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US20090307859A1 - Electronic toothbrush incorporating digital training aid - Google Patents

Electronic toothbrush incorporating digital training aid Download PDF

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Publication number
US20090307859A1
US20090307859A1 US12137846 US13784608A US2009307859A1 US 20090307859 A1 US20090307859 A1 US 20090307859A1 US 12137846 US12137846 US 12137846 US 13784608 A US13784608 A US 13784608A US 2009307859 A1 US2009307859 A1 US 2009307859A1
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Prior art keywords
time
microprocessor
toothbrush
display
brushing
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Legal status (The legal status is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the status listed.)
Abandoned
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US12137846
Inventor
Graham Mottram
Robert G. Dickie
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2181847 ONTARIO Inc
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2181847 ONTARIO Inc
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    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A46BRUSHWARE
    • A46BBRUSHES
    • A46B15/00Other brushes; Brushes with additional arrangements
    • A46B15/0002Arrangements for enhancing monitoring or controlling the brushing process
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A46BRUSHWARE
    • A46BBRUSHES
    • A46B15/00Other brushes; Brushes with additional arrangements
    • A46B15/0002Arrangements for enhancing monitoring or controlling the brushing process
    • A46B15/0004Arrangements for enhancing monitoring or controlling the brushing process with a controlling means
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A46BRUSHWARE
    • A46BBRUSHES
    • A46B15/00Other brushes; Brushes with additional arrangements
    • A46B15/0002Arrangements for enhancing monitoring or controlling the brushing process
    • A46B15/0004Arrangements for enhancing monitoring or controlling the brushing process with a controlling means
    • A46B15/0008Arrangements for enhancing monitoring or controlling the brushing process with a controlling means with means for controlling duration, e.g. time of brushing
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A61MEDICAL OR VETERINARY SCIENCE; HYGIENE
    • A61CDENTISTRY; APPARATUS OR METHODS FOR ORAL OR DENTAL HYGIENE
    • A61C17/00Devices for cleaning, polishing, rinsing or drying teeth, teeth cavities or prostheses; Saliva removers; Dental appliances for receiving spittle
    • A61C17/16Power-driven cleaning or polishing devices
    • A61C17/22Power-driven cleaning or polishing devices with brushes, cushions, cups, or the like
    • A61C17/221Control arrangements therefor
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A46BRUSHWARE
    • A46BBRUSHES
    • A46B15/00Other brushes; Brushes with additional arrangements
    • A46B15/0055Brushes combined with other articles normally separate from the brushing process, e.g. combs, razors, mirrors
    • A46B15/0069Brushes fitted with a interdental devices, e.g. toothpick
    • A46B15/0071Toothbrushes with flossing arrangements
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A61MEDICAL OR VETERINARY SCIENCE; HYGIENE
    • A61CDENTISTRY; APPARATUS OR METHODS FOR ORAL OR DENTAL HYGIENE
    • A61C2202/00Packaging for dental appliances

Abstract

An electric toothbrush and method of use for improving the oral health habits of a child. The toothbrush incorporates a digital training aid that includes a display screen and microprocessor which generates pictorial images on the screen. The microprocessor is programmed to record the actual frequency and duration of brushing over at least a twenty four hour period and to compare the actual figures with pre-programmed desired runtimes and frequencies. The microprocessor changes the images displayed on the screen to reflect the relationship between the actual times and desired times. The microprocessor includes gaming programs that are only accessible should the minimum desired frequency and time of brushing be met.

Description

    BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0001]
    1. Technical Field
  • [0002]
    This invention generally relates to toothbrushes. More particularly, the invention relates to a child's toothbrush. Specifically, the invention relates to a toothbrush incorporating a digital training aid in the handle that aids in motivating a child to increase their brushing time and assists a parent in monitoring their child's brushing habits.
  • [0003]
    2. Background Information
  • [0004]
    Parents frequently experience problems with children who are reluctant not only to brush their teeth, but also to brush their teeth for a sufficient length of time. The American Dental Association (hereinafter ADA) recommends that everyone should brush their teeth twice a day for two minutes each time. Statistics show that even adults average only forty five seconds of brushing and the average time period children spend on brushing their teeth is even lower. Many parents are aware that their children do not brush their teeth for a sufficiently long time but it is difficult for parents to monitor every brushing as it is time consuming and may tend to create anxiety for the child and potential battle grounds between parents and the child. Various devices and methodologies have been utilized in the prior art in an attempt to address this issue and to encourage children to continue brushing longer than they would normally choose. One such methodology has included the provision of specially designed tablets that, when dissolved in the mouth, produce a color in all regions of the teeth where plaque remains. The tablets provide the child with an easily detected visual aid that clearly shows that they need to continue brushing until all of the color on the teeth is removed.
