Skip to content

How Do People Brush Their Teeth?

Almost everyone knows how to use a toothbrush. But, similar to our fingerprints, our brushing patterns are unique to us. Here’s how we’re discovering what’s most effective.

With the understanding that oral health — which starts with good brushing — directly impacts physical health and overall well-being, Colgate-Palmolive’s Global Toothbrush Division set out to discover how people of all ages brush their teeth.

The team turned to innovative technology to understand this very simple but important human routine.

“Part of the technology we’re working on, in terms of developing brushes and getting really into the ‘science of cleaning,’ revolves around our internal ability to understand what cleans really well,” Al Sprosta, Manager of Technology within Colgate’s Global Toothbrush Division, said.

By using motion capture technology, Sprosta and his team have been able to film, capture, and record real people during their brushing routine. By obtaining millions of brushing data points as granular as the pressure, frequency, head and hand movement, and duration, researchers are able to see a composite view of this data and hone in on what variables matter most.

At Colgate, we truly do everything as a team — it’s not like R&D just hands things off to marketing when we’re done. We work in tandem, collaborating throughout the entire process.”

Al Sprosta, Manager of Technology, Colgate’s Global Toothbrush Division

For example, if Colgate sought to develop a new gum toothbrush, they could tap into the library of data of soft-brush users and create a composite of the average routine. Then, they could then take this data and program robotics to test various brushes and brushing variables on synthetic teeth covered with artificial plaque.

The end result? “It gives us a pre-clinical sense of how well that design is going to do,” Sprosta said. Though it’s not a 100% guarantee that this specific design will test well in a clinical setting, it gives researchers a “90% confidence level or more” that the design will perform well in testing — saving time and resources and ensuring effective products for one of the most routine parts of our day.

Listen to Sprosta talk more about how innovative technology is helping us advance the science of oral care: