Toothbrush hack


Tagging @rsim and @Janet, as there was a “repair” toothbrush thread that is now locked.

I had a call from an Occupational Therapist that is looking to switch adapt a power toothbrush – the little button is too hard for the 12 year old kiddo with a brain injury to push. Any thoughts about making an alternate switch input in that area?

Wondering if a battery interrupt would work in that small space?

Trick with adding a port is keeping the water out…

Perhaps, a 3d printed piece on the toothbrush that would make it bigger to push?

Any thoughts on toothbrush hacking welcome.


Hmmm that is a very good question. I guess the ideal would be some sort of capacitive touch although you’re right - water makes that tricky. I do like your 3d printed idea.

How does the 12 year old find it hard to push? Does it take too much physical effort or is it too small, or a combination of both, or something else?

I know on my Sonicare it does require quite a bit of force to turn on. Also it has different settings based on how many times you push the button.

Can you find out what model toothbrush the kiddo currently has so we can look at that particular interface?

Also Yay this is a very interesting project. Hope we can help with this.


Just did a quick work procrastination search and found this. I guess people do make touch switches that work in wet environments. Would need to read more…restraining myself from deep diving further but would love to look at this more next week.


Depending on size, reed switch inside the toothbrush, and a magnet he can wave the brush near to activate it? Best button is no button?


Interesting @Rob_MacKenzie,

Maybe a simple socket with an embedded magnet? When you take the brush out of the socket, it just starts?

And angle the socket so it’s easy to put toothpaste on?


@rsim could we maybe experiment on one of your busted up old toothbrushes? I know you have like 50.

Also derp - of course, a reed switch totally makes sense.


The 3d printed attachment should work. Convert it into a toothbrush that the user can squeeze with the whole hand instead of push with one finger.


yep we totally can! I have a few different models in pieces, and they’re all pretty similar inside.

I like the idea of a reed switch, as it maintains the toothbrushes waterproofness. It looks like there should be room in there once the existing mechanical switch is removed. Would a magnetic ring worn by the child be a suitable option?

Testing on the toothbrush guts I have here, it shouldn’t be a problem if the switch remains activated or not for the duration of the brushing, as once triggered it must be re-triggered to turn off the toothbrush (at least on these models, which have a separate on/off button and mode-select button).


I wonder if that’d also make it too easy to turn off while brushing? I know I’m always accidentally turning mine off due to pressing the button mid-brushing.


Sweet! I knew you would have a bunch. :smiley:


Thanks for great ideas. I will get a better idea of the kid’s physical capacity.

The reed switch idea is interesting in a whole bunch of concepts actually. We are looking at a bunch of switch options for alternate input, and that could be a systemic solution applied in a variety of setups.

I would like to start an Assistive Tech Hack night. This would be a good example of a pop-in project that could likely be solved over the course of a night or two. The bathroom situation is a barrier to that in general for wheelchair users, but not a barrier in this particular case.

@rsim my tote is at the new VHS, it was at the top on the smallest pile as of moving in day with MMC stickers but who knows now lol.


@rsim @chadleaman your tote is now in the black Member Storage racks on the left side of the space


I wonder if you could do it with a tilt switch. Have it turn on in any orientation but the vertical charging position. A mercury switch with a transistor to invert it might do.


i love reed switches, but shame on everyone for not bikeshedding the shit out of this…

@TomKeddie has got the right idea.

can we work this cap sensing module in some how?


You could 3D print a class 2 lever that would slip onto the toothbrush, and a little nub would be positioned over the original button. The end of the lever would require more distance to press but significantly less effort to activate. It could even be designed so that a full hand squeeze would turn the toothbrush on.


An LDR or photodiode in a recessed well, and a tilt switch?

<tilt switch notices brush is away from vertical. Child moves thumb over a raised circular lip, LDR goes dark, brush powers on>


Thanks everyone for great input. Awaiting some info back from the Occupational Therapist about the size and make of the toothbrush and the functional capacity of the kiddo. Will follow up when back in Canada.


Okay have an update, attached here, but the TLDR version:

Needs to turn it on and off midbrush to reposition. That seems to be the nut of the problem, it spraying all over the place as he readjusts.Fine motor control in his fingers, especially his finger knuckles is an issue.

My low tech suggestion will be to put a bumper on it, to raise the button.

My higher tech will be a reed switch, with a matching :ring: with a :magnet: … unless any one else has an idea and wants to take a run at it.


Here is doc with more details.

electric toothbrush.pdf (239.1 KB)


Final idea is to build off @colorcoded idea, but I would need help with the 3d design. I saw a similar toothbrush holder at a conference that was a very nice 3d print, but would need some some sort of button pusher added on.

Google Photos