The first ‘electronic’ toothbrush, Sonicare revolutionized dental hygiene by being able to effectively clean plaque in places not reachable using mechanical scrubbing. Sonicare creates pressure waves that remove plaque up to 3mm  beyond the bristle tips making teeth so clean you feel like you’ve just visited your dentist.

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Prototype Sonicare electronic toothbrush.

I met the founders of Sonicare, then GEMtech, at the University of Washington where I was working as a research assistant. There in the basement of the Aerospace Engineering building they were working like mad scientists building a new type of toothbrush that would revolutionize dental care. They asked me to join and help build their prototypes so they could start clinical trials. I worked on a couple different versions of prototypes, one that was driven by piezoelectric panels and then one that became the core of the product that is available today.

Sonicare was the world’s first computer controlled toothbrush using a 4-bit microcontroller to drive the head and provide timer functions.

Given I was there from the very beginning, I got to help finish designing and building prototypes, assist with clinical trials, to do the product engineering required to commercialize the product, built the first 200 units myself for our product launch. Immediately From our launch, we knew we had a winning product and shifted gears into scaling production. We went through many different product iterations, technology updates, and process changes to meet the growing demand. When I left we were shipping over 60,000 units per month. Because of our success, Sonicare was acquired by Philips in 1999.