A new warning issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), states that certain electric toothbrushes may not be safe for use. On more than one occasion, the battery-powered Arm & Hammer Spinbrush, previously known as the Crest Spinbrush, has been known to break, causing pieces of the toothbrush to injure eyes, and teeth, and even choking.

Ali Shumaya, M.P.H., a consumer safety officer at the FDA said:

“It’s important that consumers know how to avoid the risks associated with using the Spinbrush. We’ve had reports in which parts of the toothbrush broke off during use and were released into the mouth with great speed, causing broken teeth and presenting a choking hazard.”

Susan Runner, D.D.S., chief of FDA’s dental devices branch commented:

“Electric toothbrushes can be very effective in removing dental plaque, and so they can help prevent dental decay and gum disease. At the same time, it’s important to supervise children when they use these brushes, and to look out for any malfunctions of the toothbrush that might cause an injury.

According to the FDA, the following models of the Spinbrush have the potential to cause injury:

  • Spinbrush SONIC
  • Spinbrush SONIC Recharge
  • Spinbrush Swirl
  • Spinbrush ProClean
  • Spinbrush ProClean Recharge
  • Spinbrush Pro Whitening
  • Spinbrush Classic Clean
  • Spinbrush For Kids
  • Spinbrush Replacement Heads

The following injuries have occurred due to the use of the Spinbrush:

  • Injury to the face and eyes
  • Choking
  • Swallowing broken pieces
  • Chipped or broken teeth
  • Cuts in the mouth or on the gums

The FDA recommends inspecting the Spinbrush for damage or loose bristles before each use

The main cause of the injuries, according to the FDA, is parts of the toothbrushes breaking off. In certain models of the Spinbrush, the head can be taken off and replaced with a new one. However, no parts should be breaking off or coming loose during use.

Ali explained:

“The head should not pop off during normal use. In some cases, the brush head popped off to expose metal pieces underneath that can – and have – poked individuals in the cheek and areas near the eyes, causing injuries.”

Although the “Spinbrush for Kids” models do not have the head which can be removed, there have been reports of this model also having problems, such as burns from the batteries, cuts on the kids lips, and bristles falling off and getting stuck in the child’s throat. Steven Silverman, director of the Office of Compliance in FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, adds:

“FDA’s concern is that the unexpected release of any part of this battery-powered toothbrush during use poses a risk of injury. And the risk is higher in children or adults who may need assistance but are not supervised while using the toothbrush.”

Last year, the FDA inspected Church & Dwight Co. Inc. – the manufacturer of the Spinbrush. They determined that there was sufficient evidence showing many complaints made by consumers -which were never told to the FDA. The FDA issued a warning, on May 16, 2011, to inform them of the violations of not reporting the complaints (and reports of injuries) to the agency, and also the violations of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

Since then, Church & Dwight has taken the following steps in trying to improve their products:

  • They put bristles on the toothbrush that turn a different color after it has been used too long, reminding consumers when it is time for a new toothbrush.
  • They released a statement about the safety of their products on tv and in ads.
  • And, they changed the label, informing consumers to take caution when using the Spinbrush and remember to change the head every 3 months, or when something is loose or broken.

The safety statement reads: “Please remember to replace your brush head after 3 months of use, or if the brush is damaged, or if parts become loose. Extended usage, loose parts, or excessive wear could lead to brush head breakage, generation of small parts and possible choking hazard. Inspect brush for loose parts before use.”

The FDA has issued the following advice to consumers, parents and caregivers:

  • Always supervise children when they are using the Spinbrush.
  • Always inspect the Spinbrush for loose bristles before using it.
  • Try not to bite down on the head of the brush when using it.
  • Do not use the brush if parts feel loose.
  • Follow the instructions carefully.

If the brush has damage, report it to Church & Dwight by calling toll-free 1-800-352-3384

Written By Christine Kearney