

The Beam Brush (Generation 2) collects brushing usage data that wirelessly transmits the data to a software application (Beam Brush App) that runs on the user’s own mobile device (“smartphone”).

Is there a microphone in the toothbrush? It wouldn’t say.

It wouldn’t be the first time that an Internet-connected microphone was hiding inside a harmless-sounding product, such as a doll that “chatters about horses and hobbies” and could be “eavesdropping on your child.”

We proceeded with care. Without downloading the app and without connecting the toothbrush to our smartphones, we turned it on (without app, you can only turn it on and off), used the special toothpaste, and brushed our teeth. The vibrating brush massages the gums nicely. But the whole thing vibrates in your hand, and for a fleeting moment, I had the feeling of sticking an Internet-connected vibrator in my mouth. There are stories about them spying on their users too, and getting caught doing it.

So we’re using the device without app and Internet connection. Beam is still thinking we’re not using it because we’re not uploading our data to the cloud and considers us in violation of the “free” deal. We’re expecting a series of emails that start out gently, and every two weeks or so get increasingly emphatic, telling us that we better start setting up the Internet connection to our toothbrushes and start sending our data to the cloud.

What’s next? The day when we cannot get the best dental insurance without Internet-connected toothbrush.

There are many people who think nothing of it. They laugh at us. For them, we’re fossils that just cannot grasp the modern world where private life takes place on the Internet and is stored forever in the cloud. Formerly innocuous devices like toothbrushes, dolls, TVs, thermostats, fridges, mattresses, or toilet-paper dispensers, that are everywhere around the house, will see to it that more and more personal and even intimate data gets uploaded to the cloud as the Internet of Things invades not only our home but our body cavities.

For now, our household is still able to at least partially block this intrusion. But there will be a day when we will be forced to surrender our data to get health insurance, drive a car, or have a refrigerator and a thermostat in the house. This is where this is going. Why? Because data is where the money is. And because many consumers are embracing it.

After all we’ve learned over the years about Facebook, and particularly recently, where’s the panicked rush to “delete” Facebook accounts? Read… Then Why Is Anyone STILL on Facebook?

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  146 comments for “Our Dental Insurance Sent us “Free” Internet-Connected Toothbrushes. And this is What Happened Next

  1. Chris Wagner says:

    Haven’t heard of this before, thanks, Wolf!

    Be weary of anything “smart” like electricity meters, too.

    • Lee says:

      You mean like the smart meters people are required to have if they have solar panels?

      Or the new, improved smart meters that send data by wireless app to the electricity company so they don’t have to send out someone to read the meter?

      Or the smart meter that YOU have to pay for, but DON’T OWN so the company can save money on the above? (IIRC it was around A$300 or so)

      Or the smart meter that is so so smart that the functions won’t work because of the faults in the system or the geographic location won’t allow the wireless system to transmit the data?

      It’s all about control. It is why people going off grid are such a threat to the ‘system’.

      • Not So Free says:

        Not to mention that they screw up your bill by ~50%. (Higher, of course)
        And the health risks are well known. Check out Catherine Frompovich and Jon Rappoport for a series of articles.
        As to “smart appliances” you can keep them.
        No smartphone, no bluetooth anything. Just an antique cell phone (barely digital) and a laptop with the camera and mic blocked.

        • Jennifer says:

          I’m not so sure you should be recommending those two.
          Catherine Frompovich is anti-vaccination and Jon Rappoport believes that germs aren’t real. Both are anti-science.

        • name says:

          (s)he was trying to be sarcastic

      • John in Indy says:

        No, that would be the smart meters which allow the utility company to shut off your air conditioner when their more important customers overload the areas’ circuits.
        John in Indy

  2. Bobber says:

    Pretty scary. Hopefully they limit use of the information to advertising.

    But even if the whole purpose of this personal tracking is advertising, I don’t see how it can be successful in the long run when the middle class is gutted out. The system knows how to extract every last dime out of people, but it does not know how to put money back into their pocket.

  3. Arizona Slim says:

    Yet another why I don’t buy dental insurance.

  4. John says:

    At least you see it coming Wolf, the sad truth is that about 90% have no clue.

  5. Chris Wagner says:

    As of this month, the EU forces the installation of a device in cars (to report accidents automatically). Strictly one-way, just like the Alexis’ and Echo Dots of the world…

  6. BradK says:

    “Orwellian” would be a gross understatement. Somewhere, the ghost of ol’ George is smiling. Or crying.

    Could you share the name of the insurer, or are you concerned about raising their ire? Is it stated anywhere that use of the spying device is a requirement for coverage, or will you only find out when you attempt to put in a claim?

    Let’s hope the recent Forcebook revelations will encourage more of the sheep to think twice about volunteering the intimate details of their daily lives. I’m not holding my breath though. Sharing everything online has become so endemic in our culture, especially so in the youngins’ who can’t even conceive of a world without smart phones and 24×7 connectivity.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      The insurer’s name is also the brand of the device. The blue of the toothpaste box is the same blue as our insurance card. It’s one unified platform. The name is “Beam” :-]

      • BradK says:

        From the Beam site:

        What do you do with my brushing data?

