Several models of the popular Arm & Hammer Spinbrush electric toothbrushes sold by Church & Dwight Co. Inc. can chip teeth, damage gums, and even create choking hazards when parts fly off, the U.S. Food and Drug and Drug Administration warned on Feb. 16.
According to the FDA, the battery-powered toothbrushes—sold under Proctor & Gamble's Crest brand name until 2009—reported injuries from using the devices include chipped or broken teeth, cuts to the mouth and gums, injury to the eyes and face, and swallowing or choking on broken pieces.
The Spinbrush product line includes models for both adults and children. All models contain batteries and a motor within the handle which operates the rotating brushes. In models marketed to adults, the brush heads are removable and replaceable, but the brush heads have been reported to pop off on their own. "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," said Shumaya Ali, an FDA consumer safety officer, said in information released by the agency.
Meanwhile, the models marketed for children—which often come branded with images such as Spider-Man and Thomas & Friends—have caused cut lips, burns from the batteries, damaged tonsils from bristles falling off and lodging the flesh, the FDA warned.
"FDA's concern is that the unexpected release of any part of this battery-powered toothbrush during use poses a risk of injury," said Steven Silverman, director of the Office of Compliance in FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, which is responsible for manual and electric toothbrushes, which are classified as medical devices. "The risk is higher in children or adults who may need assistance but are not supervised while using the toothbrush."
The FDA inspected Church & Dwight last year, finding "numerous consumer complaints that had not been reported" to the agency. On May 16, 2011, FDA first warned Church & Dwight that it was in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act not just for the consumer safety issue but for failing to report injuries to the agency within a reasonable time frame.
Since that time, Church & Dwight has improved its labeling, instituted the use of color-changing bristles that let consumers know when a brush head needs to be changed, and issued safety warnings in print and on TV reminding users to replace brush heads every three months or if parts become loose. The company also warns customers to inspect brushes for loose parts before use. The safety warnings are also visible on the Spinbrush website.
The FDA issued the following advice to parents, caregivers and consumers:
Before using the Spinbrush, inspect it for any damage or loose brush bristles. If you find any, do not use the brush. Report it to Church & Dwight, which can be reached toll-free at 1-800-352-3384 or 1-800-561-0752.
Make sure the brush head is connected tightly to the brush handle, and test the brush outside of your mouth before using. If the connection feels loose or the brush head easily detaches from the handle, do not use the brush. Report it to Church & Dwight.
Use care not to bite down on the brush head while brushing.
To prevent injuries, always supervise children and adults who may need assistance when using the Spinbrush.
Specific Spinbrush models mentioned in the FDA's warning include the Spinbrush ProClean, ProClean Recharge, Pro Whitening, SONIC, SONIC Recharge, Swirl, Classic Clean, Spinbrush for Kids and Spinbrush Replacement Heads.
In 2010, the FDA issued similar warnings and a recall notice about the Oral-B CrossAction Power and PowerMAX toothbrushes.