Welcome to the inner workings of your mouth. An invention that debuted Thursday could let you see all the spots you're missing when you brush.
Prophix is a toothbrush that lets users watch a live video feed of the inside of their mouth as they brush their teeth. The WiFi and Bluetooth enabled brush, alongside an iPhone app, lets users stream the feed to a mobile device and track their oral health with photo albums to share with their dentist.
If you're like many Americans, your oral health right now isn't something to smile about. Even though most children and adults in the U.S. see the dentist yearly, 17.5 percent of children and 27.4 percent of adults have untreated dental caries, the CDC estimates.
That happens because people tend to always brush in the same places and miss others, said Craig Kohler, a practicing dentist in Chicago and inventor of the Prophix. Plus, if a problem isn't discovered until it requires a crown or root canal, it can get too pricey for many patients.
"Plaque is very relentless. It comes back every day," Kohler said. "The dentist only has one time to clean it up every six months or so. This lets patients keep the gum tissue nice, keep plaque at bay, and spot things before they get too big."
Kohler has been using video and photo in his practice for 20 years, but noticed that traditional in-office dental tools were thousands of dollars and out of reach for his patients.
Kohler was able to slash margins on the product to offer it for $399 at retailers. Plus, mobile technology has pushed cameras and batteries to improve, letting Kohler install a 1080p capable, 10 megapixel camera in a device the size of a standard motorized toothbrush.
Prophix comes with with attachments similar to those found at the dentist's office, but Kohler said the brush doesn't aim to replace office visits. Rather, he hopes to free up dentists to do more specialized work with patients, such as cleaning under the gum tissue and providing tips for problem areas, Kohler said.
"I love what I do as a dentist. Monday morning is a great morning for me," Kohler said. "I've seen four generations come through. Being able to help them has been a real delight for me. This will help not only them, but help people all over the world.."
Prophix, which Kohler self-funded, is available for pre-order for $299 and will ship in early 2017. He plans to distribute it mainly through e-commerce channels and advertising on social media, using early orders to fund the development of the Prophix Android app.
"I could probably retire but that's not me," Kohler said. "I'm really trying to empower people. This is really what I need to be doing."