For those with developmental disabilities, such as down syndrome or cerebral palsy, using a tooth brush is a real challenge. The inability to brush independently necessitates the help of a caregiver and leads to deteriorating dental health. In order to combat this problem, a team of Georgia Tech students recently won the 2015 Ideas to Serve Competition with their product, Smile Bright, a toothbrush for people who have limited motor control. We recently chatted with team member Neha Sinha to learn more.
Led by Georgia Tech students Rehman Pirani, Nadine Marfurt, Laura O’Connell, Somya Tirath, Neha Sinha, and Anthony Jones, “Smile Bright’s design includes ergonomic improvements such as a smaller, angled head and a larger handle that is easier to grip with a rotational strap to secure the user’s hand,” explains Sinha. “The brush features an instructional song to encourage brushing all regions for the recommended 2 minutes. Our ultimate goal is not only to improve the oral care for these individuals, but also to improve their quality of life. We want them to Smile Bright!”
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), 85% of adults with developmental disabilities need help brushing their teeth. 90-96% of people with down syndrome will develop periodontal disease in adulthood. “There are 6.5 million people in the US that have intellectual disabilities for whom we are specifically designing this product,” she says. “As our product develops, its utility can be expanded to a target market of 20 million people, the population in the United States that struggle with fine motor skills or have developmental disabilities. Our product would not only help them improve their dental health, but also improve their quality of life by giving them greater independence.”
“Our team was developed for a class project in the Georgia Tech course MGT 3744 – Product and Service Development, which is part of the curriculum for the Denning Technology & Management Program,” recalls Sinha. “Our project prompt was vaguely to create a product or service that would improve people’s lives. Among the many ideas we tossed around was a toothbrush for those with an inability to properly clean their teeth with existing products. One of our team members has a friend who belongs to a Special Olympics gym nearby. We quickly developed our own connection with the gym and its members and, through this, realized the overwhelming need for our product. Our close ties with the gym members have led to our team’s passion for solving this problem.”
The Ideas to Serve Competition is an annual event featuring Tech students across all disciplines and studies as well as recent alumni. By winning this year’s competition, the Smile Bright team was awarded first prize: $5,000 in funding. Going forward, the team are seeking mentors who have experience in startups and small businesses, experience/contact in oral care, or experience with people with developmental disabilities. “We also need funding for filing for a patent, developing a certified and working prototype, market research experiments, and developing our network,” she adds. “Our goal is to raise another $5,000-$10,000 before the end of 2015.”