ELECTRONIC TOOTHBRUSH INCORPORATING DIGITAL TRAINING AID
An electric toothbrush and method of use for improving the oral health habits of a child. The toothbrush incorporates a digital training aid that includes a display screen and microprocessor which generates pictorial images on the screen. The microprocessor is programmed to record the actual frequency and duration of brushing over at least a twenty four hour period and to compare the actual figures with pre-programmed desired runtimes and frequencies. The microprocessor changes the images displayed on the screen to reflect the relationship between the actual times and desired times. The microprocessor includes gaming programs that are only accessible should the minimum desired frequency and time of brushing be met.
1. Technical Field
This invention generally relates to toothbrushes. More particularly, the invention relates to a child's toothbrush. Specifically, the invention relates to a toothbrush incorporating a digital training aid in the handle that aids in motivating a child to increase their brushing time and assists a parent in monitoring their child's brushing habits.
2. Background Information
Parents frequently experience problems with children who are reluctant not only to brush their teeth, but also to brush their teeth for a sufficient length of time. The American Dental Association (hereinafter ADA) recommends that everyone should brush their teeth twice a day for two minutes each time. Statistics show that even adults average only forty five seconds of brushing and the average time period children spend on brushing their teeth is even lower. Many parents are aware that their children do not brush their teeth for a sufficiently long time but it is difficult for parents to monitor every brushing as it is time consuming and may tend to create anxiety for the child and potential battle grounds between parents and the child. Various devices and methodologies have been utilized in the prior art in an attempt to address this issue and to encourage children to continue brushing longer than they would normally choose. One such methodology has included the provision of specially designed tablets that, when dissolved in the mouth, produce a color in all regions of the teeth where plaque remains. The tablets provide the child with an easily detected visual aid that clearly shows that they need to continue brushing until all of the color on the teeth is removed.
Additionally, a wide variety of toothbrushes have been provided in the art that include mechanisms for advising the user how long they have actually been brushing their teeth. This is why so many powered toothbrushes have timers that are set for a two minute interval. Once brushing commences, the timer is activated and when the two minute interval is over the brush emits some sort of signal. For example, as disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,029,303 to Dewan, when the pre-set length of time is over, the toothbrush emits an audible sound or a visual signal, such as a flashing light. It should be noted, however, that there is no mechanism within Dewan's toothbrush of determining and tracking if the brush was only used for part of the pre-set length of time. Nor is there a mechanism of tracking if the toothbrush is habitually only used for a portion of each pre-set length of time over a longer time period such as one or two days.
Another toothbrush disclosed in the prior art is the brush shown in PCT publication No. WO 2006/065159 to Jeziorowski. This brush includes sensors under the bristles that are linked to a timer for recording the actual time the bristles are in contact with the teeth during brushing. Every time the bristles are lifted out of contact with the teeth, the timer stops and when contact is resumed, the timer restarts. After a pre-set period of time has elapsed, such as three minutes, an audible sound is emitted by the brush. The time elapsed is displayed in numbers and bars on a digital display in the handle. The brush also accumulates a record of the total time the bristles have been in use and indicates when the bristles have ended their useful life by displaying an indicator on the handle or by making a distinctive sound.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,704,087 to Strub is directed to a toothbrush that includes a processor which tracks a long period of time, such as a six month period, and then emits a signal to advise the user that it is time to visit the dentist. The signal may take the form of an audible sound or a flashing light that is emitted by the brush each time it is used after the six month period has elapsed.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,438,726 to Leite discloses a toothbrush that includes a display screen which displays a time period in numbers. The numbers count down a pre-determined time period. When the numbers reach zero, the toothbrush emits an audible sound or vibrates to signal to the user that the time period for brushing teeth has ended.
U.S. Pat. No. 7,013,522 to Kumagai discloses a toothbrush that generates sounds in response to the movement made by the toothbrush during brushing. The brush also includes a counter that records the number of movements made during brushing. The counter is linked to the sound generating components so that a variety of sounds or messages are emitted from the brush to encourage the user to continue brushing their teeth. The messages change as the count number goes up.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,561,881 to Klinger et al discloses a toothbrush that includes a timer for tracking time, pressure sensors for tracking pressure applied during brushing and a positioning sensor for tracking the orientation of the brush during brushing. The brush further includes a processor for computing all of this information and giving a visual indication on a screen as to the effectiveness of the user's brushing action.
Finally, U.S. Publication No. 2002/0133308 to Lundell et al, discloses a toothbrush that includes an electric toothbrush and a separate control unit having a microprocessor that collects and stores data relating to actual brushing times and the condition of the toothbrush battery. The control unit may include a display screen to show the status of the toothbrush.