        The Beam Brush tracks usage to encourage better brushing habits amongst our members. Then, we collect that data in the aggregate so that groups receive the best possible rates on insurance premiums.

        Better brushing leads to better plans and premiums for your group!

        So, essentially a group shaming if you don’t meet their threshold for “better brushing” (for which the criteria are not disclosed). Does this include what time(s) of the day you brush and for how long?

        Big Brother is watching you — Brush. Or not.

        • Eastwind says:

          Exactly. And your insurance rates will be penalized if you don’t brush 3 times a day. Which means you’ll have to take the toothbrush with you to work and back home again. Every day. Or else be penalized.

          And if you fail to comply they’ll cut off your wife’s pinky finger. (cf Cat’s Eye/Quitter’s Inc). That’s in the fine print of the insurance agreement you didn’t read but implicitly accepted when you picked the box up off your doorstep.

          Please let us know whether they honor claims if you don’t enable the app.

        • Walker says:

          That really is Orwellian. Orwell was right on beam, pun intended, just a little early.

        • ScottS71 says:

          Wolf, I can build a cradle for the brush that turns it on (35min, 3 times a day) and off; lets get those rates down and your model brushing habbits, noticed.

      • chris van der says:

        You intentionally switched dental insurers to one that pairs their insurance with a smart tooth brush?

        Seems like you were just fishing for blog post content here..

      • MCH says:

        OMG, you can see when every Apple Watch become mandatory with health insurance, so they can check your stats and adjust your insurance. Then, one day there will be the blue-tooth connected rectal thermometer to constantly measure your temperature and provide health feedback to the insurance company.

        Of course, by then, we won’t care, because we’ll all be cyborgs.

        • Michael Gorback says:

          I think a rectal MANOMETER would be more useful to health insurers as a measure of daily stress.

  7. TJ Martin says:


    And errr …. Long live analogue ;-)

    • Michael Fiorillo says:

      Yes, long live analog , but while The Rest of Us are being herded into digital pens, the Overclass is buying up what remains of the analog world…

      • TJ Martin says:

        Not hardly . Those being ‘ herded ‘ as you say are being herded volitionally , voluntarily and by choice … albeit sometimes ‘clouded ‘ [ pun intended ] by ignorance .. much of which is volitional as well ( e.g. ignoring the obvious )

        Fact is it is MUCH cheaper to remain on the analogue fringes than it is to be sucked in to the digital lunacy running rampant across all generations and class worldwide .

        Reading suggestions ? ” Brave New World ” – ” Rage Against the Machine ” – ” Silicon SnakeOil ” and if you’re a highly educated individual ” The Technological Bluff “

        • Michael Fiorillog says:

          I think you and I have different ideas of what “choice” means.

          Do people in the job market really have a “choice” about using Linked-In, for example?

          For years, until they changed the policy recently, you couldn’t post a comment at the New York Times without going through Facebook; readers of this blog could come up with multitudes of similar examples. Where’s the “choice” in that ?

          Your concept of “choice” reminds me of the lectures I’ve heard over the years, about how people “choose” to be poor and “choose” stressful and low-paying jobs.

          Yeah, life is about choices, isn’t it? All those poor children deserve what they get, for “choosing” poor parents, and when we’re no longer allowed to pay with cash, and must use a smart-phone for necessary transactions, that’ll be our “choice,” too, won’t it?

          Nominally, in the abstract, of course they do, but it’s akin to the rich having the “choice” to sleep under bridges, but for some strange reason “choosing” not to.

        • mean chicken says:

          Income inequality is most effective when it’s applied to the masses who by their own fault of poor breeding are underprivileged irredeemable experimental monkeys. These monkeys need constant corporate moral guidance to improve their daily habits and choices.

  8. Rossmorguy says:

    Great story, Wolf, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. And I’ll bet your dental insurance is extremely expensive or else will cover only a fraction of the costs of any procedure other than a cleaning, which you won’t even need anymore if you use those toothbrushes and floss religiously. I swear, the high cost of dental care these days is a crime. It was different back in the day, when my folks were raising us five kids and our teeth.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Our dental insurance is cheaper than the prior one, and pays better too. We suspect that the internet-connected device, and the data stream it provides, has something to do with it.

      • polecat says:

        Soooo, it sounds like you’re essentially buying-in (or maybe ‘resigned to’ is a more app t phrase .. ) to the whole Internet of Sh!t .. no ?

        I believe there will be immense blow-back from all this data gleaning techdreck ‘;[

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Not at all; We will not connect this thing to the internet under any circumstances, period. But the insurance is OK. That’s what I was saying.

      • Frederick says:

        Who needs dental insurance anyway Just head over to Eastern Europe for great dental care at a fraction of outrageous US prices and enjoy a short vacation while saving lots of money I had a root canal done in Poland in 2004 for 200 USD On Long Island they wanted north of 1500

        • Lee says:

          Try A$3000 for a root canal and crown…………..in Oz.

        • quack says:

          Try $200-$500 for implant in SPb RF. Depends on the clinic and the origin of implant itself. $100 root canal.
          I was charged about $5000 for implant in S Florida.

