In Japan and much of Europe, the Soladey toothbrush is nothing new. It was invented 20 years ago, and is currently used by over 16 million people – you may now pause to make a joke about 16 million people all using the same toothbrush. Just recently, however, it has become available in the U.K., U.S. and Canada. What makes it special is the fact that it uses nothing but light and water to clean your teeth.

OK, it’s a little more complicated than just light and water.

The Soladey has a photosensitive titanium rod in its handle. When exposed to any light source, this semiconducting rod produces negatively-charged ions, or electrons. When these electrons mix with water (and/or the user’s saliva), they attract positively-charged ions from the acid in the user’s dental plaque. This, according to the company, causes the plaque to break down and be easily brushed away.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, the toothbrush does need to be constantly receiving light in order to work. This means that users would need to have their mouth fairly close to a light source, such as a bathroom mirror light, when brushing their back teeth.

So, does it work? Japanese studies going back to 1986 that seem to indicate that it does, and a 1992 Canadian study actually determined that it removed plaque better than a regular brush. It has also, apparently, been shown to control plaque-producing bacteria in the mouth. A quick Googling doesn’t reveal much in the way of nay-sayers, but there’s little doubt that there are plenty of people out there who would refute such findings.

The Soladey is available through various distributors listed on the company website. The approximate price of a complete brush is £14.95 in the UK, €19.95 in EU countries, and $29.95 in the US and Canada. Replacement heads are also available.