While all of these devices and methodologies work to varying degrees, they are not necessarily fun experiences for a child who just wants the brushing tedium to be over.
There is therefore a need in the art for an improved device and method to encourage younger children to continue brushing for a set period of time and to improve their oral care by incorporating other oral health tools and devices.SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The device of the present invention comprises an electric toothbrush and method of use for aiding in improving the oral health habits of a child. The toothbrush incorporates a digital training aid that includes a display screen and microprocessor which generates pictorial images on the screen. The microprocessor is programmed to record the actual frequency and duration of brushing over at least a twenty four hour period and to compare the actual figures with pre-programmed desired runtimes and frequencies. The microprocessor changes the images displayed on the screen to reflect the relationship between the actual times and desired times. If certain brushing habits and other oral care criteria are met, a gaming function in the microprocessor is activated. The toothbrush therefore gives the child a sense of play that enables them to persist with what is normally a fairly onerous task for a child, and rewards the child for being consistent.
The preferred embodiment of the invention, illustrative of the best mode in which applicant has contemplated applying the principles, is set forth in the following description and is shown in the drawings and is particularly and distinctly pointed out and set forth in the appended claims.
In accordance with a specific feature of the present invention, toothbrush 10 includes a digital training aid 24 that is incorporated into handle 18 and is provided as a means for motivating a child to take better care of their teeth. More specifically, digital training aid 24 is provided to aid in increasing the length of time that the child brushes their teeth and to encourage them to use other oral care products, such as floss and mouthwash to improve their oral health. Training aid 24 includes a display screen 26, a microprocessor 34 (
The toothbrush 10 of the present invention incorporates this type of digital toy, but instead of images relating to virtual pets and the care thereof, microprocessor 34 includes programming that generates images 28 that relate to teeth and to oral health. Images 28 preferably are of a pictorial nature and represent objects such as a smile 28a with teeth A-H, a toothbrush 28b, a mouthwash container 28c, and a dental floss container 28d. Images 28 preferably are substantially free of letters and numbers as they are designed to be easily understood and interpreted, even by children that are unable to read or to identify numbers. It will be understood, however, that numbers and letters may be displayed on screen 26 in addition to images 28. Pictorial images 28a, 28b, 28c and 28d displayed on display screen 26 are by way of example only. Any graphic image that would be appealing to a child and that represents some type of oral care product or relates to the teeth or mouth could be used without departing from the present invention.
Microprocessor 34 is the brains of digital training aid 24 and is programmed to accumulate data, process the same and cause the display of images 28 on display screen 26. Microprocessor 34 is programmed to sense and track the cumulative amount of actual brushing time as measured by the actual run-time of motor 36. It is also programmed to record the frequency of the operation of motor 36. Specifically, microprocessor 34 is programmed to track frequency and actual run-time of motor 36 for a period of at least twenty four hours and to display images 28 in accordance with data gathered and processed over that time period. Furthermore, the programming is designed to compare the frequency and actual run-time data with a pre-set desired frequency and run-time for motor 36. Microprocessor 34 also tracks and records input from buttons 30b and 30c which are depressed each time the child has used other oral care products, specifically mouthwash and dental floss, in the twenty four hour period. Still other programming in microprocessor 34 relates to games that are available as a reward to the child for meeting the pre-set brushing and oral care goals.
The ADA has recommended that teeth be brushed a minimum of two times a day for a minimum of two minutes each time. This frequency and time period are programmed into microprocessor 34 as the pre-set desired frequency and run-time for motor 36. Microprocessor 34 compares the actual period of brushing time with this desired, and pre-programmed, time and generates smile 28a according to the relationship between these two times.
When toothbrush 10 is to be used, the on-button 22b of switch 22 is depressed, closing circuit 32. Motor 36 is actuated and causes motion in a drive shaft 38 that extends outwardly therefrom. Drive shaft 38, in turn, produces motion in bristles 12. When off-button 22a is engaged and on-button 22b is therefore disengaged, motor 36 ceases to run. Microprocessor 34 is linked, via feedback circuit 32f with on-button 22b and, consequently, engagement of on-button 22b causes circuit 32f to be closed and microprocessor 34 to be actuated to begin gathering information about the length of time motor 36 runs. Disengagement of on-button 22b breaks circuit 32f and microprocessor 34 records the cessation of motor 36. Microprocessor 34 therefore gathers information about the actual run-time of motor 36 between the time of engagement of on-button 22b and the disengagement thereof. Microprocessor 34 gathers this information each time toothbrush 10 is used in a time period of at least twenty-four hours. The frequency of use of toothbrush for brushing is also recorded. Microprocessor 34 is programmed to compare this gathered information with the pre-programmed desired frequency and run-time of motor 36. Images 28 are generated in response to the comparison of actual frequency and actual run-time with desired frequency and desired run-time as will be hereinafter described.
