We Tested The Foreo ISSA 3 Electric Toothbrush – Here Are Some Thoughts

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Written by Leigh Matthews, BA Hons, H.Dip. NT

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Leigh Matthews, BA Hons, H.Dip. NT

Sustainability Expert

Leigh Matthews is a sustainability expert and long time vegan. Her work on solar policy has been published in Canada's National Observer.

Updated:

The Foreo ISSA 3 electric toothbrush is designed with sustainability, and energy efficiency, top of mind. We put the ISSA 3 to the test. Here is what you need to know if you are considering buying this innovative product.

Table of Contents
  1. Foreo ISSA 3 Basics
  2. Out of the box
  3. Is the Foreo ISSA 3 worth it?
  4. Sustainability
  5. Final thoughts

The Foreo ISSA toothbrush has shaken up toothbrush design for the first time in nearly three-quarters of a century. Here’s our take on the Foreo ISSA 3, a product that aspires to the “groundbreaking toothbrush” label, but do they meet expectations?

Staff Tested

Foreo ISSA 3 Electric Toothbrush

Highlights: Super quiet, subtle, very stylish 4-in-1 sonic toothbrush that is more sustainable than most and will leave your teeth squeaky clean. A good upgrade from the ISSA 2 that used to shed bristles.

Overall Score
Durability Score
Toxicity Score
Sustainability Score
User Experience Score
Transparency Score

What we like

  • Incredible sonic cleaning power with low-intensity feel
  • Customizable – choose between 16 intensities
  • Stronger, more durable bristles than the ISSA 2
  • Cleans teeth, gums, cheeks, and tongue all in one
  • Attractive design available in four colors – fuchsia, mint, pink and black
  • Made with medical-grade silicone and FDA-approved PBT polymers, free of phthalates and BPA
  • Much more hygienic than nylon bristle brushes
  • Great for users with sensitive gums and teeth
  • Easy to clean with soap and water (or in a dishwasher)
  • Durable and saves money and resources on replacement brush heads
  • Very quiet – great for noise-sensitive folks who can’t abide electric brushes!
  • Foreo recommends replacing brush heads every six months
  • Travel-lock and smart memory features
  • 2-year warranty and 14-day return (unopened)

What could be better

  • Takes some time to get used to the feeling of silicone and PBT polymer bristles
  • Silicone is not recyclable
  • Requires manual gestures (not an all-electric toothbrush experience)
  • Travel case is insubstantial and not very roomy (no space for an extra brush head)
  • Higher price than most electric toothbrushes
  • You still have to change the brush heads every six months
  • May need recharging once every three months for some users

The Foreo ISSA 3 at a glance:

Price: $169
Power Source: internal battery charged by USB cable
Includes: ISSA 3 brush base, hybrid brush head, USB charger, travel pouch

Noise level: 33 to 44 dB

Battery life: Up to one year (365 brushes on lowest intensity setting)

Foreo ISSA 3 Basics

Foreo ISSA 3 electric toothbrush
A close up of our Foreo ISSA 3 electric toothbrush.

The Foreo ISSA 3 is a silicone sonic toothbrush that offers a 4-in-1 oral care experience (teeth, gums, cheeks, tongue). It is dentist-approved and can run for up to 365 uses on a single charge! And unlike other toothbrushes, you only need to replace the brush heads once every six months, making the Foreo ISSA 3 a slightly more sustainable toothbrush than most.

While the Foreo ISSA 3 is technically an electric toothbrush, it works using natural brushing gestures paired with Sonic Pulse technology to help remove plaque. This means it operates at a higher frequency than a regular oscillating-rotating toothbrush but is much quieter.

The ISSA 3 offers 16 intensity levels, so you can ease yourself in if you’re used to manual, or go hard if you like the feel of all-electric. Either way, the ISSA marries the performance of an electric toothbrush with the gentler approach and familiar movements of manual brushing.

Watch Dan Simms review the FOREO Issa 3 on the LeafScore YouTube channel.

The Foreo ISSA 3 definitely looks a little bit weird compared to standard toothbrushes. This is because the brush is angled slightly forward and the bristles continue down the brush head for around two inches. The silicone bristles are thick, soft, and flexible, while the inner PBT polymer bristles are a bit firmer. This is definitely something you’ll have to get used to, but it’s also what makes the ISSA 3 so effective and easy to use.

The shape of the Foreo ISSA 3 means you can clean parts of your mouth that tend to get overlooked with a regular or electric toothbrush. This makes for a squeaky-clean feeling akin to that after an ultrasonic professional cleaning with a dental hygienist. That said, because the brush offers a gentler approach to cleaning, users commonly report less sensitivity when rinsing with cold water after brushing. Foreo prides itself on making a brush that is ‘tough on plaque, and gentle on gums.’

What is the Foreo ISSA 3 made of?

