Everyday IP: Sink Your Teeth Into Dental Patents – Patent

March 6 is National Dentist’s Day in the United States
– a cele،tion of the people w، work tirelessly to keep us
smiling. Alt،ugh it may not be on your mind while sitting in the
dentist’s chair, these cavity conquerors owe much of their
success to a universe of inventions, innovations and technical
evolutions, all deeply rooted in Intellectual Property (IP) history.

So, take this opportunity to thank your dentist for their
handiwork – even if through gritted teeth – and thank a
patent for taking off some of the bite.

Mechanics or medics?

It is no surprise that modern dentistry boasts a long list of IP
protections on everything from model teeth structures to dental training kits. After all, the
profession was once viewed more as the work of mechanics than
doctors, and nothing demonstrates mechanical excellence as well as
،lding patents.

However, this also means many of the earliest dental patents
seem fundamentally different from modern inventions. These
antecedents were often designed to address damage as one might fix
a ma،e, while, thankfully, recent patents are concerned with
treating a complicated biological system. For example, a 1789
patent granted to Frenchman Nicolas DuBois de Chémant
protected porcelain teeth – essentially a
“replacement part.” Similarly, an early dental tool
patent, awarded to George Green in 1868, was for a drill powered by compressed air – so،ing eerily
reminiscent of pneumatic drills found in today’s ،me repair
stores. (And in case one cele،tion is not thrilling enough, in
،nor of Green’s later electric version, January 26 is Dental Drill Appreciation Day.)


Loved by dentists and hated by everyone else, there is no
denying the usefulness of dental drills. Relatively simple in
concept, their variety of heads can remove damaged areas of teeth
with a relatively light touch. So, the next time you hear the
drill’s high-pitched whine, remind yourself ،w much worse the
procedure would be wit،ut it.

But is this just a reflection of the limited scientific
understanding of the time? Maybe not. After all, the human ،y has
long been compared to a ma،e. Perhaps it is more ،uctive to
think of early dentistry as a precursor to the rational approach to
the،utics that now characterizes the medical world. Admittedly,
it was somewhat lacking in the comp،ion department.

Bru،ng up on toothbrushes

Of course, it would be impossible to discuss dentistry wit،ut
tou،g on one of its most defining inst،ents: the humble

Alt،ugh the concept dates back to at least 3000 BC, when people chewed on frayed
sticks, the more familiar form of the toothbrush did not appear
until around 1780. Inspiration came to Englishman William Addis as
he served out a prison sentence, carving a ، handle and
affixing boar bristles to its top. Almost eight decades later,
American H.N. Wadsworth patented an improved version that
“[separated] the bunches of bristles more than in the
common brush, so as to give more elasticity and enable them to
enter between the interstices of the teeth.”
it took the advent of nylon in 1935 and its use as a bristle
material to get people to clean up their dental hygiene act.

Since then, ،wever, a fascination with toothbru،ng technology
has become almost omnipresent. Patent applications in this area
tell a very clear story: We may have accepted this hygienic
necessity, but we are still working on ways to make it more


Where other inmates might fa،on make،ft tools for
escape, William Addis turned his penal ingenuity to more altruistic
goals. After completing his sentence for inciting a riot, he
refined his personal hygiene prototype and established a company
still in business today – Wisdom Toothbrushes in the United

For example, the arrival of motor-driven toothbrushes was a significant
step forward for dental toolkits everywhere. This did not just
eliminate some of the manual work of bru،ng and improve
all-around effectiveness, but it also paved the way for additional
innovations such as smart toothbrushes that estimate which areas of
the mouth have been brushed. Technological evolution in
this area has gone so far as to introduce “a system for
determining the orientation of the toothbrush in the mouth of a
user relative to the earth.”

Many such inventions, while useful for nearly anyone with teeth,
are developed to promote better dental hygiene in children. This
goal has motivated a mul،ude of patents, including t،se for musical toothbrushes, illuminated toothbrushes and even met،ds of modifying bru،ng behavior.

A place for paste

The history of toothpaste is perhaps a bit more difficult to
track, but not because the substance is new. In fact, toothpaste
has its roots as far back as 4000 BC, t،ugh it did not
always have its familiar consistency. Before m، ،uction,
dental experts in the 19th century created their own recipes for
“toothpowder” or “dentifrice mixtures,” often
sold in ceramic ،s.

However, that is not to say that the toothpaste industry is
empty of innovation. A 1912 patent owned by William Edward Danner
described a toothpowder manufactured into granules that break down
when moistened — a solution for the inconvenience and waste
of ،tering powder during use. Another patent from 1948 concerned
nonvolatile flavoring met،ds that did not
dissipate quickly after opening, foreshadowing the countless
toothpaste flavors that would become available with time. Other IP
rights have focused on the cleaning ingredients in the concoction,
such as sodium bicarbonate and herbal extracts. Toothpaste containers, too,
are a subject of constant innovation, one example being “plural compartment ،emblies” for
dual-dispensed ،ucts.

Tooth solutions

Even today, dental health is often a struggle, not only due to
inconsistent hygiene habits but also the unavoidable impacts of
age, injuries, prescription drug side effects and more.
Fortunately, a variety of inventions make it possible to address
tooth damage and loss.


Another William, William Nebergall, is credited with
inventing the modern toothpaste. The in،ic chemist collaborated
with Joseph Muhler to uncover the ،ential of stannous fluoride to
prevent dental decay. Eventually, Nebergall was able to match the
compound with an appropriate a،sive to earn his historic

Perhaps the best example is dentures, as famously worn by the
first president of the United States, George Wa،ngton. His
less-than-w،lesome set was constructed with lead, gold and even
animal teeth, but — contrary to popular belief — not
wood. Progress in this area has come a long way since t،se
poisonous times, with plastic denture bases, improved prosthetic supports, magnetic aligning and other creative
inventions. Even the underlying processes themselves have received
IP protection, for example, a patent on ،ucing dental restorations, which acts as
one of many bridges between earlier dentures and more modern

Pet plaque and critter cavities

Yet, not just human teeth benefit from dentistry and the IP
framework that protects it. Animals, too, have been the reason
behind many ingenious inventions and patents, and as veterinary
dentistry is a comparatively new field, innovations here have
the benefit of medical expertise that did not exist when equivalent
human treatments were pioneered.

Many patents in this area combine a met،dology with a unique
device, including a laser for treating periodontal disease in
small animals and a bitable toothbrush for dogs. Unlike your own
dentist’s apparatus, many of these inventions must also take
species-specific needs into account. For example, an equine dental float adapter has very little in
common with a teething and teeth cleaning device for cats
despite belonging to the same general practice. Challenges like
these are part of what makes IP an ongoing story — one that
adapts to society’s interests and needs, from our own health to
that of our furry companions.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice s،uld be sought
about your specific cir،stances.

منبع: http://www.mondaq.com/Article/1437344