Smile 28a acts as a meter for displaying the length of time the teeth were actually brushed relative to the desired period of time they should have been brushed. In
Mouthwash container 50 is oriented on its side and cap 52 pops off the container 50 and moves back and forth as indicated. Cap 52 moves for a few seconds and then the images of both of mouthwash container 50 and cap 52 disappear from display screen 26.
It will be understood that instead of the microprocessor resetting smile 28a every twenty four hours, microprocessor 34 could be programmed to track oral care over a period of a week for example. At a touch of any button on toothbrush 10, a parent could determine the oral habits of their child over that time period. If the child is regularly not meeting the minimum daily recommendations for brushing, the teeth A-H could be progressively lost over that week long time period. The overall image of the blackened smile 28a with all of the teeth dropped out therefrom is an image that is clear enough for even a fairly young child to understand that they have not been brushing their teeth properly. The overall image is also a clear indication to a parent that more supervision of their child's oral care needs to be undertaken. Similarly, if over a week long period the child's brushing habits improve and the microprocessor causes the reincorporation of previously lost teeth A-H into the smile 28a, then the child will easily see that improved habits bring about improved results.
As mentioned previously, the goal of toothbrush 10 is to aid in motivating a child to increase the length of time they brush their teeth and to use additional dental tools and products to take care of their teeth. The picture type nature of images 28 makes it easy for even a young child to see whether their brushing habits are adequate or inadequate. The visual image of the loss of teeth when bad habits are followed will easily show the child they need to improve their brushing. The visual image of the maintenance of a full smile 28a or the display of the big smile 60 will encourage the child to keep up their brushing. The access to the fun games programmed into the device, will further serve to encourage the child to continue to brush their teeth properly and to use other oral care products. The presence of digital training aid 24 also enables a parent to monitor, verify and encourage regular brushing by providing a reliable indicator of their child's actual brushing habits over a more protracted period of time.
It will be understood by those skilled in the art that other features may be incorporated into toothbrush 10. Such features could include pressure or motion sensors installed adjacent bristles 12 and are operationally linked to microprocessor 34. Such sensors could be installed to substantially prevent a child from simply switching the motor 36 on to save their digital teeth A-H without actually physically brushing their teeth. The sensors would substantially prevent microprocessor 34 from recording an actual run-time of the motor in such instances. Microprocessor 34 could be programed to not save the teeth A-H unless pressure has been applied to the bristles 12 through the brushing motion. Yet other additional features may include a count-down timer that will enable the user to see how much time to continue brushing in a pre-determined two minute time period, as well as the provision of a mechanism for generating a sound when a two minute time period has elapsed.
The oral care tools 28b-28c expose the young users to more adult oral care products and help them to associate a regime such as flossing, toothpicks and mouthwash as part of regular oral care. Preferably all of the fun games programmed into the microprocessor 34 will have oral care based themes or use oral care products as components of the game.
In the foregoing description, certain terms have been used for brevity, clearness, and understanding. No unnecessary limitations are to be implied therefrom beyond the requirement of the prior art because such terms are used for descriptive purposes and are intended to be broadly construed.
Moreover, the description and illustration of the invention is an example and the invention is not limited to the exact details shown or described.
1. An electric toothbrush comprising:
- a body having a front, a back and a head at one end;
- a plurality of bristles on the head which extend outwardly from the front;
- a powered motor retained within an interior of the body, said motor being operationally connected to said bristles to cause movement of the same when the motor is activated;
- a display screen carried by the body;
- a microprocessor operationally linked to the motor and to the display screen; wherein said microprocessor includes programming to track actual runtime of the motor and to indicate an amount of actual runtime over a pre-set time period of at least twenty four hours by generating an image on said display screen.
2. The electric toothbrush as defined in claim 1, wherein the microprocessor includes programming to generate an image that comprises a first image in a pictorial format, wherein said first image is substantially free of letters and numbers.
3. The electric toothbrush as defined in claim 1, further including:
- a power source retained within the body;
- an electrical circuit, wherein the microprocessor and motor are connected to the power source in parallel;
- a switch provided in the circuit between the power source and the motor, said switch being movable between a closed position where the motor is operational, and an open position where the motor is non-operational; and
- a feedback circuit connecting the motor, the switch and the microprocessor; wherein the feedback circuit is closed when the switch is in the closed position.