        • Soger says:

          I used to work in the UK with hepatitis C patients. The vast majority of our own “natives” contracted it because they stuck something naughty into their veins.

          The Poles, Latvians, Lithuanians largely got infected via dental work. I can only assume you’re in the US and not Canada but last I checked a course of Harvoni to clear Hep C in Texas would set you back over 100k.

          1300 dollar saving… Not sure its worth it! Just my 2c.

        • Frederick says:

          Soger I guess that would depend on the dentist you choose in these countries Of course there are good and bad just like in the so-called developed world My father was a dentist and was often aghast at the stories he was told by new patients Sadly there are quacks and crooks everywhere

      • QQQBall says:

        Come on Wolf. They will refine the brushes; you will get a cavity in a wisdom tooth & the insurer will blame you for not brushing that area well… so claim denied.

        “We get cheaper insurance b/c our tooth brush tracks our brushing.” Really?

  9. gorbachov says:

    I don’t participate in social media or have dental insuance.

    So, my data is private (I think) and I also paid $750 for 2 fillings(one

    hour of the dentists’ time). It’s expensive when you’re on the outside.

    • OSP says:

      But how long can you survive with an analog toothbrush?

    • Petunia says:

      My son had 4 wisdom teeth pulled. The dentist billed the insurance company $2K, they got $1.5K, and we still had to pay almost $400, which is what it probably costs anyway.

      • QQQBall says:

        My dentist has new computer stuff in his office & I can see on the screen that he has $5,000 for 2 large fillings I need replaced. I’ll get the work done while overseas. We’re headed for UK and Europe. Worst case, we do research and I go to Tijuana for the dental work. But I suspect at the very least I will pay for our airfares with the savings.

        • Karl says:

          There’s clearly a burgeoning industry of so called medical tourism, however one must remain weary of shady doctors!

        • Frederick says:

          Karl is correct however the dentist I used in Warsaw was a recent graduate with all the latest technology I felt very confident and the work was top notch That said there are plenty of lousy dentists in the states who will happily take your money for shoddy dental work My father was a dentist and knew quite a few of them

        • MC01 says:

          Look up dental clinics in Slovenia and Croatia. Most of them are owned and operated by Dutch, German and Italian healthcare companies but cost a fraction than in their home countries.

          Several offer “all inclusive” packages which also include transportation, lodgings, food and drink and some will even throw in a few chips for the local casino, if you are into that kind of things. ;-)

      • Lee says:

        In Japan the kid had four wisdom teeth pulled and the total out of pocket cost including aftercare was about US$70.

        At least there was some benefit from paying in huge national health insurance and pension fees.

        Even visitors to Japan can use the dentists there and you’ll find the out of pocket costs quite cheap compared to Australia or the USA.

        Very good dentists and care too.

        Who would have thought that about Japan!!!

  10. Maximus Minimus says:

    How did you know it wasn’t scanning the whole neighbourhood for an open wifi, and then report on you for not using your own wifi?
    Besides, smart toothbrushes aside, have you heard about LED light bulbs which you can adjust via a smartphone app?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      That would be a huge lie the company would likely not get away with. It says the device has Bluetooth that is always on unless you take out the battery. If it also has wifi to report back via that route without disclosing it, that would be quite something. And it would be easy to detect too.

      But then, anything is possible these days. If they get caught, they’ll just pay a small fine and issue an apology. So the risks would be minimal.

      • polecat says:

        So then maybe the game .. is not to play ! Even if it means paying a higher insurance premium, or baring that, paying outta pocket. Some dental folk actually like to take this stuff we call ‘cash’ …

      • Gibbon1 says:

        Beware. WiFi devices can report back to the mother ship without having a SSID and password. Via a dns hack.

    • DR says:

      That’s kinda paranoid on a whole nother level. There is a big difference between collecting data and telling people about it and covertly and illegally connecting to 3rd party wireless to send data without your knowledge. If you could prove the latter case, that would be a huge deal.

  11. Tamara says:


    It’s called “cognitive dissonance.” Many Germans had no idea that things would ever get so bad. But a few did and left Germany before that happened. Warning signs, there are always warning signs, but most can’t read them, or choose to ignore them like an ostrich hiding its head in the sand.

  12. Kasadour says:

    I recently saw a bumper sticker that read:

    Healthcare is a right not a privilege

    Once your daily eating habits and dental hygiene habits are uploaded to an authority that provides your health care “right”, in order to properly analyze it for you as a “free service”, is the day when the same authority will tell you what you can/can’t eat and when you can eat it.

    I’ve been saying this for years: take your health into your own hands. Eat right, exercise daily, with proper dental hygiene, and hope for the best because with “rights” come responsibilities, and attached the those are authorities that are more than eager to peer into your life and tell you how to live it.

    After further thought, I deleted my Facebook account. It’s been three weeks and I don’t miss it. I’m relieved.

    • james wordsworth says:

      Funnily enough the US seems to have more “nanny” insurance companies watching your behavior than countries with single payer coverage. Why? Cause they are profit driven…and they want more money.