  • [0005]
    Additionally, a wide variety of toothbrushes have been provided in the art that include mechanisms for advising the user how long they have actually been brushing their teeth. This is why so many powered toothbrushes have timers that are set for a two minute interval. Once brushing commences, the timer is activated and when the two minute interval is over the brush emits some sort of signal. For example, as disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,029,303 to Dewan, when the pre-set length of time is over, the toothbrush emits an audible sound or a visual signal, such as a flashing light. It should be noted, however, that there is no mechanism within Dewan's toothbrush of determining and tracking if the brush was only used for part of the pre-set length of time. Nor is there a mechanism of tracking if the toothbrush is habitually only used for a portion of each pre-set length of time over a longer time period such as one or two days.
  • [0006]
    Another toothbrush disclosed in the prior art is the brush shown in PCT publication No. WO 2006/065159 to Jeziorowski. This brush includes sensors under the bristles that are linked to a timer for recording the actual time the bristles are in contact with the teeth during brushing. Every time the bristles are lifted out of contact with the teeth, the timer stops and when contact is resumed, the timer restarts. After a pre-set period of time has elapsed, such as three minutes, an audible sound is emitted by the brush. The time elapsed is displayed in numbers and bars on a digital display in the handle. The brush also accumulates a record of the total time the bristles have been in use and indicates when the bristles have ended their useful life by displaying an indicator on the handle or by making a distinctive sound.
  • [0007]
    U.S. Pat. No. 5,704,087 to Strub is directed to a toothbrush that includes a processor which tracks a long period of time, such as a six month period, and then emits a signal to advise the user that it is time to visit the dentist. The signal may take the form of an audible sound or a flashing light that is emitted by the brush each time it is used after the six month period has elapsed.
  • [0008]
    U.S. Pat. No. 5,438,726 to Leite discloses a toothbrush that includes a display screen which displays a time period in numbers. The numbers count down a pre-determined time period. When the numbers reach zero, the toothbrush emits an audible sound or vibrates to signal to the user that the time period for brushing teeth has ended.
  • [0009]
    U.S. Pat. No. 7,013,522 to Kumagai discloses a toothbrush that generates sounds in response to the movement made by the toothbrush during brushing. The brush also includes a counter that records the number of movements made during brushing. The counter is linked to the sound generating components so that a variety of sounds or messages are emitted from the brush to encourage the user to continue brushing their teeth. The messages change as the count number goes up.
  • [0010]
    U.S. Pat. No. 5,561,881 to Klinger et al discloses a toothbrush that includes a timer for tracking time, pressure sensors for tracking pressure applied during brushing and a positioning sensor for tracking the orientation of the brush during brushing. The brush further includes a processor for computing all of this information and giving a visual indication on a screen as to the effectiveness of the user's brushing action.
  • [0011]
    Finally, U.S. Publication No. 2002/0133308 to Lundell et al, discloses a toothbrush that includes an electric toothbrush and a separate control unit having a microprocessor that collects and stores data relating to actual brushing times and the condition of the toothbrush battery. The control unit may include a display screen to show the status of the toothbrush.
  • [0012]
    While all of these devices and methodologies work to varying degrees, they are not necessarily fun experiences for a child who just wants the brushing tedium to be over.
  • [0013]
    There is therefore a need in the art for an improved device and method to encourage younger children to continue brushing for a set period of time and to improve their oral care by incorporating other oral health tools and devices.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0014]
    The device of the present invention comprises an electric toothbrush and method of use for aiding in improving the oral health habits of a child. The toothbrush incorporates a digital training aid that includes a display screen and microprocessor which generates pictorial images on the screen. The microprocessor is programmed to record the actual frequency and duration of brushing over at least a twenty four hour period and to compare the actual figures with pre-programmed desired runtimes and frequencies. The microprocessor changes the images displayed on the screen to reflect the relationship between the actual times and desired times. If certain brushing habits and other oral care criteria are met, a gaming function in the microprocessor is activated. The toothbrush therefore gives the child a sense of play that enables them to persist with what is normally a fairly onerous task for a child, and rewards the child for being consistent.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0015]
    The preferred embodiment of the invention, illustrative of the best mode in which applicant has contemplated applying the principles, is set forth in the following description and is shown in the drawings and is particularly and distinctly pointed out and set forth in the appended claims.
