At the turn of the century, technology and culture began to progress at a rapid-fire pace in the United States. For the majority of the first two decades, smart technology and social media have dominated the zeitgeist due to their easy to use nature and the revolutionary ways they allow us to communicate.
While technology has evolved in this way, one is left to wonder how the non-verbal communication factors into these advances. One of the primary forms of non-verbal communication we express is innate within us – our facial expressions. Our faces can often express what our words cannot, and one of the best facial expressions that we can exhibit is a smile.
As the decade comes to a close, I’ve noticed that Millennials place a heavy emphasis on doing things that make us smile and feel positive, including taking care of our mental and physical health. With this shift in our collective approach to self-care, many great Startups have cropped up in an effort to meet a new demand for affordable products.
One of these startups is U Floss, a company based in North Carolina that wants to revolutionize the way that you floss your teeth. The inspiration for U Floss comes from its Founder and CEO, Calvin Mason, who expressed feeling sorrow when the condition of close family members started to deteriorate due to inconsistent flossing.
“I just always remembered my parent’s smiles from when I was a kid,” Mason said, “and it always made me feel good. As they got older they started to cover their smiles because of their teeth and it just broke my heart.”
Inconsistent flossing – or the lack thereof – is an often overlooked part of oral hygiene. If left out of a daily brushing routine, you increase your chances of developing cavities as well as gingivitis, which can lead to periodontal disease if left unattended.
“Your smile is such a fundamental part of who you are,” said Mason.
“It’s one of the first things we notice about each other and if you are afraid to smile because you are self-conscious about your teeth it can really damage your confidence. Not just in your looks, but in your overall life”
U Floss came to fruition through 27 Software, a company that U Floss discovered through the UNCC Ventureprise Program. Chief Technical Officer for U Floss, Renee Coke, designed the UI/UX (User Interface and User Experience) for the app’s development. Mason met the company’s future Chief Operations Officer, Bonna Kem, as well as Coke while working as a trainer at the YMCA.
“We just hit it off really well. He offered me a job at his restaurant based on my customer service and [I] took it,” said Kem.
After a while, Mason and Kem became good friends while bonding over golf. While playing a game, the idea for U Floss was pitched and Kem decided to take the money he was saving for a new restaurant and invested it in his friend.
Mason admits he was scared to share the concept of U Floss with others because he was afraid people would laugh at him or steal the concept from him.
“I don’t have a background in dentistry at all. The entire design comes from self-taught engineering skills. It’s gotten us a lot [of] strange looks when we meet with those who are a part of the dental industry.”
Mason taught himself how to use CAD programs as well as 3D printing techniques to create U Floss’, and with the help of a few others came up with an effective design for the flossing device.
In addition to having the financial backing and business management help from his friend Kem, Mason also recruited Coke to design the U Floss website, logo and app.
“She’s been such a great help. If it wasn’t for her, the technology side of U Floss would not be as well-rounded as it is. Also, her concept for the U Floss logo, which resembles the flossing device, is genius!”
The concept of U Floss is rather simple – by using dental putty and photos of your teeth, U Floss constructs a user-specific floss pattern for both your upper and lower sets of teeth, which sit inside of mouth guard styled-trays. To use the U Floss, you bite down to get the floss between your teeth, and then gently wiggle the device around.
“We made a jingle to help users remember how to use U Floss,” said Mason, “Left, Right, Up, Down and all around.” It works very effectively and minimizes the time spent to around a minute for both your upper and lower law.”
For Mason and his team at U Floss, their mission is to change the way people view flossing as part of their oral care regiment. The floss pattern is constructed by using CAD software and a 3D print of your teeth, ensuring that you can effectively floss regardless of the arrangement of your teeth.
“People say it’s difficult and that it takes too long. This simplifies it. Every smile we save makes a difference.”
Currently, U Floss is being crowdfunded via their Kickstarter page and hopes to raise $100,000 by the end of the month. As of April 9, the campaign has raised $12,000. There are various gifts for those who pledge a donation. Once the project is up and running, Mason said, those who have pledged will be the first to use U Floss’ device, and can opt-in for a monthly subscription fee of $19.99 a month for replacement refills of their floss.
U Floss aims to perfect the product with input from those who pledged a donation throughout 2019, and hopes to make the product a household name by 2020.
“There is no perfect smile needed for our product,” Mason said.
To learn more about U Floss, visit their website at www.UFloss.com or check out @UFlossOfficial on all social media platforms.
To pledge a donation to their Kickstarter campaign, visit www.kickstarter.com/projects/ufloss/ufloss-worlds-first-custom-floss. The campaign runs through April 22, and every contribution made helps this group of North Carolinian entrepreneurs achieve their goals of changing the world.