      As for health and responsibility … give me a break. Yes behaviors can impact health but many of the health issues we eventually face are down to pure bad luck, or bad genes. I will take pooled health care (single payer) over any other alternative (and I have good genes) for the reduced stress (no insurance to shop for, nor worries about going to a doctor) , the overall benefits to society (eg: great for entrepreneurs), and well … cause it is the right thing to do.

  13. Erich says:

    Since we’re on the subject of health care, here’s an interesting article from Slashdot about whether or not cures for diseases is “cost effective” –


    The answer of course is that it’s NOT. Treating diseases is MUCH more profitable than curing them. We don’t have health care in this country, we have sick care.

    The research was done by the “squid”.

    • polecat says:

      Thus .. polio, and no doubt smallpox, under today’s hyperfinancialized nonregulatory atmosphere, would never have been eradicated .. only allowed to spread death, and misfortune .. for $$$

      Honestly .. GSacks, and their ilk are a virulent form of socialgrifting CANCER ..
      They need some radiation ‘therapy’ .. Stat !

  14. raxadian says:

    1984 was right.

    As long as obligatory usage of the product is not included in the contract you signed, you can just block their calls and add their e-mails to your junk list.

    Maybe they won’t want your money enough to make lose their services, maybe not.

    Will they sent you more “free” toothbrushes?

    Who knows.

  15. Realist says:

    Well, there are no free lunches …

    • raxadian says:

      But a pro makes others pays for their lunches.

      J. Wellington Wimpy from Popeye basically lives from this

      “I’ll have a hamburger, for which I will gladly pay you Tuesday.”

      The Wimpys of today are companies called Zombie unicorns like Uber.

  16. Kasadour says:

    Maybe Mr. Richter should send the toothbrushes back with a polite note- thanks but no thanks, and see what happens.

  17. Cynic says:

    Didn’t people used to sneak into the bathroom and turn all the taps on to escape the listening bugs in Soviet hotels and apartments?

    Maybe a honey-trap operative will turn up to sweet talk you into switching the brush on.

    • Realist says:

      In the Viru Hotel in Estonia they do have a museum situated on the nonexistent floor that exhibits how the Soviets did spy on guests at the hotel.

      One of the funnier facts is that the beds where equipped with microphones and therefore even in double rooms the beds where set apart because certain activity requiring 2 people would otherwise cause so much noise from the mattress that it made the microphones useless. In addition, it was easier to hide the cabling when the beds where standing along a wall.

  18. Plumas One says:

    Thanks for the heads up Wolf. Wonder what “other” free
    products have a hidden transmitter.

  19. VT says:

    For all you paranoid followers, try reading this month’s National Geographic cover story. (London and the use of surveillance)

  20. So the toothbrush police have arrived? I sent my son dental floss for Christmas. He says it makes his gums bleed so he doesn’t use it. If I could send him something like this I would, and threaten to cut off his inheritance if he didn’t follow proper dental care. If the corporate solution works so much the better.

  21. GSH says:

    On a similar note, I installed Wifi-connected thermostats in our home. The benefit: it allows us to check temperatures when we are out of town so we know if the furnace or A/C are operational.

    It also came with a “killer” feature that you could enable location tracking on your phone and the furnace would automatically go to the “vacation/away” setting once you leave home.
    Great idea- NOT! Half the Internet would know if you are home or not.
    Almost as bad as announcing you are on vacation on Twitter #vacation. Our neighbors home got broken into after their kids did just that.

    • VT says:

      I disagree with you thinking your vacation status is known by the connection with your thermostat (if it is a NEST it is fine).

      If you home’s heat is set low in the winter, it is easy enough to tell by looking at the infrared signature with a simple detector from the street. Use one of those and simply drive down the street and case the neighborhood.

      In the summer, check the external water spigots to confirm .. if the water is shut off, you can be sure the owners are gone for at least a day or two.

  22. ft says:

    I thought at first that this story must be a late April Fool’s joke. No? Well then, time to give this insurer its just reward by obtaining coverage elsewhere.

    Dental insurers are not in business to lose money. I dropped coverage for my family when I retired in 2014 and have found my overall dental care costs since then to be lower.

  23. RangerOne says:

    Any tech can lead time distopian usage but it need not be that way.

    There is some evidence to suggest that presenting people with data and tracking of critical behaviors such as perhapes brushing frequency and time could be used in a way to encourage people to brush more.

    Penalizing or incentivising those who upload better data is the worst case. In the best case seeing how your brushing habits measure up to peers tends to make people want to do at least as well as average.

    • Michael Fiorillo says:

      Yes, and let’s be grateful we have bi-partisan agreement that the “worst case” scenarios you mention (and which are far from the worst, btw) will never be allowed to come to pass…

      Oh, wait…

  24. zoomev says:

    Just got training on the EU’s GDPR regulations. They are shockingly good. The question is when will US citizens get such protections.

    In the case of Beam they are barred from collecting data beyond what they need for the device itself.

    Fine print gotchas are not allowed.

    User must clearly opt in to each agreement.

    Upon request the data controller must supply all data and third parties that may have received it within 30 days.

    Upon request all data must be wiped including third parties. This is the legal responsibility of the data controller…

    Good stuff.