  • [0016]
    FIG. 1 is a front view of a toothbrush in accordance with the present invention;
  • [0017]
    FIG. 2 is a partial block diagram illustrated the circuitry contained within the toothbrush of the present invention;
  • [0018]
    FIG. 3 is an enlarged view of the display of the electronic pet provided on the front of the toothbrush and showing the virtual pet in an initial mode prior to the child starting to brush their teeth;
  • [0019]
    FIG. 4 is an enlarged view of the display showing the second stage of the virtual pet once a first time period of brushing has elapsed;
  • [0020]
    FIG. 5 is an enlarged view of the display showing the third stage of the virtual pet once a second time period of brushing has elapsed;
  • [0021]
    FIG. 6 is an enlarged view of the display showing the fourth stage of the virtual pet once a third time period of brushing has elapsed;
  • [0022]
    FIG. 7 is an enlarged view of the display showing the fifth stage of the virtual pet once a fourth time period of brushing has elapsed;
  • [0023]
    FIG. 8 is an enlarged view of the display showing the sixth stage of the virtual pet once a fifth time period of brushing has elapsed;
  • [0024]
    FIG. 9 is an enlarged view of the display showing the seventh stage of the virtual pet once a sixth time period of brushing has elapsed;
  • [0025]
    FIG. 10 is an enlarged view of the display showing the eighth stage of the virtual pet once a seventh time period of brushing has elapsed;
  • [0026]
    FIG. 11 is an enlarged view of the display showing the ninth stage of the virtual pet once a eighth time period of brushing has elapsed;
  • [0027]
    FIG. 12 is an enlarged view of the display showing the tenth stage of the virtual pet once a ninth time period of brushing has elapsed;
  • [0028]
    FIG. 13 is an enlarged view of the display showing the second stage of the virtual pet once a tenth time period of brushing has elapsed;
  • [0029]
    FIG. 14, is an enlarged view of the display showing the twelfth stage of the virtual pet once an eleventh time period of brushing has elapsed;
  • [0030]
    FIG. 15 is an enlarged view of the display showing the final stage of the virtual pet once a twelfth time period of brushing has elapsed;
  • [0031]
    FIG. 16 is a front view of the toothbrush of FIG. 1 shown incorporated into packaging for retail sales; and
  • [0032]
    FIG. 17 is a rear view of the packaged toothbrush of FIG. 16.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
  • [0033]
    Referring to FIG. 1 there is shown a toothbrush in accordance with the present invention and generally indicated at 10. Toothbrush 10 is a powered toothbrush that has a plurality of movable bristles 12 on a head 14 at one end of a neck 16. The neck 16 is connected to a handle 18 that retains a power supply 20 (FIG. 3) therein. Toothbrush 10 preferably is of a type in which bristles 12 are caused to move by said power supply 20. So, for example, bristles 12 may be rotated, or may be reciprocated (not illustrated) back and forth in an orientation generally parallel to a longitudinal axis “Y” of toothbrush 10. Toothbrush 10 is provided with activator buttons 22 to start and stop the motion of bristles 12.
  • [0034]
    In accordance with a specific feature of the present invention, toothbrush 10 includes a digital training aid 24 that is incorporated into handle 18 and is provided as a means for motivating a child to take better care of their teeth. More specifically, digital training aid 24 is provided to aid in increasing the length of time that the child brushes their teeth and to encourage them to use other oral care products, such as floss and mouthwash to improve their oral health. Training aid 24 includes a display screen 26, a microprocessor 34 (FIG. 2) and one or more play buttons 30 to activate microprocessor 34. Training aid 24 preferably is of a type similar to that sold under the trademark Tamagotchi by Kabushiki Kaisha Bandai of Tokyo, Japan. These digital toys include a small microprocessor and a monochrome display screen with three or four play buttons. The display screen shows an image of a virtual pet. The toys also include an internal clock and require the user depress the play buttons to input various tasks at various times to keep the pet displayed on the screen healthy and happy. The display will indicate that it is time to feed, brush or pat the virtual pet and the user will select an appropriate tool or item on the display screen to accomplish this task. So, for example, if display indicates that it is time to feed the pet, the user will push the appropriate button to select a food bowl displayed on the screen. If this action is taken in an allotted time, the pet remains healthy and happy. If the action is not taken in the allotted time, the pet's health and happiness deteriorates. These digital toys include a health and happiness meter on the screen to show the status of the pet. Only if all the required actions are taken in a timely fashion does the pet remain healthy and happy and only then can the user play a plurality of fun games available on the microprocessor. Children learn to check and care for their digital pet so that they can keep it happy and so that they can play the games available in the device.
