Technology has revolutionized the world of oral health. Our dentists have fancy power tools to clean off our plaque. We can buy industrial-strength electric toothbrushes to ensure no part of our mouths are left unscrubbed. Walking down the drugstore aisles, we are confronted by an overwhelming number of toothpaste options, from versions that whiten your teeth to those made for consumers with sensitive mouths.
But for all of these advancements, Americans still don't take good care of their teeth. According to the American Dental Association, about 50% of people don't brush their teeth twice a day, and 75% do not replace their toothbrushes as often as they should. The Center for Disease Control points out that 40% of people don't visit the dentist every year, and even less than that go at the recommended six-month mark.
Simon Enever, an industrial designer, came to the conclusion that the world did not need another fancy high-tech toothbrush. After speaking with a range of dentists, he discovered that oral health professionals encourage patients to use an electric toothbrush, but they tend to be rather agnostic about exactly which model or brand. "The unspecific nature of a dentist saying they recommend that everybody use an electric toothbrush was the most intriguing thing to me," Enever says. "The reason they are trying to get you to use an electric toothbrush—of any kind—is because the main thing it does is improve your habits."
Dentists encourage the use of electric toothbrushes because most models are set to run for two minutes, which is the right amount of brushing time to get a proper clean, and almost double the amount of time that the average person brushes.
So Enever set about trying to find a way to deliver simple cues that would remind people not only to brush their teeth for long enough, but also replenish their toothpaste, replace their brush heads, and visit their dentist. The result is Quip, a direct-to-consumer toothbrush company that sells inexpensive electric and manual toothbrushes, with a built-in subscription model that ships fresh brush heads and toothpaste every three months. The startup had a soft launch in April, advertising on platforms like Facebook, but it is ramping up its operations now. A year and a half ago, Enever raised $1 million in angel investment, which he used to design the products and will continue to seek investment as he expands the company's reach in the U.S. market.
Quip's electric toothbrush set, which includes a battery-powered toothbrush, an extra head, a three-month supply of toothpaste, plus a two-week travel toothpaste, costs $40. At this price point, it is on par with the lower-end electric toothbrushes on the market and significantly cheaper than the high-tech models that go for between $150 and $200. But what separates Quip from some of its competitors is that every aspect of its design is sleek and elegant, from the packages that the toothbrushes arrive in, to the little holder that you can stick onto any glossy surface (which doubles as a travel cover).
Enever maintains that there is very little difference between an expensive brush and an inexpensive brush. His views are supported by some toothbrush critics, like those at the review site The Sweet Home, which point out that simple, inexpensive models get the job done. By selling inexpensive brushes and following up with customers by providing them with new paste and brush heads at regular intervals, Enever believes he will be able to help people achieve their dental health goals.
As a user of one of the fancier models of the Sonicare electric toothbrushes, the Quip brush didn't feel as powerful or as satisfying to me. However, my husband, who uses a manual toothbrush, found the brush to be a step up from his everyday routine. He realized while using it that he hadn't been brushing nearly as long as he needed to. We both found the regular delivery of toothpaste, travel toothpaste, and brush heads to be useful, because we somehow always forget to pick these things up at the store.
In short, Quip's subscription model is a thoughtful, inexpensive solution for consumers who find themselves struggling to keep up with the simple habits that will improve their oral health. "When we're using our toothbrush, we're generally not thinking about what we're doing," Enever says. "As soon as we put it down, it disappears from our consciousness—we forget to pick up new brush heads in the store, and sometimes we even forget to get toothpaste when we run out. This causes a lot of problems in the long term because we're not focusing on prevention, consistency, and maintenance. Our goal is to do the thinking for you when it comes to your teeth."