In China, many parents, strongly desiring to ensure that the products their children use are high-quality, safe and reliable, are inclined toward the use of imported products, especially products made in Japan, over products made in China. In addition, consumer needs related to children’s toothbrushes include not only factors related to gentleness, safety and ease of brushing, consumers are also attracted to products that are tailored to children’s specific growth stages. In light of these factors, Lion developed the KODOMO STEP toothbrushes (four types), a made-in-Japan, highly safe line of children’s toothbrushes designed for specific growth stages. STEP 1 (0–8 months) and STEP 2 (6 months–2 years) are used for children who are learning to brush, and STEP 3 (2–6 years) and STEP 4 (6–9 years) are suited for plaque removal. We will discuss the development of STEP 1.
Infants (6–8 months old) are just beginning to develop teeth, so it is important to first get them used to having a toothbrush in their mouth by letting them chew on it. The bristles are made of a soft rubbery material to avoid damaging the delicate gums of infants. To prevent accidental throat injury during use, there is a plate between the neck and handle, and the handle is designed in a ring shape so that it can be easily grasped by small hands, making it safe and easy to use. The length of the brushes and the thickness of the handle are based on data about the physical characteristics of infants.
Because infants and toddlers are unable to use toothbrushes correctly, we needed to design a toothbrush that would be safe even when used in unexpected ways. Therefore, we observed the tooth brushing behavior of Chinese infants and found that they made characteristic movements such as grinding their teeth, chewing and twisting the brush, and playing with it by dropping it on the ground. We were thus able to develop a toothbrush that infants can use safely by incorporating our observations with our wide range of knowledge from previous development projects, creating an evaluation system that reproduces each movement and the strength of the user target group and repeatedly examining the shape of the brush and the thickness of the neck.