  • [0035]
    The toothbrush 10 of the present invention incorporates this type of digital toy, but instead of images relating to virtual pets and the care thereof, microprocessor 34 includes programming that generates images 28 that relate to teeth and to oral health. Images 28 preferably are of a pictorial nature and represent objects such as a smile 28 a with teeth A-H, a toothbrush 28 b, a mouthwash container 28 c, and a dental floss container 28 d. Images 28 preferably are substantially free of letters and numbers as they are designed to be easily understood and interpreted, even by children that are unable to read or to identify numbers. It will be understood, however, that numbers and letters may be displayed on screen 26 in addition to images 28. Pictorial images 28 a, 28 b, 28 c and 28 d displayed on display screen 26 are by way of example only. Any graphic image that would be appealing to a child and that represents some type of oral care product or relates to the teeth or mouth could be used without departing from the present invention.
  • [0036]
    FIG. 2 shows the major components of toothbrush 10 and includes possible electrical circuit 32 to link those components to each other and to a power supply 20. In the system illustrated, a pair of batteries is used as power supply 20. A first section 32 a of circuit 32 links a terminal 20 a on one of the batteries to microprocessor 34 for the digital training aid 24. A second section 32 b of circuit 32 links terminal 20 a to a first contact 36 a on a motor 36. A third section 32 c of circuit 32 links a terminal 20 b on the other of the batteries to microprocessor 34. Terminal 20 b on the other of the batteries is also linked to a terminal 22 a on the on-off switch 22 by a fourth section 32 d of circuit 32. A fifth section 32 e of circuit 32 links a second terminal 22 b on the on-off switch 22 to a second contact 36 b on motor 36. A feedback section 32 f of circuit 32 extends between second contact 36 b and microprocessor 34. It will be seen that motor 36 and microprocessor 34 are connected into circuit 32 in parallel. Additionally, motor 36, switch 22 and microprocessor 34 are connected in series. Microprocessor 34 includes a clock (not shown). When the batteries are placed in toothbrush 10, the clock is always on, but display screen 26 is blank. Touching any of buttons 30 or the on/off controls of switch 22 turns display screen 26 on. Play buttons 30 a, 30 b and 30 c are directly wired to microprocessor 34. Each button 30 is associated with one of the images that appear above line 42. So, for example, button 30 a is associated with toothbrush 28 b, button 30 b is associated with mouthwash container 28 c and button 30 c is associated with floss container 28 d. Buttons 30 a-30 c are used to input data into microprocessor and to play games stored therein.
  • [0037]
    Microprocessor 34 is the brains of digital training aid 24 and is programmed to accumulate data, process the same and cause the display of images 28 on display screen 26. Microprocessor 34 is programmed to sense and track the cumulative amount of actual brushing time as measured by the actual run-time of motor 36. It is also programmed to record the frequency of the operation of motor 36. Specifically, microprocessor 34 is programmed to track frequency and actual run-time of motor 36 for a period of at least twenty four hours and to display images 28 in accordance with data gathered and processed over that time period. Furthermore, the programming is designed to compare the frequency and actual run-time data with a pre-set desired frequency and run-time for motor 36. Microprocessor 34 also tracks and records input from buttons 30 b and 30 c which are depressed each time the child has used other oral care products, specifically mouthwash and dental floss, in the twenty four hour period. Still other programming in microprocessor 34 relates to games that are available as a reward to the child for meeting the pre-set brushing and oral care goals.
  • [0038]
    The ADA has recommended that teeth be brushed a minimum of two times a day for a minimum of two minutes each time. This frequency and time period are programmed into microprocessor 34 as the pre-set desired frequency and run-time for motor 36. Microprocessor 34 compares the actual period of brushing time with this desired, and pre-programmed, time and generates smile 28 a according to the relationship between these two times.
  • [0039]
    When toothbrush 10 is to be used, the on-button 22 b of switch 22 is depressed, closing circuit 32. Motor 36 is actuated and causes motion in a drive shaft 38 that extends outwardly therefrom. Drive shaft 38, in turn, produces motion in bristles 12. When off-button 22 a is engaged and on-button 22 b is therefore disengaged, motor 36 ceases to run. Microprocessor 34 is linked, via feedback circuit 32 f with on-button 22 b and, consequently, engagement of on-button 22 b causes circuit 32 f to be closed and microprocessor 34 to be actuated to begin gathering information about the length of time motor 36 runs. Disengagement of on-button 22 b breaks circuit 32 f and microprocessor 34 records the cessation of motor 36. Microprocessor 34 therefore gathers information about the actual run-time of motor 36 between the time of engagement of on-button 22 b and the disengagement thereof. Microprocessor 34 gathers this information each time toothbrush 10 is used in a time period of at least twenty-four hours. The frequency of use of toothbrush for brushing is also recorded. Microprocessor 34 is programmed to compare this gathered information with the pre-programmed desired frequency and run-time of motor 36. Images 28 are generated in response to the comparison of actual frequency and actual run-time with desired frequency and desired run-time as will be hereinafter described.