    • internet_person says:

      Many larger internet companies that operate worldwide are already starting to put GDPR measures into place to be compliant with the EU’s new regulations. It’s easier to implement those for EU and just apply the same standards for US users, too, since there’s less work when you can avoid all the special casing.

      It’s similar to when California used to have higher fire protection standards for furniture. Furniture makers didn’t want to build one set of furniture, one way for CA and another set, another way for other states so they just put fire retardants in all their furniture to keep it simple.

      That fire retardant thing didn’t turn out so great but hopefully the EU’s GDPR data privacy regulations will…

      • Rob says:

        Less work if you don’t special case, but more money if you do. Which do you think they’re going to take?

  25. Nick Kelly says:

    If you use one for something other than brushing teeth do you still get brushing credit?

  26. William Jackson says:

    Phones need granular app control, so that only actual use data is sent home. They will have times and length of use. Your phone should not allow any other personal or location data to be ‘mined’.
    They will then know how often you brush, and times. If they also require a dental exam 1-2 times per year, which also details your current fillings and general oral health – that is all they need to quantify your oral health.
    They will then be able to assess your insurance rates. Think of an accident, DUI offence, or a speeding ticket – both of which are now used to determine your car insurance rates, which can be gathered from the licence bureau – few complain, but they feel a corrective pressure to not speed and not have accidents etc.

    As long as that is all they get, I am willing to tolerate that for lower rates, it is, after all, simply growing up.

    No third party ads, but good brushers will get free points that cut the rate at renewal time.

  27. Duke De Guise says:

    I’d be careful about going to a dentist affiliated with this insurer, Wolf, now that you’ve no doubt been tagged as “non-compliant.”

    They might place place a chip in your teeth to ensure your compliance thereafter!

  28. Paulo says:

    Hey ho,

    Let’s talk fossil behaviour. You know, it is possible to live a long, satisfying, and healthy life without a smart phone or being connected to any application, whatsoever. Yes, there are almost no more phone booths anymore for one of those urgent calls, but do I really need to phone someone when I go to town? Of course not.

    Our dental plan (extended health) has a modest co-pay. I had the joy of a root canal last month which included two visits for the rotor rooter experience and a perm filling to replace a temp. Total cost to me for everything was around $140 cdn. Flossing and brushing done at home, manual application, no comments or scrutiny except from my wife. Apparently, I take too big of piece of floss. Go figure. Oh yeah, I forget to clean the mirror. Who needs a cloud reminder or app track when I have a wife?

    • William Jackson says:

      Yes, fossils we have. I want lower rates, I already brush and floss daily – but I am tossed in the aggregate, so if I can get appreciably lower rates AND they only get the limited data I permit, I am content. But do a facebook and mine my contacts and my friends contacts etc etc – not for me.

    • polecat says:

      We often refer to the bathroom mirror as our star chart !

  29. cdr says:

    A Bluetooth connected toothbrush is about the stupidest thing I have ever heard of. Assuming this isn’t a belated April 1 joke, my mind boggles at the MBA level halfwits who schemed and back-stabbed to make sure this great idea took hold and got implemented. And the CEO who said “Great Idea, We Have To Do It.” must be a true flake. Who lost their job or got sent to corporate Siberia because they openly said “That’s a Stupid Idea”. I have met idiots like that, making me think this actually could be not a spoof.

    My toothbrush is a spy, and I can’t even post a vacation or lunch picture to the feed for all to see and be amazed over. What a gyp. It need a Facebook feed. Facebook notification: Jenny just brushed and did an excellent job. Facebook notification: Bob forgot to brush yesterday. We need this. HIPAA is a work around.

    • William Jackson says:

      I suspect this is part of a competitive thrust to weed out all the liars who say they brush and floss 3 times/day – yet their cavity history says no – I should pay for them??? No way, let them use the brush or get the boot

    • cdr says:

      Just wondering … if my toothbrush has a microphone and both go over the internet, will they know if I ate too many beans yesterday? And I love beans. Perhaps they will offer advice to avoid dietary distress automatically if the right amount of dietary distress announces itself?

      • cdr says:

        Will I see an automatic Facebook notification from the microphone in my toothbrush: xxx has dietary distress?

        • cdr says:

          But then, some might ask, where did you put that toothbrush? They might not know about the microphone and think some other sensor figured it out. Not good. Some people aren’t very smart.

          Time to rethink the whole concept of a smart toothbrush with internet capabilities.

  30. JB says:

    great read, I am still chuckling over N. Kelly comments and others. Anyways Wolf’s potentially transmitted dental regimen data might be protected by HIPAA .

  31. WT Frogg says:

    Wolf : Look at the bright side. You could use those brushes as belly button or shoeshine brushes and your dental carrier wouldn’t know the difference. Lol.
    On another note: if my appliances ever start speaking to me I will beat them into submission with my Louisville Slugger. ;)

  32. Rcohn says:

    What happens when you buy burial insurance?

    • RD Blakeslee says:

      You had better die promptly. Bookeeping on your account costs money ..

  33. Karl says:

    Its like the Lorax said “sometimes progress progresses too fast.”
    That is if you can call this progress.