The Foreo ISSA 3 has a hybrid brush head made of BPA-free and phthalate-free medical-grade silicone and PBT polymer bristles.

PBT is polybutylene terephthalate, a thermoplastic engineering polymer commonly used as an insulator in electronics. It is also FDA approved for use in food processing and is considered inert and safe. The main downside to PBT is that it is sensitive to very hot water and can be UV sensitive, meaning you absolutely should not boil your Foreo ISSA 3 toothbrush or sanitize it using a UV lightbox. It’s also best to avoid exposing the ISSA 3 to too much sunlight.

the issa 3 is more hygienic than most toothbrushes

If you like, you can wash your Foreo ISSA 3 in your dishwasher (as long as the water isn’t too hot). Fortunately, your ISSA 3 toothbrush doesn’t really need such heavy-handed cleaning methods. Foreo claims that the Foreo ISSA 3 is up to 10,000 times more hygienic than regular nylon toothbrushes (see below). This is because the materials are naturally resistant to bacterial build-up and are easy to clean just by rinsing.

The best way to clean the brush is to run it under warm water while running your fingers through the bristles after each use.

Foreo recommends cleaning the body of the ISSA 3 with Foreo Silicone Cleaning Spray every six months and rinsing with warm water before allowing the toothbrush to air-dry. Foreo also recommends replacing the brush head every six months.

Out of the box

Foreo ISSA3

The Foreo ISSA 3 arrives in a recyclable plastic box with cardboard packaging inside. It’s all fairly minimal, but it would be nice if it were fully recycled and biodegradable. The brush heads also arrive in quite a bit of plastic, so this is definitely an area for improvement at Foreo.

Out of the box, the Foreo ISSA 3 has a small amount of charge, so you can try it out right away. It comes with a USB-style charging cable you can plug into a laptop or other socket. The charge port on the brush is hidden behind a flap at the back of the handle, helping to prevent water damage after charging. Once it’s fully charged (which takes up to two hours), chances are you won’t need to charge the ISSA again for at least three months and maybe as long as a year. This all depends on how many times you brush a day, of course, for how long, and at which intensity setting.

How to use the Foreo ISSA 3

Pre charged ISSA3
The ISSA3 comes charged and ready to use.

The ISSA 3 has three control buttons on the brush handle: on/off, with plus and minus buttons above and below. These buttons and their placement allow you to easily toggle the intensity while brushing.

The ISSA 3 has three control buttons on the brush handle: on/off, with plus and minus buttons above and below. These buttons and their placement allow you to easily toggle the intensity while brushing.

Time needed: 10 minutes

To use the Foreo ISSA 3, you’ll first need to unlock it.

This is done by holding down the plus and minus buttons until the base flashes white. After that, you’re good to go:

  1. Use toothpaste as normal

    Apply toothpaste and turn on the ISSA 3 – press the plus and minus buttons to alter the intensity

  2. Brush

    Brush your teeth like you would with a manual toothbrush. The bottom of the brush will flash and the brush will pulse to prompt you to move to another quadrant of your mouth every 30 seconds, covering your whole mouth in 2 minutes.

  3. Use back of the brush

    Turn the brush around and use the back to gently scrub your tongue and cheeks.

  4. Rinse!

    Rinse! (Your mouth and the brush).

The base of the brush is made with clear plastic and flashes white during charging, when you change the intensity of the pulses and during brushing to prompt you to move to another quarter of your mouth. When your two minutes are up, the base lights up continually until you turn off the brush. It also lights continually when the brush is fully charged and plugged in.

The brush also pulses to prompt position change, but this is super subtle, so you might not notice it at higher intensity settings.

Is the Foreo ISSA 3 worth it?

Given the impressive claims made about the ISSA 3 by Foreo, you’d be right to be skeptical. The company expects this and has carried out clinical studies to demonstrate the effectiveness of the toothbrush.

Clearly, given the differences between the ISSA 3 and regular toothbrushes, it’s not possible to carry out the gold standard randomized, double-blind, controlled clinical trial with the ISSA 3. The tests carried out by Foreo do seem fairly robust, though, including assessments by those using the brush and by professional dentists using unbiased screening techniques.

The Foreo ISSA 3 Hybrid Brush Head is reported to:

  • Improve overall oral hygiene by 140% (160% with the Sensitive Brush Head)
  • Remove 30% more plaque than a regular manual toothbrush (for Hybrid and Sensitive Brush Heads).
  • Improve gingivitis by 160% with the Sensitive Brush Head.
  • Be 10,000-times more hygienic than traditional nylon bristles (based on total aerobic bacteria count and mold and yeast growth).

Across almost all categories, 100% of users report being satisfied with the ISSA 3. This includes less irritation and abrasiveness, a cleaner and fresher mouth, and whiter, brighter teeth with gums that look and feel healthier. These results are, however, only based on a 28-day trial with 20 participants, which isn’t exactly a huge sample size and clearly suffers from bias with participants likely to report positive results. Still, the overwhelming nature of the user reports is impressive.

