Flexible rubber brushes scrub away plaque! Realizing surprisingly clean teeth with supple bristles, CLINICA PRO Toothbrush Rubber Head
We launched a toothbrush with bristles made of rubber materials in the CLINICA PRO series, which supports high-quality preventive dentistry. Supple rubber bristles flex to hug the dental surface and scrub away plaque, which is the source of various oral risks, for a surprisingly squeaky clean finish. In addition, the soft bristles provide a comfortable brushing experience that eliminates any worries you may have about placing stress on your gums. Its thin head and slim neck make it easy to maneuver in the mouth and facilitate brushing in every nook and cranny.
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Toothbrushes found through market surveys and the technological potential of their forms and new materials
Reflecting on the start of development, researcher Ishikawa comments, “I think we might be able to change the toothbrushes people have used to date. I am full of anticipation.”
A little while ago, the team had been conducting market surveys of various products already on the market with the aim of developing something new. What caught their eye was a toothbrush with bristles made of a material other than conventional bristles and whose head looked completely different. When they felt it, they realized it was a soft rubber material. When they actually brushed their teeth with it, they were stunned by how good the rubber material felt. Thinking that using this technology could lead to the development of products unlike any seen before, he was inspired.
“Although conventional toothbrushes are manufactured with bristles inserted into the head, rubber toothbrushes are manufactured with the brush and head formed as a single piece utilizing uniform molding technology.*1 By combining rubber materials and uniform molding technology, we thought that a drastic expansion in the freedom in design, from the bristles to the head, could be realized. We also thought we could develop a toothbrush unlike any seen before through the careful configuration of materials, forms, density, and more.”
*1. Technology that allows multiple parts to be formed as a single part.
Researcher Ishikawa was inspired to develop something new by the different sensation such a brush would offer in comparison with toothbrushes with conventional bristle brushes and the new technology’s future possibilities.
“Because the rubber bristles are supple, they are gentle on the gums. In addition, the rubber material’s unique flexibility allows it to flex and hug the dental surface so the user really feels it scrubbing away plaque. I think people who are sensitive to the stress on their mouth posed by normal tooth brushing would particularly benefit from such a brush, although they may daily brush their teeth, because they have to be gentle, they cannot be confident that they have scrubbed away the plaque. I started thinking about how we might develop products that leverage the values of the rubber material with regard to easy maneuverability in the oral cavity so that it could thoroughly scrub away plaque, which is the primary purpose of toothbrushes.”
Brushing feels good and scrubs away plaque
Researcher Ishikawa began working on the development of a toothbrush that has a brush and head made from a rubber material (rubber head toothbrush). The unique tooth brushing experience certainly makes a strong impression. However, in Lion’s toothbrush development, which aims to foster preventive dentistry*2 habits, scrubbing away plaque that adheres to teeth is a major requirement and maneuverability within the entire oral cavity needs to be ensured. In addition, because this was Lion’s first attempt at using a rubber material and a uniform mold encompassing the head all the way to the tips of the bristles, our expertise was lacking. How should we design the toothbrush to satisfy these requirements?
*2. The idea is that preventive dentistry focuses not on waiting to treat cavities until after they form, but preventing them before they can occur.
“Because rubber material bristles are made of a material completely different to that used for conventional bristle brushes, the different bristle shape and density can be expected to change the feeling inside the mouth, the sensation when brushing, and the plaque removal method. We want to achieve high plaque removal power while maintaining the comfortable brushing experience unique to rubber material. In addition, as it is a Lion toothbrush, we need to make the head compact and ensure that the toothbrush highly maneuverable.”
One major factor affecting the maneuverability inside the oral cavity is the volume of the part of the toothbrush that enters the mouth. Our design therefore needed to address the entire toothbrush, including the width and thickness of the head and the length of the bristles. The CLINICA Advantage Toothbrush has high maneuverability because it has the most compact head of any Lion bristle toothbrush to date. Getting as close as possible to this size was one of our goals.
Reflecting on the development process of the rubber head toothbrush, researcher Aoki comments, “When it came to reducing volume and compactness of the head, we exploited the features of integrally molding technology to make the head thinner, drawing on already established expertise developed by the Production Engineering Department, and conducted multiple studies to make the thin head even more compact. Along with making the head more compact, we worked to maintain its strength. At the same time, we worked to develop bristles as this as 0.1 mm in diameter. This was a very difficult undertaking. We calculated the volume of the toothbrush when it entered the oral cavity during tooth brushing, created prototypes using 3D printers, and repeatedly evaluated its quality in such terms as the durability of the head and the usage feel when actually brushing teeth. We set targets for making the brush more compact and, in collaboration with the Production Engineering Department, moved on to the testing stage using molds for small-lot production. We then repeated similar evaluations. After this kind of trial and error process, we decided on the size of the head.”
A design that offers consumer value only possible with rubber material
To enhance the plaque removal power only possible with a rubber head toothbrush, we worked to verify the difference in the plaque removal method with bristle toothbrushes. In a comparison of the removal of dental surface plaque using bundles of bristles, we found that the rubber head toothbrush bristles hug the dental surface while removing plaque, and the key difference from bristle toothbrushes is thus this ability to hug the dental surface. We studied how the hardness of the rubber material is connected to its strong ability to hug the dental surface while maintain the good feeling of the rubber head toothbrush. Material that is too soft may feel good but is less effective at removing plaque from teeth. However, when too hard, it does not feel good and the bristles can become permanently bent when pressure is applied. Conducting tests with multiple hardness levels of material, we decided on a design for the head.
Reflecting on the whole development process, Researcher Ishikawa says, “We asked consumers to try our prototypes and reflected their feedback in the detailed specifications of the toothbrush. Some even said that it made brushing their teeth fun. This helped us see a new, unanticipated value offered by the toothbrush.”
Making tooth brushing a new positive living habit
Researcher Aoki reflected, “I feel that we have certainly created a product vastly different from any conventional bristle brush in terms of appearance and usage feel. To get customers to understand this and use the new product, I thought we need to accurately describe the value of the rubber head toothbrush”.
How should we express the feeling after brushing your teeth? The phrase we arrived at after multiple discussions was “rubber bristles make your teeth feel squeaky clean.” The rubber material bristles hug the dental surface and remove plaque, making teeth after brushing feel squeaky clean. This made us think that this brush could make brushing teeth fun.
Researcher Aoki reflected, “Parents often have to order their children to brush their teeth. However, this toothbrush should become a product that changes children’s attitudes, changing brushing teeth from an unpleasant activity to a fun one because of the way it feels when brushing.
In discussing his hopes for the future, researcher Ishikawa remarked, “With this development, I feel we further expanded the possibilities of toothbrushes because we established a new technology for uniformly molding the head and brush from a rubber material. I think we will be able to provide toothbrushes optimized for the different oral cavity environments of each individual consumer, such as the shape of their mouths, the shape and position of their teeth, and the condition of their gums. A fun tooth brushing experience is also the best tooth brushing experience for everyone. I intend to continue conducting research going forward with an eye on that kind of future.”
- Development Leader Researcher Aoki
- Since joining the Company, She has handled the development of oral care products for the domestic and overseas markets.
- Development Manager Researcher Ishikawa
- Since joining the Company, He has handled the development of oral care products for the domestic and overseas markets.