Christina Gordon, a student at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Dentistry who doesn’t like flossing, has invented a cleaning device for orthodontic patients who wear braces. Her invention now is one of five projects awarded funding to help it reach the commercial market.
Gordon, vice president of the school’s class of 2023, wore braces as a preteen and struggled to clean her teeth. She agrees with those who complain that the recommended oral hygiene for orthodontic patients—brushing with a manual or electric toothbrush, cleaning around the brackets and under the wire with an interproximal brush, and flossing—is complicated and time consuming even though it reduces the risk of cavities and gum disease.
Gordon believes her device, the Proxy-Flosser, could ease the daily cleaning routine of the more than 4 million Americans who wear braces.
“I’m a dental student, but despite this fact, I absolutely hate flossing,” she said. “However, flossing is absolutely essential for the maintenance of oral hygiene, and especially important among children and adults undergoing orthodontic treatment.”
The Proxy-Flosser simultaneously flosses and cleans around braces in one motion, saving time and money, the school said. Orthodontic patients would be encouraged to follow the proper cleaning regimen, Gordon said. The new funding will allow her to work on prototype development.
The funding for the project came from VCU’s Commercialization Fund, whose board guides VCU Innovation Gateway in advancing university inventions with funding to improve their odds of getting to market to benefit society. Typically, up to $300,000 is awarded each year in two rounds.
“Innovation Gateway is honored to support VCU inventors, whether faculty members or students such as Gordon, through the Commercialization Fund,” said Ivelina Metcheva, PhD, senior executive director for Innovation Gateway, within the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation.
“Over the last five years, we have provided over $1.7 million in funding to 58 projects. Recipients have gone on to receive more than $18.5 million in follow-on funding, secure eight licenses, and launch five Virginia-based startup companies,” Metcheva said.