  • [0040]
    Referring to FIG. 3, image 28 on display screen 26 includes smile 28 a showing eight “teeth” numbered A through H. Each tooth comprises a block-type representation having a darker border region 38 and a lighter interior region 40. Image 28 further includes a second image being a pictorial representation of a toothbrush 28 b. Image 28 further includes a third image being a pictorial representation of a mouthwash container 28 c and a fourth image being a pictorial representation of a dental floss container 28 d with a length of floss extending outwardly away therefrom. A line 42 extends across display screen and separates smile 28 a from the three spaced-apart images of toothbrush 28 b, mouthwash container 28 c and a floss container 28 d. The overall impression of image 28 is that of a face with the eyes being image 28 b and 28 d, the nose being image 28 c and the mouth being image 28 a. It will be understood that the image 28 shown in FIG. 3 is by way of illustration only and the designs and arrangement of the images 28 b-28 d can be altered, and that smile 28 a can have any number of “teeth” desired, without departing from the spirit of the present invention.
  • [0041]
    Smile 28 a acts as a meter for displaying the length of time the teeth were actually brushed relative to the desired period of time they should have been brushed. In FIG. 3, smile 28 a includes all of teeth A-H and this is the image that is displayed on display screen 26 when toothbrush 10 is first used. The images of toothbrush 28 b, mouthwash container 28 c and dental floss container 28 d are representative images that are individually selected by the child when they have physically used the associated product in their own dental care routine. The child selects the relevant image by depressing the associated play button 30 a-30 c. Images 28 b, 28 c and 28 d are always displayed on display screen 26.
  • [0042]
    FIGS. 3 to 15 show a plurality of enlarged display screens 26 to illustrate how image 28 changes in response to microprocessor 34 processing the actual brushing time, brushing frequency and additional oral care information that is input. Smile image 28 a is programmed in real time as microprocessor 34 is linked to the on-button 22 b of switch 22 that activates and deactivates motor 36. When the child engages switch 22 to start motor 36 and thereby move bristles 12, the microprocessor 34 records exactly when the motor was activated and for how long the motor 36 runs. The microprocessor 34 will track this information for a pre-set period of time being at least twenty four hours, and will provide a visual “report card” of that brushing period. By regular brushing alone, the smile image 28 a can be maintained with all of its teeth intact, i.e., image 28 a can look like that shown in FIG. 3, provided the actual run-time and frequency over the pre-set time period of twenty-four to forty-either hours meets or exceeds the desired run-time and frequency programmed into microprocessor 34. A parent can simply touch any button on the toothbrush 10 to activate display screen 26 and view smile 28 a to see the exact status of the child's brushing habits over that twenty-four to forty eight hours. Brushing less than twice a day and less than two minutes a time will cause the smile 28 a to change by having “teeth” fall out of smile 28 a as will be hereinafter described with reference to FIGS. 8-15. It is therefore easy for a parent to see if their child is not brushing teeth for a sufficient period of time.
  • [0043]
    FIG. 4 shows changes in display screen 26 when motor 36 is activated by closing switch 22. The child may depress play button 28 b when they intend to start brushing their teeth. This is not essential as simple activation of motor 36 transmits a signal via the feedback circuit 32 f to microprocessor 34. When motor 36 is activated, microprocessor 34 causes an additional image to appear on display screen 26. This additional image is one of a manual toothbrush 48 that appears below line 42 and proximate smile 28a. Manual toothbrush 48 moves back and forth with respect to teeth A-H as indicated on FIG. 4 and for as long as motor 36 is operational. Manual toothbrush 48 thereby simulates the brushing of the teeth A-H. When switch 22 is moved to the open position, the feedback circuit 32 f is broken and microprocessor 34 causes the image of manual toothbrush 48 to disappear from display screen 26.
  • [0044]
    FIG. 5 shows display screen 26 when the play button 30 b associated with mouthwash container 28 c is depressed and released. Button 30 b is depressed by the child when they have physically used mouthwash in that day's oral care. In response to button 30 b being pushed, microprocessor causes a new image of a mouthwash container 50 and cap 52 to be displayed beneath line 42 and proximate the teeth A-H of smile 28 a.
  • [0045]
    Mouthwash container 50 is oriented on its side and cap 52 pops off the container 50 and moves back and forth as indicated. Cap 52 moves for a few seconds and then the images of both of mouthwash container 50 and cap 52 disappear from display screen 26.