4. The electric toothbrush as defined in claim 1, further comprising at least a first play button provided on the housing and being directly connected to the microprocessor; wherein said microprocessor causes a second pictorial image to be displayed on the display screen, and said second image is linked to said first play button.
5. The electric toothbrush as defined in claim 4, wherein depression of the first play button causes the microprocessor to generate a third pictorial image on the display screen for several seconds.
6. The electric toothbrush as defined in claim 5, wherein the microprocessor is programmed to generate an enhanced image if, during the at least twenty four hour period, the first play button is depressed at least once and the actual runtime of the motor reaches a minimum pre-programmed runtime.
7. The electric toothbrush as defined in claim 6, wherein the microprocessor further includes programming that resets the display screen twenty four hours after display of the enhanced image by removing the enhanced image and displaying the first pictorial image once again.
8. The electric toothbrush as defined in claim 6, wherein the microprocessor is further programmed to include a plurality of games for play, and when said enhanced image is displayed one of the first play button and another play button activates said game programs.
9. The electric toothbrush as defined in claim 2, wherein the microprocessor includes programming to generate the first image in the form of a smile including a plurality of teeth.
10. The electric toothbrush as defined in claim 9, wherein the microprocessor includes programming to selectively remove one or more of the teeth from the first image of the smile when one of a plurality of threshold minimum actual run-times and frequencies of brushing are not met.
11. The electric toothbrush as defined in claim 4, wherein the second pictorial image is one of a manual toothbrush, a floss container and a bottle of mouthwash.
12. The electric toothbrush as defined in claim 11, wherein the microprocessor includes programming to generate at least a fourth pictorial image and the fourth image is another of the manual toothbrush, the floss container and the bottle of mouthwash and is substantially permanently displayed on said display screen; and wherein the toothbrush further includes a second play button that is directly linked to the microprocessor and is associated with the fourth image, and when said second play button is depressed, said microprocessor causes a fifth image to be displayed on the display screen for several seconds.
13. The electric toothbrush as defined in claim 12, wherein the microprocessor includes programming to generate at least a sixth pictorial image and the sixth image is the last of the manual toothbrush, the floss container and the bottle of mouthwash and is displayed on the display screen substantially permanently, and wherein the toothbrush further includes a third play button that is directly linked to the microprocessor and is associated with the sixth image, and when said third play button is depressed, said microprocessor causes a seventh image to be displayed on the display screen for several seconds.
14. The electric toothbrush as defined in claim 13, wherein the microprocessor includes programming to cause one or more of the third, fifth and seventh images to move back and forth across the display screen for several seconds upon depression of the associated one of the first, second and third play buttons.
15. The electric toothbrush as defined in claim 1, further comprising packaging for retailing the toothbrush, and wherein one or both of the packaging and the body of the toothbrush include a visual chart for interpreting the image on the display screen.
16. A method of encouraging a child to develop good oral care habits, said method comprising the steps of:
- providing a powered toothbrush having a digital training aid incorporated therein, said training aid being operationally linked to a motor within the toothbrush that moves a plurality of bristles, and wherein said digital training aid further includes a display screen and a microprocessor that is programmed to generate a changeable image on the display screen in response to operation of the motor;
- moving a switch on the toothbrush from an off position to an on position to activate the motor to move the bristles and to start a timer within the microprocessor;
- brushing the teeth using the moving bristles;
- moving the switch from an on position to an off position to deactivate the motor and stop the movement of the bristles and to stop a timer within the microprocessor, whereby an actual runtime for the motor is computed by the microprocessor and is compared with a pre-programmed desired run-time; and
- reviewing the display screen after the actual runtime to determine if the image has changed.
17. The method as defined in claim 16, further comprising the step of;
- engaging a play button on the toothbrush to select a second image generated by the microprocessor and displayed on the display screen adjacent the changeable image so as to directly input data into the microprocessor; and
- reviewing the display screen to see if the microprocessor has changed the changeable image to an enhanced image.
18. The method as defined in claim 17, further comprising the step of:
- selecting any one of a plurality of games displayed on the display screen in response to the appearance of the enhanced image; and
- playing the selected game by depressing the play button.
19. The method as defined in claim 14, further including the step of:
- comparing the changeable image on the display screen with a chart to determine how the actual frequency of brushing and actual runtime relates to the desired pre-programmed frequency and runtime; and
- changing the frequency and duration of brushing teeth accordingly.
Filed: Jun 12, 2008
Publication Date: Dec 17, 2009
Inventors: Graham Mottram (Collingwood), Robert G. Dickie (King City)
Application Number: 12/137,846
International Classification: A46B 15/00 (20060101); A46B 9/04 (20060101);