  34. internet_person says:

    Wolf, you had asked how it knows if your brushing (“Is there a microphone in the toothbrush?”). It’s likely that there’s some embedded software on the device that logs a tiny bit of data (e.g., each you press the button to turn the toothbrush on and off). It’s likely then just sending that info to your phone periodically via it’s bluetooth connection. Even if bluetooth sharing is off, it’s probably still logging that data until memory gets full and the oldest data starts to get deleted so the newest data can get added.

    The thing to remember is that data has a cost — storage, power, cost to transmit, etc. The devices that we should worry the most about are the ones that are plugged in and connected to WiFi since they make it easy to capture and transfer more data without worrying about constraints like power and bandwidth.

  35. Gershon says:

    So creepy and Orwellian, yet the sheeple can’t wait to surrender their privacy.

  36. William Jackson says:


    • cdr says:

      you mean shaving excess hair is the next thing to go out over the internet? Will Facebook notifications go out every time someone decides bikini vs brazillian?

  37. AV8R says:

    You unpack the product and put it in a ziplock bag with all the paperwork, drop it off at Goodwill and forget about it. It never happened.


    It must be nice to have a dental plan, a dentist, and free electric toothbrushes, Wolf. When they are giving out Free Dentures let me know.

    I don’t have a Dental Plan, and I have to come up with $2500.00 for one small denture. I looked on EBay for Made in China dentures and found Used Dentures for sale on EBay USA. I think the mortuary must have a deal going with the EBay seller.

    Yummy, eh.


    • mean chicken says:

      A Dremel tool works wonders for fitting those used dentures, George Washington would’ve been a mad man with one! :)

  39. Gian says:

    I went to a new dentist a few weeks ago, lots of pre-exam paperwork, including one that I accept their findings and agree to have work done as recommended by the dentist (“per the attached”). Of course nothing was attached since a dentist had not even look in my mouth at that point. Naturally, I told them I could not sign such a ridiculous statement, bewildering the receptionist, which bewildered me that some people actually sign this. The dentist wasn’t happy and informed me it is their policy for everyone to sign this statement. I am still looking for a new dentist!

  40. Rates says:

    At least they have not sent you the Blockchain version yet. That thing will use the kinetic energy generated while you are brushing to compute the next block.

    Ain’t life great?

  41. Elizabeth says:

    My guess is the data will be shared with your health insurers. There’s a relationship between oral health and heart disease, gut health (which is more than 85% of your immune system), and other diseases. Weston Price researched this in the 1930s and was mocked to his grave. Round about 2013 a child in Maryland had a tooth infection that went untreated because the family couldn’t afford it. He died and the state tried to go after his mother because she hadn’t treated the original infection.

    The DNA and ethnicity development may interest some of you: https://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-10-oral-bacteria-fingerprint-mouth.html

  42. alex in san jose AKA digital Detroit says:

    Not long ago I went to the most expensive of the 3 dentists I surveyed, to get a crown re-cemented. I think I went the best route, because she did a really good job of cleaning the crown and the peg, and even checked my bite and trimmed down a high place on the crown to correct my bite. Still, it was almost $400.

    I have been doing a lot of reading and thinking, especially since the election, and I give up. The USA is indeed not a country; it’s a business. And the business of business is business, which means giving the working class the business. It’s not Dr. Ueno’s fault I’m charged that much, she’s being given the business too.

  43. Boxerebel says:

    So we now know those grand projects like super blimps in the sky to connect billions without internet access were really skynet im disguise. And why are we not discussing google and apple and how they track you? Google sent me my travel itinerary once, since then i always use a tourist sim card and never log in with my google user id when i travel.

  44. Michael Francis says:

    If I turn this toothbrush on 10 times a day, or write an app that can do that, will that lower my premiums.

  45. Tamara says:

    I’ve been listening to the audio book “Night” written by Elie Wiesel, off and on, for the the last several weeks, and I suddenly wondered….

    Deep in a secret DHS (‘Dept of Human Sacrifice’) lair somewhere inside the Washington Beltway, an interesting conversation is taking place.

    “How’s that online Internet database going, Edward?”

    “It’s been going great, sir! Pretty soon we’ll know where every GOLD tooth in America is, and when we make it illegal again for any American citizens to own gold, we’ll have all the information we need to confiscate every gold tooth in America.”

    I have three gold teeth, actually. ~ Tamara

    • Wolf Richter says:

      I had an ancient gold crown replaced a few years ago (with porcelain so that I look better on radio). The dentist gave me the old crown. It’s amazing how thin the gold actually is and how little gold there is to a crown. It would take a lot of crowns to make a troy ounce.