  • [0046]
    FIG. 6 shows display screen 26 when the play button 30 c associated with dental floss 28 d is pushed. The child will push play button 30 c when they have physically used dental floss as part of their teeth cleaning regimen, The depression of button 30 c causes microprocessor 34 to generate an new image of a dental floss container 54 and a length of floss 56 beneath smile 28 a. Floss container 54 is disposed adjacent tooth A and floss 56 extends outwardly therefrom and moves back and forth as indicated in FIG. 6. This back and forth motion gives the illusion of the floss being pulled out of floss container 54 and then being drawn back into the same. The back and forth motion continues for a few seconds and then the floss container 54 and floss 56 disappear from the screen.
  • [0047]
    FIG. 7 is an illustration of display screen 26 if the child has faithfully followed a recommended dental care regimen over a set period of time such as twenty four hours or forty eight hours. So, for example, if the child has, for a forty-eight hour period, faithfully brushed their teeth twice a day for at least two minutes each time and has used at least one of dental floss and mouthwash over that two day period, the microprocessor will cause the visual display on screen 26 to change to an enhanced image such as the big smile 60 shown in this figure. Big smile 60 is formed by the addition of a bottom lip 58 to smile 28 a. When this big smile 60 is displayed on display screen 26 the gaming function in the microprocessor is activated and the child can play the fun games that are programmed into the microprocessor 34. Games are accessed and played using play buttons 30 a, 30 b, and 30 c. If big smile 60 is not displayed on display screen 26, then none of the fun games are accessible. Big smile 60 only lasts for a twenty four hour period and then the bottom lip 58 disappears, leaving smile image 28 a on display screen 26. Each day microprocessor resets to the standard smile 28 a (FIG. 3) and thus requires all the teeth A-H to be present plus the use of the digital oral care tools in order for the child to be able to play any games on that day.
  • [0048]
    FIGS. 8 to 15 show a progressive display of the loss of “teeth” from smile 28 a if the required cumulative minimum frequency and/or time of brushing is not reached by the child over a set time period, such as twenty four hours. If the minimum brushing frequency and length of time goal is not met, at least one of the teeth A drops out of smile 28 a and falls down to the bottom of display screen 26. So, for example, FIG. 8 shows the display screen when the child has only met around 87.5% of the ADA's frequency and brushing time recommendation. Tooth “B” has dropped out of smile 28 a and moved to the bottom of display screen 26 as blacked tooth B′. When tooth “B’ drops out of smile 28 a, the region of the smile 28 a where tooth “B” was formally located, i.e., region 62, is darkened.
  • [0049]
    Similarly, FIG. 9 shows the display screen 26 when yet another “tooth”, being tooth “F” has dropped out of smile 28 a because the recommended frequency and/or brushing time has not been met and the amount of actual run-time was less than in the instance of FIG. 8. So, for example, if the child only met around 75% of the ADA recommended frequency and brushing times, two teeth will drop out of the smile. This leaves two blackened areas 60 and 62 on smile 28 a and two teeth B′ and F′ at the bottom of display screen 26. If the child improves their oral habits over the next twenty four hours and increases the frequency and length of brushing, one of teeth B′ or F′ will move back into smile 28 a. A second day of good oral care where the minimum frequency and length of brushing goals are met will return the other of the teeth B′ and F′ back into smile 28 a.
  • [0050]
    FIG. 10 shows the display screen 26 when yet another “tooth”, being tooth “D”, has dropped out of smile 28 a because the recommended frequency and/or brushing time has not been met and the amount of actual run-time was less than in the instance of FIG. 9. So, for example, if the child only met around 62.5% of the ADA recommended frequency and brushing times, three teeth will drop out of the smile. This leaves three blackened areas 60, 62 and 64 on smile 28 a and three teeth B′, D′, and F′ at bottom of display screen 26.
  • [0051]
    FIGS. 11 through 15 show the display screen 26 when the remaining teeth are progressively lost through failure to brush for the recommended frequency and/or length of time. Ultimately, as shown in FIG. 15, no teeth A-F are left in smile 28 a and smile 28 a is one large blackened or darkened region. All of the teeth have dropped out of smile 28 a and are situated beneath smile 28 a as teeth A′, B′, C′, D′, E′, F′, G′ and H′. The means that the child has essentially has not brushed their teeth at all that day.
  • [0052]
    It will be understood that instead of the microprocessor resetting smile 28 a every twenty four hours, microprocessor 34 could be programmed to track oral care over a period of a week for example. At a touch of any button on toothbrush 10, a parent could determine the oral habits of their child over that time period. If the child is regularly not meeting the minimum daily recommendations for brushing, the teeth A-H could be progressively lost over that week long time period. The overall image of the blackened smile 28 a with all of the teeth dropped out therefrom is an image that is clear enough for even a fairly young child to understand that they have not been brushing their teeth properly. The overall image is also a clear indication to a parent that more supervision of their child's oral care needs to be undertaken. Similarly, if over a week long period the child's brushing habits improve and the microprocessor causes the reincorporation of previously lost teeth A-H into the smile 28 a, then the child will easily see that improved habits bring about improved results.
