I Confess: I Geek Out Over Beautiful Toothbrushes
The toothbrush is the first thing everyone packs – it’s the Number One travel essential – yet it has traditionally attracted little attention. At last some really exciting toothbrush designs are emerging
I happened to be at The Bay the other day where, on display in the beauty department – on a prominent display, in fact – stood a collection of cool-looking toothbrushes.
Their appearance grabbed my attention. And the price made me do a double take.
Not only was the price range of about $140 to $230 (Canadian) striking, so was the design. The chubby, gum-massaging toothbrushes from Foreo Issa came in pop colours: “Cobalt Blue, “Cool Black,” “Lavender” and “Mint.” They looked like Teletubbies for the teeth. According to a display blurb, they’re “a revolutionary, gentle silicone toothbrush featuring breakthrough pulsating dental technology which is channelled through soft silicone bristles for effective cleaning.” You can charge them via USB.
If you’re wondering who the market might be for a $140 toothbrush, well – weird confession time – I have a slightly geeky addiction to nice toothbrushes. This goes back years, decades even, to the time I discovered toothbrushes from Floucaril, a classic French oral care line. They were all kinds of cool colours and their handles had graphic patterns – including zebra stripes and polka dots, if I recall correctly. It was perhaps my first brush (ha ha) with the notion of design meeting utilitarian needs.
Given the growing prevalence of design-forward and innovative toothbrushes (there are even crowdfunded toothbrush startups), there must be quite a few toothbrush design geeks out there besides me. And our options are multiplying.
New York-based Quip, for example, has undertaken a mission to provide the oral health world with inexpensive, well-designed toothbrushes, a mandate that invites comparisons with eyeglass maker Warby Parker.
Quip’s streamlined and minimalist toothbrushes come in on-trend shades you might see in an Apple device – seafoam green, rose gold and so on. Quip keeps on top of your dental care regime, shipping fresh heads and supplies every three months. Quip even sends reminders that you’re due for a checkup at the dentist’s. (You get a reward after you go to your appointment.)
New York startup Goby, meanwhile, is selling a direct-to-consumer electric toothbrush that it claims is game changer: “better functioning … oscillating toothbrushes at a fraction of their traditional price.”
The Scandinavians are at it (of course)
If you’re an old-school toothbrush geek who doesn’t really need a smart toothbrush, look out for the Clean Smile line by Norwegian brand Jordan.
Clean Smile was a collaboration with Scandinavian designer Andreas Engesvik. It launched last year, and won a Red Dot award for design excellence. The brush comes in a selection of bright, contrasting colours: Hot pink, kelly green and lemon yellow. (Or at least it did come in those colours: We scoured the web and couldn’t find any stores that are still selling them.)
Elsewhere in the world of Scandinavian dental implements, Swedish designer Jakob Lennartsson founded the Yumaki brand with the stated mission to create an oral health care “product you want to use, not have to use.”
In addition to its usual lineup of stylish, slightly angled toothbrushes – which are made from various materials, including recycled plastic, bamboo and something called “sugar cane plastic” – Yumaki riffs on limited edition sneaker culture by offering special collections.
Among the dozens of models currently available, I personally love the Graf, with its red white and black brushes (arranged in a pattern that’s like the stripes or swoosh on sneakers). There’s also a brush called Luminate that’s neon green and glows in the dark.
Designer toothbrushes: also big in Japan
When visiting Toronto I always make a stop at the Four Seasons gift shop to pick up Japanese black binchotan charcoal toothbrushes. Their bristles incorporate charcoal produced through the quick burning and cooling of oak branches. Proponents of charcoal prize its supposed ability to stem odours; binchotan toothbrushes are supposed to contribute to oral health by deodorizing your mouth as well as removing plaque. Meanwhile, charcoal’s anti-moisture properties halt the development of bacteria growing on the brush itself (something I can be a bit obsessive about).
Meanwhile at Muji – the low-cost, high-design Japanese retail emporium with locations in Toronto, Boston and New York – I’ve been stocking up on toothbrushes as thoughtfully designed as you would expect a product from Muji to be.
On this one, for example, the handle is slightly rounded and feels remarkably comfortable to hold. The head is the perfect small size. An architect friend told me it’s his favourite toothbrush. And it performs: The long thin bristles on the rounded head really clean get in between teeth.
Muji also sells a little porcelain stand for the toothbrush that might be one of your best cheap chic design indulgences ever, at around three bucks. Together they look gorgeous in the bathroom – like something an interior designer would do in a house staging. Believe it or not, this has made some of my design-oriented friends jealous.
Thank about that: People are coveting my toothbrush. What more evidence do we need that the humble implement is no longer an afterthought?