March 2, 2011 9

The Case of the Exploding Electric Toothbrush

By in ruttan's place, sketches, watercolour

toothbrush-colour

I’ve been using an electric toothbrush for a couple of months. A little nervous about it at first, because the sound of it in my mouth was like the dental tools which still make me shivery. But it seemed to do a great job polishing the teeth, making them white and shiny.

That was until the other night, when I was brushing before going to bed, and the device exploded on me, while it was in my mouth!

It went off with a loud pop, which blew the cap off the bottom of the toothbrush across the living room (I was wandering around, as I tend to do sometimes when brushing teeth). Both batteries flew a long way also, and the case was split open, as you see in the shot below.

P1070068

It was a healthy force, a recoil causing it to nearly fly out of my hand, but I wasn’t hurt. Pretty shocked, though. I don’t like things exploding like that when they’re near my face. Wondering what would have happened if someone else, or something had been in the way. Can lose an eye that way, as Mom used to say.

I think the culprit wasn’t the toothbrush per se, but the cheap Dollar Store batteries I’d bought to put in. Batteries last about a month. These were little AAA cells, but the brand was one I hadn’t seen since I was a kid. (I liked the old “black cat with lightning-bolt” tail). As you can see in the photo below, these look corroded.

P1070067

Maybe moisture was getting into the case, and caused a reaction. Anyhow, I tweeted about it the night it happened (got some sympathy for being an easily-scared boy). Later I looked up the Colgate web site (with annoying music) and called customer service. More annoying music, and a voice mail menu, and I reached Melissa, somewhere in the US.

Short of it is, I’m sending the brush with batteries to them via UPS. I hope that helps them make better, or at least safer toothbrushes. Think I’m also writing Consumer Reports, or maybe they can read this blog entry.

When I looked up “Exploding electric toothbrush” on the web, most of what I got was about a lawsuit a gentleman in British Columbia was pursuing. It seemed he wasn’t as lucky as I was. From the link, it seemed like he was getting a lot of ribbing from commenters for suing. But that was the only reference to toothbrushes exploding I could find, and I imagine there must have been others this has happened to.

So, I hope this helps. A friend of mine thought the problem was that I had bought a cheap toothbrush (no, think it was rather the cheap batteries, but you never know!). She had been having gingivitis problems, which had been resolved by a $90 rechargeable Oral-B. This one cost about $10.00

Still, for the time being, it’s back to manual toothbrushes for me. Even though they’re a little less effective, I’m now shy of putting electrically powered things in my mouth.

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9 Responses to “The Case of the Exploding Electric Toothbrush”

  1. Ted Roberts says:

    My toothbrush exploded on me as well. I was wondering if you knew of anyone else whose toothbrush exploded on them. I would like to contact them. Thank you, Ted Roberts

  2. Jack says:

    Sorry, no! Just the Vancouver case I linked to.

  3. Geoff. Sturmey says:

    Had the same problem this morning 7/15/11.
    Same toothbrush same results.
    Don’t think it is the batteries

  4. Jack says:

    Oh-oh! Did you complain?

  5. cortni says:

    My son has this toothbrush. His exploded this morning! Complaining to Colgate!!! We had energizer batteries. Don’t think its batteries.

  6. Jack says:

    They told me it was such a rare occurrence, it was like winning the lottery (would rather win the real one, but I don’t enter). So that’s at least four that I know about through this blog, which is probably statistically significant. Maybe they should pull this off the market.

  7. Sheldon says:

    Please see the recent Health Canada recall for Colgate Motion Electric Toothbrushes:
    http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/media/advisories-avis/_2011/2011_146-eng.php

  8. Hi. I’m a reporter, writing about this recall. I’d love to talk to someone who experienced a toothbrush explosion. Anyone free for a quick interview?

    Cheers.

  9. Jack says:

    Very interesting question.

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