      • Tamara says:

        But if things get topsy turvy, and I’m not saying they will, and gold goes to $50,000 an ounce or even higher… And how often is the U.S. government all that, let’s say “rational,” much less logical, in its endeavors (e.g. $21 trillion in debt, not counting the additional $20 trillion or so that appears to be missing, and congressman not given the adequate time to read and study a major budget bill before having to vote on it). And if the gold in Ft. Knox is of low quality as some have dared to conjecture , and that’s if there really is any gold left in Ft. Knox (e.g. no outside, independent audits allowed), and so on and so forth. You just never know with these idiots in Washington, what they’ll do next… like the Department of “DEFENSE” launching cruise missiles into a sovereign nation (Syria) that is not part of the United States before they’ve even adequately proven the justification for such an act of WAR. And considering that doing so is both a violation of the Constitution of the United States and International Law… But hey, it’s really a crazy world out there, and you just never know what might come next…. Let’s face it, the idiots in Washington are just that, idiots. Dare I go on…. Just saying. Oh, and BTW I do like your work, Wolf.

      • mean chicken says:

        ” had an ancient gold crown replaced a few years ago (with porcelain so that I look better on radio).”

        Yes, but you picked up a fierce whistle. On the bright side, it might block out the bluetooth signals? haha!

        I’m having way too much fun with this…..

  46. Michael Gorback says:

    OMG I hope they aren’t collecting data from my sex robot! I’ve already violated the warranty several times as well as a few state and federal laws. I’ve been using the phone app pretty much every day to control what noises the sheep makes.

  47. Peter says:

    God forbid they ever do this in pants or underwear! What next, a microphone on your ass that tells some company you have wind so need some sort of flatulence relief drugs? Or a smellometer so you can’t deny you dropped on on the train. I’d be in real trouble then………….

    • Night-Train says:

      I hate to break it to you, but that is the anatomical area where they plan to insert–I mean, install the transmitting device. So excess flatulence will probably be the least of your concerns. :)

  48. Night-Train says:

    Back in the 80’s I had to have a crown with no dental insurance. About a year later with a new employer with dental insurance, I had another crown put on at a different dentist. The cost to me was the same. After that I decided dental insurance was a scam. It provided free semi-annual check-ups and cleanings. But they always found something that needed doing that was pricey and couldn’t wait.

    Reminded me of auto repair. We had a really good mechanic outfit that my father-in-law kept books for. We used them and sent friends and family to them for years and to a one, felt they were treated fairly. My wife took her car to a tire store to get new tires. When she picked it up they gave he a list of things they insisted the car needed that was about $800 more than the tires. It freaked her out so she called me and I told her to pay for the tires, take the list and the the car to our mechanic. He knew the car well and looked at the list and told her that everything on the list could be done, but none of it impacted safety and didn’t need doing at the moment, and some of it might out last the car’s viability for dependable transportation.

    Both the dentist and the guy at the tire store wore white coats. Hmmmmm?

  49. Ricardo says:

    Wonder if those with false teeth get sent free toothbrushes. Incidentally for people in Australia, New Zealand and likely other westernized countries you can fly to the Philippines have dental work done, have a holiday and fly home for the same price it costs you in those countries. For 15,000 Filipino peso I got a complete top denture plus 4 bottom falsies which in US$ is currently worth $288 or in Aussie $371 and they lasted me close on 5 years.

  50. Setarcos says:

    Was reading an obscure govt document that was from the 70s. It included references to this type of surveillance capability, which would proliferate. The sheeple were fascinated with Pong at the time. This stuff is planned on a very long cycle apparently.

    An ancestry dna kit is a popular enough trojan horse to actually charge a tidy sum for a cute report while also harvesting your genetics. A friend asked me a few years ago if I I thought about the goal of these companies. I had not, so spent a few minutes looking at management, ownership, etc. ….eye opening to say the least.

  51. DK says:

    Devils advocate:
    For those who never speed while driving, brush and floss everyday, don’t smoke etc…this may actually drive down such things as insurance premiums. It’s proof of their actions and behavior. Rather than the insurer having to rely on very sketchy information, they get real time data about what their customers are actually doing. Not perfect, but this will put the burden of such things more accurately on the people who create it.
    The fun part will be the business of hack it for the benefit of the less responsible.

    • Setarcos says:

      “It’s proof of their actions and behavior” … unless mistakes are made, common omissions like failing to take your required device on a trip, system is gamed, your identity has been compromised, etc, etc.

      When usage of something becomes mandatory for “honesty” purposes, you can rest assured the system is dishonest.

    • Kent says:

      I am going to guess that as opposed to driving down rates, it will allow insurers to drop unprofitable customers. Thereby maximizing shareholder value.

  52. Enrique says:

    Someone send this via Twitter to the account “Internet of Sh*t” – I’d do it but abhor all major “Social Media.”

    Good thing to read (via web browser) for stories about nonsensical IoT garbage BTW

    I rather wonder if in the future there will be some sort of market for quality “stupid” products. i.e. CANNOT connect to the IoT. I would buy the absolute hell out of a high-quality TV that has no “smart” features every day of the week. Seems like I’d be anything but a lone voice in the Luddite wilderness in feeling this way.

  53. Setarcos says:

    Self-insuring is cost beneficial in many insurance use cases, especially when the risk can be estimated and you can afford a loss event. It is gambling but with the odds stacked IN your favor. At a minimum, look carefully at options with higher deductibles.

    A neighbor of mine pays for flood insurance which is optional for him. His explained that the cost is only about $500/yr. Suffice it to say that it would take a Noah’s Ark scenario for his house to have flooding.

