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Gadgets

Flosstime may be the simplest 'smart' gadget you've seen

It's an automated floss dispenser -- with a twist.

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If I told you I had a "smart" floss dispenser, would you laugh? I know I did. When I first heard of the Flosstime, I thought it was the silliest thing I'd seen all week.

But the idea behind the $40 Flosstime (roughly converted, £33 or AU$53) is deceptively simple. It's not for people who need a motor to spit out floss. It's more like an alarm clock that helps you build a healthy habit. An alarm clock you don't need to set, and don't need to pair with a phone. You just stick it on your mirror, press a single button, floss your teeth... and it'll automatically light up the next day so you can do it all over again.

I spent two weeks with the Flosstime in my own house, and I came away somewhat impressed. For the most part, it worked just as advertised. And yet, there are a few important things you should know.

Josh Miller/CNET

Pros

  • Incredibly easy setup. You literally just flip the power switch, stick it on your mirror with the included microsuction tape, and press the button on the front when you're ready to floss.
  • Reminder feature really works. It lights up blue 22 hours after your last flossing session, without fail, and the lights turn red and form a frowny face if you miss one. (It's angry!)
  • Easy to reprogram. Want to floss in the evening instead of the morning? Just press the button when you floss again.
  • Standard AA batteries. It comes with two AA batteries, which are extremely easy to replace (just twist counter-clockwise, and the front part of the unit comes off). Flosstime says they should last a year.
  • Stays stuck. The micro-suction tape is no joke. Takes some real effort to peel it off the mirror, if you ever want to stick it someplace else.
  • Two-player mode. Flip the power switch to the two-person mode, and you can set individual flossing times for two people. Press the left side of the front button for person 1, and the right side for person 2.
  • Kid-friendly snap-on faceplates. You can make the Flosstime look like a cute frog, crab or fish with optional faceplates. It comes with one, and extras are $7 a pop.
Josh Miller/CNET

Cons

  • Only holds 50 meters of floss. Since it dispenses an ADA-approved 18 inches of floss each time, that means you'll need to refill it 3 to 4 times a year if you floss daily. (Assuming you floss alone.)
  • Proprietary floss cartridges. You can pop them open and use your own floss, but it's a chore. Otherwise, you're looking at $8 per replacement cartridge (currently $6 on sale).
  • Not minty fresh. Currently, Flosstime only uses standard, unflavored Oral-B Glide floss in its cartridges.
  • Cartridges can jam if you don't thread them carefully. The first two times Flosstime sent me a review unit, it wasn't pre-threaded properly, and jammed as soon as I hit the button. When I used fresh cartridges and re-threaded it myself, it worked every time. (Our video shows how.)
  • LED light is too bright for the bedroom. If your bathroom doesn't have a door separating it from your bedroom, the lights might wake you up. And if you press the button to turn off the lights, you've messed up the Flosstime's schedule.
  • No way to set different times for weekends. If you floss at 7 a.m. on Friday, it'll remind you at 7 a.m. on Saturday too.

Tradeoffs

  • No way to keep track of your progress. It doesn't send data to your phone, or anywhere else. Maybe that's a good thing, though.
Josh Miller/CNET

Bottom line

Sadly, the Flosstime didn't wind up training me to floss daily, but it's because of a simple issue. My family doesn't have a door between our bedroom and our bathroom. Since the Flosstime lights up 22 hours after you press the button -- not 24 hours -- the bright blue LED lights would wake us up a couple hours earlier than planned.

But that doesn't mean this gadget wouldn't work for you. The biggest issue is really just that the Flosstime uses those proprietary cartridges, which means you'll either be popping them open to wind your own floss every 3 to 5 months, or paying a premium and hoping this Kickstarter company stays in business to send you new ones.

Where to Buy

Flosstime Automatic Floss Dispenser

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