  • [0053]
    FIGS. 16 and 17 show an example of how the toothbrush 10 in accordance with the present invention could be packaged within a blister package 70. Package 70 includes an aperture 72 which will allow it to be hung on a display rod in a store. Package 70 also includes a second aperture 74 that is complementary located and sized to allow a potential consumer access to one of the play buttons, such as 30 b. The potential consumer is able to depress play button 30 b to play a portion of a game programmed into training aid 24. The game will be displayed on display screen 26 that is visible through the packaging. Packaging may also include product information that will advise parents as to the significance of the loss of the teeth A-H from smile 28 a and how to monitor and encourage their child to improve their oral care habits. As shown in FIG. 17, a chart 80 or other explanatory text or illustrations may be placed on either the rear surface of toothbrush 10 or on package 70. For instance, chart 80 could indicate that one tooth missing from smile 28 a indicates that the child has only met around 87.5% of the ADA recommendations. Two teeth missing represent 25% less than the ADA minimums and so on.
  • [0054]
    As mentioned previously, the goal of toothbrush 10 is to aid in motivating a child to increase the length of time they brush their teeth and to use additional dental tools and products to take care of their teeth. The picture type nature of images 28 makes it easy for even a young child to see whether their brushing habits are adequate or inadequate. The visual image of the loss of teeth when bad habits are followed will easily show the child they need to improve their brushing. The visual image of the maintenance of a full smile 28 a or the display of the big smile 60 will encourage the child to keep up their brushing. The access to the fun games programmed into the device, will further serve to encourage the child to continue to brush their teeth properly and to use other oral care products. The presence of digital training aid 24 also enables a parent to monitor, verify and encourage regular brushing by providing a reliable indicator of their child's actual brushing habits over a more protracted period of time.
  • [0055]
    It will be understood by those skilled in the art that other features may be incorporated into toothbrush 10. Such features could include pressure or motion sensors installed adjacent bristles 12 and are operationally linked to microprocessor 34. Such sensors could be installed to substantially prevent a child from simply switching the motor 36 on to save their digital teeth A-H without actually physically brushing their teeth. The sensors would substantially prevent microprocessor 34 from recording an actual run-time of the motor in such instances. Microprocessor 34 could be programed to not save the teeth A-H unless pressure has been applied to the bristles 12 through the brushing motion. Yet other additional features may include a count-down timer that will enable the user to see how much time to continue brushing in a pre-determined two minute time period, as well as the provision of a mechanism for generating a sound when a two minute time period has elapsed.
  • [0056]
    The oral care tools 28 b-28 c expose the young users to more adult oral care products and help them to associate a regime such as flossing, toothpicks and mouthwash as part of regular oral care. Preferably all of the fun games programmed into the microprocessor 34 will have oral care based themes or use oral care products as components of the game.
  • [0057]
    In the foregoing description, certain terms have been used for brevity, clearness, and understanding. No unnecessary limitations are to be implied therefrom beyond the requirement of the prior art because such terms are used for descriptive purposes and are intended to be broadly construed.
  • [0058]
    Moreover, the description and illustration of the invention is an example and the invention is not limited to the exact details shown or described.

Claims (19)

  1. 1. An electric toothbrush comprising:
    a body having a front, a back and a head at one end;
    a plurality of bristles on the head which extend outwardly from the front;
    a powered motor retained within an interior of the body, said motor being operationally connected to said bristles to cause movement of the same when the motor is activated;
    a display screen carried by the body;
    a microprocessor operationally linked to the motor and to the display screen; wherein said microprocessor includes programming to track actual runtime of the motor and to indicate an amount of actual runtime over a pre-set time period of at least twenty four hours by generating an image on said display screen.
  2. 2. The electric toothbrush as defined in claim 1, wherein the microprocessor includes programming to generate an image that comprises a first image in a pictorial format, wherein said first image is substantially free of letters and numbers.
  3. 3. The electric toothbrush as defined in claim 1, further including:
    a power source retained within the body;
    an electrical circuit, wherein the microprocessor and motor are connected to the power source in parallel;
    a switch provided in the circuit between the power source and the motor, said switch being movable between a closed position where the motor is operational, and an open position where the motor is non-operational; and
    a feedback circuit connecting the motor, the switch and the microprocessor; wherein the feedback circuit is closed when the switch is in the closed position.
  4. 4. The electric toothbrush as defined in claim 1, further comprising at least a first play button provided on the housing and being directly connected to the microprocessor; wherein said microprocessor causes a second pictorial image to be displayed on the display screen, and said second image is linked to said first play button.
