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Inspired by his commitment to oral health and wellbeing, :Dsmile founder Dr Joseph Badr hopes that by elevating at-home dental care, more people will be motivated to take better care of their teeth. By Kathy Graham
Toothbrushing might have previously been considered a humdrum affair. Not anymore. A professional at-home daily dental kit called :Dsmile—beautifully designed and sustainably made—hopes to transform what is an everyday routine into an elevated experience.
The founder and principal of d-spa in Melbourne, Dr Jospeh Badr, who brings 25 years of experience in dentistry to his creation of :Dsmile, explains his motivation was to extend his influence beyond the dental chair. “While we’re doing everything so well in the surgery, we find compliance at home is an issue,” he says. “And we know that no matter how you treat people in the chair, if they don’t look after their teeth at home, they’re going to come back in six months’ time with the same issues.”
Citing recent research by the ADA which found that 70 per cent of Australians never, or rarely floss, and one in five people brush their teeth only once a day, Dr Badr says he was inspired to create :Dsmile “as a way of encouraging preventative care at home through a simple three-step Brush+Floss+Rinse process. The aesthetic appeal of the kit acts as a visual cue to change behaviour, transforming a daily dental routine into a ritual.”
Finding himself “thinking constantly about this particular problem [of compliance], I looked at my bathroom one day and realised that it’s filled with hair products, facial products, skincare products, the floss is in the drawer somewhere, the mouthwash is on the shelf.” Was there a way, Dr Badr wondered, of re-positioning the dental products in the bathroom real estate to increase their use? “So it wasn’t necessarily a product proposition, but more a behavioural change proposition. Obviously the product must be exceptional so that people come back to it, but for us, it was more about the design, that visual cue. So, when the user goes into the bathroom, there’s no way they’ll ignore their teeth.”
Having conceived of the idea back in 2019, Dr Badr started assembling the kit during the pandemic lockdowns. “Some people decided to renovate, some people decided to plant veggies …,” he laughs.
Designed by Melbourne-based industrial design company Charlwood Design to fit seamlessly into any bathroom aesthetic, each kit is made from white plastic and includes detachable toothbrush heads and handles, toothpaste, a floss dispenser with refills, mouthwash concentrate and vessel, all arranged on a bespoke :Dsmile tray.
There’s no mistaking the aesthetical appeal of the kit which recently won the Melbourne Design Awards (Product Design) and the Good Design Award for outstanding design and innovation with the latter’s jury commenting: “With simple design elements and nice systems-thinking, it’s a clean aesthetic for a useful product”. Dr Badr couldn’t be more chuffed. “To have your work recognised with multiple design awards is huge, all the more so when one of them is from the city of cool—Melbourne,” he says. “But also it highlights that we need to be innovative in order to tackle certain problems.”
Considerable thought was put into the design to ensure it was not just pleasing to the eye but also sustainable, by making use of Australian-made, ethically-sourced reusable materials and ensuring any refillable components came in recyclable packaging, reducing the limit of single use plastics, freight volumes and transportation. Consider, for example, the floss dispenser. “It should last two to three years. You refill it, you get the reels. Our dispenser is equivalent to using 16 Oral-B containers, flosses that you buy from the supermarket,” says Dr Badr, adding that every six months when patients come in for a check-up, they’re also invited to dispose of their kit’s toothpaste tubes and toothbrush heads for recycling by Terracycle. For all deliveries, :Dsmile even utilises a 100 per cent carbon-neutral courier service, further reducing their carbon footprint.
An equally demanding process was deciding what floss, toothpaste and mouthwash to use. “Because we’ve got therapists across five clinics, we started looking at two or three different types of floss. Is it wire, silk, wax? Is it non waxed? What does it taste like? So, that took about six months to a year. In the end, we’ve actually improved on what we use in the clinics, and replaced it with the :Dsmile floss.
“Then we started looking at the mouthwash,” he continues. “Some people like it strong, some like it weak. So we thought, why not use a concentrate so people can dilute the mouthwash to suit their taste?”
Likewise, formulating their own desensitising toothpaste, which has just the right concentration of fluoride for effective decay prevention “to where it really hit the mark with a lot of patients, took about a year and a half”.
Before launching in October last year, the kit was trialled in March with 1000 existing patients across five clinics. Before they were given a kit to use, bleeding points were measured and plaque scores taken. When these were assessed again six weeks and then six months later, Dr Badr was thrilled with the result. “Over 80 per cent of patients have said that since using the kit which they love, their oral health has improved and their gums are bleeding less.”
Today every new patient that attends one of Dr Badr’s clinics—the kit is currently limited to adults though there is a teenager and children’s range in the works—receives a kit for free while non patients pay $49 upfront and then $30 every three months for their replacement toothbrush head, toothpaste, mouthwash and floss.
Alongside the at-home dental kit, the :Dsmile subscription service also provides customers with free, professional dental advice that’s easily accessible online, and regular EDMs to “help subscribers on their tooth care journey” plus gently remind them of their next dentist appointment.
Dr Badr’s hope is that :Dsmile will close the loop on preventive care.
“At the moment, the traditional oral health journey has many gaps in it. What we hope to do is redefine the new oral health journey to include what happens in between dental visits.”