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Tomorrow’s Toothbrushes?

Originally Published MPMN

May 2003

EDITOR'S PAGE

Tomorrow's Toothbrushes?

Can you imagine life without your toothbrush? Respondents to the 2003 Lemelson-MIT Invention Index couldn't. When the institute asked survey participants to name the one invention they could not live without, the toothbrush was ranked first. It beat such innovations as the automobile, personal computer, cell phone, and microwave oven.

Were he alive today, the Chinese emperor who is said to have invented the toothbrush undoubtedly would be honored. He would also probably marvel at the advances his simple but ingenious device has undergone in the 500 years since it was first marketed. After all, I'm fairly certain that the toothbrush you used this morning is a vast improvement over the hog-bristles-embedded-in-a-bone-handle model that the emperor created. 

In fact, these days all kinds of toothbrushes are available. To satisfy their particular dental needs, consumers can choose from battery-powered or manual models; soft, medium, hard, or antibacterial bristles; flexible or rigid grips; and compact, medium, or large heads. Most important, toothbrushes have become extremely affordable. Entire families don't have to share one like they did in the 16th century. 

The example of the toothbrush clearly shows that an invention doesn't have to be completely new and revolutionary to be notable. Improvements to the design of a product, especially medical devices, sometimes can be vital to the health and safety of the end user. 

Fortunately, the designers and manufacturers of this year's Medical Design Excellence Awards (MDEA) winners knew this. All 23 winning medical products in nine categories embody the spirit of innovation and creativity. Products range from ultrasound equipment that provides 3-D cardiac imaging to a single-use obstetric device that simultaneously clamps and cuts the umbilical cord following birth.

The MDEA program is important because it recognizes and rewards the continual improvements and refinements designed into medical devices. These inventions will further the practice of medicine and help patients by making procedures simpler, more comfortable, or less invasive. 
A special section describing the 23 winning products can be found in this issue starting on page 32. You can also learn more about the laureates and the awards program by visiting www.MDEAwards.com

Obviously believing in the adage that there is nothing new under the sun, in 1898 a U.S. patent executive said they might as well close the patent office because everything had already been invented. And more recently, in the early 1980s, computer billionaire Bill Gates said that 64 Kb of memory should be enough for anyone's personal computer.

Thankfully, the people behind this year's MDEA winners know better than to leave well enough alone.

Susan Wallace, Managing Editor

Copyright ©2003 Medical Product Manufacturing News

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