  5. 5. The electric toothbrush as defined in claim 4, wherein depression of the first play button causes the microprocessor to generate a third pictorial image on the display screen for several seconds.
  6. 6. The electric toothbrush as defined in claim 5, wherein the microprocessor is programmed to generate an enhanced image if, during the at least twenty four hour period, the first play button is depressed at least once and the actual runtime of the motor reaches a minimum pre-programmed runtime.
  7. 7. The electric toothbrush as defined in claim 6, wherein the microprocessor further includes programming that resets the display screen twenty four hours after display of the enhanced image by removing the enhanced image and displaying the first pictorial image once again.
  8. 8. The electric toothbrush as defined in claim 6, wherein the microprocessor is further programmed to include a plurality of games for play, and when said enhanced image is displayed one of the first play button and another play button activates said game programs.
  9. 9. The electric toothbrush as defined in claim 2, wherein the microprocessor includes programming to generate the first image in the form of a smile including a plurality of teeth.
  10. 10. The electric toothbrush as defined in claim 9, wherein the microprocessor includes programming to selectively remove one or more of the teeth from the first image of the smile when one of a plurality of threshold minimum actual run-times and frequencies of brushing are not met.
  11. 11. The electric toothbrush as defined in claim 4, wherein the second pictorial image is one of a manual toothbrush, a floss container and a bottle of mouthwash.
  12. 12. The electric toothbrush as defined in claim 11, wherein the microprocessor includes programming to generate at least a fourth pictorial image and the fourth image is another of the manual toothbrush, the floss container and the bottle of mouthwash and is substantially permanently displayed on said display screen; and wherein the toothbrush further includes a second play button that is directly linked to the microprocessor and is associated with the fourth image, and when said second play button is depressed, said microprocessor causes a fifth image to be displayed on the display screen for several seconds.
  13. 13. The electric toothbrush as defined in claim 12, wherein the microprocessor includes programming to generate at least a sixth pictorial image and the sixth image is the last of the manual toothbrush, the floss container and the bottle of mouthwash and is displayed on the display screen substantially permanently, and wherein the toothbrush further includes a third play button that is directly linked to the microprocessor and is associated with the sixth image, and when said third play button is depressed, said microprocessor causes a seventh image to be displayed on the display screen for several seconds.
  14. 14. The electric toothbrush as defined in claim 13, wherein the microprocessor includes programming to cause one or more of the third, fifth and seventh images to move back and forth across the display screen for several seconds upon depression of the associated one of the first, second and third play buttons.
  15. 15. The electric toothbrush as defined in claim 1, further comprising packaging for retailing the toothbrush, and wherein one or both of the packaging and the body of the toothbrush include a visual chart for interpreting the image on the display screen.
  16. 16. A method of encouraging a child to develop good oral care habits, said method comprising the steps of:
    providing a powered toothbrush having a digital training aid incorporated therein, said training aid being operationally linked to a motor within the toothbrush that moves a plurality of bristles, and wherein said digital training aid further includes a display screen and a microprocessor that is programmed to generate a changeable image on the display screen in response to operation of the motor;
    moving a switch on the toothbrush from an off position to an on position to activate the motor to move the bristles and to start a timer within the microprocessor;
    brushing the teeth using the moving bristles;
    moving the switch from an on position to an off position to deactivate the motor and stop the movement of the bristles and to stop a timer within the microprocessor, whereby an actual runtime for the motor is computed by the microprocessor and is compared with a pre-programmed desired run-time; and
    reviewing the display screen after the actual runtime to determine if the image has changed.
  17. 17. The method as defined in claim 16, further comprising the step of;
    engaging a play button on the toothbrush to select a second image generated by the microprocessor and displayed on the display screen adjacent the changeable image so as to directly input data into the microprocessor; and
    reviewing the display screen to see if the microprocessor has changed the changeable image to an enhanced image.
  18. 18. The method as defined in claim 17, further comprising the step of:
    selecting any one of a plurality of games displayed on the display screen in response to the appearance of the enhanced image; and
    playing the selected game by depressing the play button.
  19. 19. The method as defined in claim 14, further including the step of:
    comparing the changeable image on the display screen with a chart to determine how the actual frequency of brushing and actual runtime relates to the desired pre-programmed frequency and runtime; and
    changing the frequency and duration of brushing teeth accordingly.
US12137846 2008-06-12 2008-06-12 Electronic toothbrush incorporating digital training aid Abandoned US20090307859A1 (en)

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US12543992 US20100024143A1 (en) 2008-06-12 2009-08-19 Toothbrush incorporating training aid

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