A solar powered toothbrush that removes plaque by causing a chemical reaction in the mouth, could replace conventional brushing with toothpaste.
The innovation will be tested by a group of students at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, after promising results were seen when the product was tested on bacteria cultures in a laboratory.
The solar toothbrush works by releasing electrons that then react with the saliva in the mouth and help to breakdown plaque. The plaque is then easier to remove making brushing more effective.
According to the manufacturers the solar toothbrush will remove plaque even if toothpaste is not used, meaning that if the innovation ever catches on it could shake up the oral care industry.
The toothbrush is powered by light. When light hits the solar panel in the handle of the toothbrush electrons are released and delivered to the semiconductor head (titanium dioxide), explains the manufacturer.
In addition, when light strikes the wet titanium dioxide head more electrons are released, which form a negatively charged fluid inside the mouth that can remove hydrogen ions from the plaque making it easier to break down, says the manufacturer.
The toothbrush, therefore, cannot work in the dark. However, it takes the same amount of light as a solar-powered calculator, so that if the user can see their reflection in the mirror there is enough light to operate the brush.
The toothbrush was tested in the laboratory by Dr Kunio Komiyama, a professor of dentistry at the University of Saskatchewan, on bacteria cultures that are known to cause periodontal disease.
Now the crucial question is whether or not the solar toothbrush, Soladey-J3X, performs better than conventional brushing. This is where the students of the University of Saskatchewan are involved and Dr Komiyama is attempting to recruit 120 volunteers to test the efficacy of the new brush, according to CanWest News Service, Saskatoon.
If the toothpaste-less toothbrush becomes a reality, the oral care industry, which is currently one of the strongest segments in the personal care category, could be significantly reorganised.
According to a recent study by Kline and Company, Global Cosmetics & Toiletries 2006, the value of the European oral care segment in 2006 was €6.2bn, of which 60 per cent is accounted for by toothpaste, 27 per cent by toothbrushes and 13 per cent by mouthwash.
Furthermore, the market research company projects European oral care growth will continue to surge ahead at as much as 4.5 per cent per annum up to the year 2011, with the less developed markets of Eastern and Central Europe leading the way.