Things to note about the Foreo ISSA 3

If you’re used to an electric toothbrush, the ISSA 3 is going to feel a lot lower power, which might have you thinking it’s ineffective. Once you’ve tried it, though, you’ll quickly appreciate the intensity of the clean without the intensity of abrasion or the noise of an all-electric oscillating brush.

This brush is about as loud as a library (44 decibels) at its highest setting and as quiet as a whisper at its lowest (33 dB), making it a great fit if you’re sensitive to noise or live with someone who is. This is quieter than the SURI toothbrush (max. 54 dB).

The Foreo ISSA 3 comes with a travel lock (no more embarrassing vibrating suitcase security issues) and a travel pouch, though this is quite insubstantial and only holds the body and one brush head. It would be great if there were space for two brush heads.

Try the mini!

There’s also a mini version of the ISSA toothbrush, ideal for kids and adults with smaller mouths, or those who feel the larger head of the ISSA 3 is just too big.

The ergonomic design comes in four colors:

  • Fuchsia
  • Mint
  • Pink
  • Black.

The ISSA 3 also boasts a smart memory feature where the brush will remember the setting you last used when you next turn on the brush.

There’s no pressure sensor with the ISSA 3, nor a smart app. Frankly, though, given you’re brushing your teeth manually, a pressure sensor is a bit redundant. And do you really need an app to track your brushing? If the ISSA 3 had this capability, most users wouldn’t use it and it would just waste energy and reduce the amount of time between charging.

Warranty and returns

All Foreo ISSA 3 brushes come with a 14-day return period (assuming it is unopened) and a 2-year limited warranty from date of purchase. This warranty covers defects due to faulty workmanship or materials arising from normal use of the device. It doesn’t cover cosmetic wear and tear or damage caused by accidents or misuse. Also, if you try to take the toothbrush apart for some reason, this voids the warranty.

While we usually like products that you can take apart and fix yourself, the Foreo ISSA 3 is unlikely to need such intervention and it’s better for your safety and the longevity of the product to not tinker with it, however tempted you might be.

If your ISSA 3 does develop a defect within the warranty period, you can contact Foreo for a replacement. This used to be free of charge (except for shipping), but Foreo now charges a 25% restocking fee based on the full price of the product (even if you bought at a discount).

Keep your receipt and make sure to register the device with an account at Foreo, so you can prove the device is within the warranty period should you need to make a claim. Happily, Foreo makes this easy by including a handy QR code that links to product registration and a user manual.

Sustainability

Sustainability and ethics

Foreo uses solar power at its factory and tries to source materials as locally as possible. In fact, Foreo claims that 99% of its factory suppliers work locally.

Foreo also makes skincare products and some beauty products to use with those, but it doesn’t test any of its products on animals.

Foreo’s ISSA 3 wins a lot of points over electric toothbrushes by way of its incredible battery life. I mostly gave up on electric toothbrushes because of the waste associated with the brush heads and the fact several failed to hold a charge for more than a couple of days after about two months of use.

That said, replacing the whole toothbrush head every six months doesn’t save much in the way of resources. Also, silicone isn’t typically recyclable, unlike most plastic toothbrush heads which actually could be recycled (but typically aren’t).

Plastic vs. silicone toothbrushes

The best recyclable brushes we’ve found are Preserve (manual) toothbrushes, which you need to replace every three months typically (vs. six months for the ISSA 3).

Without a lifecycle analysis of the Foreo ISSA 3, it’s hard to tell which is better in terms of resource use, but my money is on Preserve.

Final thoughts

The Foreo ISSA 3 is a fantastic toothbrush that is:

  • Pleasant to use
  • Simple, yet effective
  • Attractive (though we like the SURI better).

We love that the ISSA 3 lasts so long on a single charge and is built to endure, far after most toothbrushes have been sent to landfill (or recycling or municipal composting, where possible).

After many disappointments with electric toothbrushes, I went back to manual (bamboo handles, pullable nylon bristles). One too many e-toothbrushes flaked out when I was away without a charger (naturally). I’m also quite noise sensitive, so the ISSA 3 sounds great (literally) in that it’s much quieter than an oscillating brush.

Sure, the Foreo ISSA 3 has a high price point compared to a manual toothbrush and many electric toothbrushes, but it’s arguably worth it for the savings on replacement brush heads, charging, and, frankly, those costly and inconvenient visits to the dentist.

Staff Tested

Foreo ISSA 3 Electric Toothbrush

Highlights: Super quiet, subtle, very stylish 4-in-1 sonic toothbrush that is more sustainable than most and will leave your teeth squeaky clean. A good upgrade from the ISSA 2 that used to shed bristles.

Overall Score
Durability Score
Toxicity Score
Sustainability Score
User Experience Score
Transparency Score

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