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Toothbrushing has not changed all that much over the last century, and other than the advent of individual flossers, neither has flossing. Inventor and business owner Chris Martin decided to change all of that by attempting to improve his own oral hygiene habits by designing an easier method of getting the job done than a standard toothbrush and floss. His goal was to make cleaning fool proof and save time, and in doing so, he created two devices that make oral hygiene a much easier prospect for people all over the world. Dental Tribune International was able to speak with Martin about the development of his bestselling products, Blizzbrush and Blizzflosser.
Mr Martin, could you give us some information about your professional background?
I studied mechanical engineering, computer science and economics. During and after my studies, I worked for my family’s engineering business, where we designed and manufactured components for the automotive industry. There I developed virtual reality CAD software which enabled Formula One racing teams and the automotive industry at large to design, optimise, rapid prototype and manufacture complex and innovative vehicle components.
What was the inspiration behind the Blizzflosser?
Throughout my life I have suffered from dental problems, mainly as a result of bad cleaning habits, and I observed many friends and relatives having the same problems. I had many discussions with my dentist friends about possible new solutions. I believed that, having a background in engineering, manufacturing and CAD software development, I could be able to develop a solution.
The main problem is that most people don’t have the patience and discipline to brush long enough and with the correct techniques. According to studies, people only brush for about 40 seconds on average instead of the recommended 2–3 minutes and, of course, without the correct techniques. It is often difficult, if not impossible, to reach every surface and space that needs cleaning using traditional toothbrushes. Problems then develop in those parts of the oral cavity that cannot be easily cleaned.
My initial idea was to create a solution that could ensure perfect cleaning and only took seconds. I thought people needed an innovative tool, tailored to their individual mouth, that could provide that cleaning by just biting and grinding a little.
What was the development process for your product like? Were there many prototypes and much trial and error, or did you have a clear end product in mind?
I had an idea of the end product, but the journey to achieve that was much longer and more difficult than I had ever anticipated. I thought I would be able to solve the problem in half a year, but it ultimately took ten years of constant innovation to create the perfect solutions we offer today.
Regarding the Blizzbrush, the end product I had in mind was the customised 3D-printed brush we developed between 2012 and 2019. But through our efforts we also developed the sponge brush concept that you can see and buy now. The current Blizzbrush is a completely different product that cleans even better and costs less. And even this design changed considerably from the initial version designed in 2020 to the final version in 2022.
As for the Blizzflosser, the first idea and the final product are very similar, but the journey of developing the product was longer because we initially tried to make it work with widely available flosses. That lead to designs that were difficult to manufacture and use even after experimenting with many different variations and flosses. What ended up bringing the present product to life was the idea to use a completely different innovative floss design that is actually robust, soft and washable. Making such drastic changes usually happens after considerable experience, after you have tested everything and you are confident that you can take bold decisions, because by that point you have become an expert in the field.
The development, testing and refining processes for hardware solutions take an enormous amount of time as well. We developed many different designs and prototypes over the years, and whenever we had ideas for improvements, we developed them. The final versions of both the toothbrush-sponge and the flosser are extremely simple and efficient tools. We are still working on optimising manufacturing, an important part of product development that people don’t see.
In both the brush and the flosser, there are several major hidden innovations, that each took weeks or months, sometimes years of development time and that people are seldom aware of.
Are there any particular demographics you are targeting with your product?
Our tools make so much sense for anyone who has teeth—not just for people with dexterity issues. They solve the previously mentioned patience and discipline issues, with which many people struggle. And even people who are able to clean their teeth perfectly are happy to save time and make life easier. The advantages these tools provide are not only marginal or nice to have but also make the cleaning process automatic and reduce the needed time to just a few seconds.
Do you have any advice for practitioners who have an idea for a useful dental product but don’t know where to start in the process of bringing it to life?
For us, it was fundamental to have a great deal of expertise in all the relevant fields. That made it doable to begin with. Otherwise, one most likely needs to consult experts from several different fields, for example, from an engineering office. Before you start the development journey you will need to determine from which fields you will need to source the knowledge to create your product.
The first idea of a product is often far removed from the final product, and just as often, an enormous amount of expertise, creativity and time is needed to bring a product to life.
So, one piece of advice would be that, whereas it is great to be an expert in all aspects needed to solve the problems, it is also valuable to be a quick learner, because there will be new fields you will invariably need to tap into as well.
More information can be found at https://blizzbrush.com/