  54. Mac B says:

    You signed up for the plan, Wolf. You are smart enough to know that this equates to sharing of each plan member’s risk of dental health liabilities. If you don’t want to be transparent about your own personal dental health liability one must ask, why. Are you concealing some decades old periodontal disease that’s gone untreated? I reject you from my risk pool. Either, go be paranoid somewhere else or market your health risks in Mexico. I hear they cut steep discounts for cash paying customers.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Dental insurers already know my entire dental history with x-rays and treatments from various dentists going back many decades. That huge file is already theirs.

  55. rainclouds says:

    Interesting.Here in Canuckistan (Van) Just had a discussion with my dentist re self insurance. He is retiring no skin in the game…

    Me retired, on wife’s plan. She is pulling the pin in Dec. What to do? Per my dentist.’you have good hygiene, coverage percentage is falling, insurance is profit based,why not set the money aside you would have spent on premiums for future treatment.?’

    Based on my past 10 years it would be a cleaning every 6 months.

    A once in a decade event (Just had a root canal and need a crown. Total cost About half the annual dental premium! Also Costco Oral B electric toothbrush doesn’t track me either:-)

  56. brassey07@yahoo.com says:

    if I see “free” or “guarantee”or some clown saying “wait, order now and you will receive another one for the same price”, I either pour myself another grey goose, or I go to bed. Just use your own God given common sense and send J.D. Power and the rest of the other liars packing.

  57. Pat McKim says:

    Here’s one better. I got a letter from Google with 3 one dollar bills glued to a brochure (another interesting sign of inflation). They wanted to give me up to $100 to start, and $45 per month to have them install a router that would monitor every keystroke (they even said so) as a guinea pig so that they could “better understand my user experience” and complete usage online. Of course Google claims that their monitoring of me would make the world a much better place. These relatively high dollar amounts for no effort on my were quite surprising. Obviously they would do a significant analysis. I wonder if they because I don’t have a Facebook or a Twitter account and don’t use Google, but rather use duckduckgo.com.

    The real issue is a phone that captures all locational data, voice around the phone, and potentially phones. These new appliances that capture everything around are worse, and it’s purchased and installed by the individual.

    I remember when selling new technologies and even jobs in technology was difficult because people were just a bit skeptical. Now people buy or swallow anything because it is new, not better, just new. That may change as more of this crap gets discredited. Or not. The problem with kind of control is that by the time the majority wakes up they can’t get it back. Look at Venezuela.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      This stuff gives me the willies. But I think a lot of people went for that offer.

      Let’s just hope that we don’t have keystroke loggers that we don’t know of on our machines.

      • Pat McKim says:

        In the next downturn we’ll find out. If they get desperate. I do think there is an opportunity for a company to make a cell phone and maybe a computer that is tamper proof and tell the USG to F&*( off as well.

  58. stanlymoses says:

    This is a great product..Nowdays, IOT supports everything and many startups company using right way of iot products..how can i get? i am in india..where to buy

    • Wolf Richter says:

      It’s “free” in the US if you give up your personal data and whatever else the device will capture. But being in India, you’re already giving up all your data, including your biometric data, via the Aadhaar system and enjoying every minute of it. So you really don’t need this device because you already no longer have any privacy and have nothing else to give up. Every detail of your entire life will soon be on the internet, including the IOT, for companies and governments to harvest as they see fit. So enjoy the ride.

  59. mean chicken says:

    I’m left wondering if you already signed a contract when you subscribed for the service, to use their device and release your data to them. IOW, does the price of the insurance require your release of data?

    I adore those sonic tooth brushes (or at least the one I have), they’re the most effective device I’ve ever used at busting the crud away, maybe too effective?.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      The toothbrush is nice, and we’re using it. But we didn’t sign anything that would require us to connect it to the internet in order to get the insurance or the tooth brush. This is group insurance.

  60. Argus says:

    I live in a damp climate and those toothbrushes would be great for getting the mould off of the window frames.
    Seriously, though, I protect my privacy whenever possible as I am more comfortable that way – don’t use social media (what a time waster!), don’t give out my email to stores, don’t enter into store raffles to win a ‘prize’ (and give them my email address at the same time) etc. I don’t download apps onto my cell phone (which I often forget to charge, anyway). I prefer to speak to friends and have business dealings face to face or over the landline. You, Wolf, are one of the few places I have left my email address.
    Am I a fossil? Absolutely and quite content to be one.

    • Tamara says:

      Argus. You and me both. I once made the mistake of giving Harbor Freight my cell phone number and I started getting calls that I couldn’t block because whoever it was would automatically change the number they were calling from. I was getting so many calls from so many different numbers it was driving me batty, so I finally changed my cell number. The next time I went to Harbor Freight, I gave the cashier my old number and it worked just fine because that’s the number they have in their data base even though I had called their main office and told them to delete it. That was almost a year ago. LOL. Now they’re probably driving whoever has my old number bat-shit crazy… But I definitely learned my lesson–my new cell number stays totally underground… Tamara

  61. AXE says:

    Catherine Frompovich is anti-autism!

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