History of RADIUS Toothbrush  
by Kevin Foley        
The RADIUS Toothbrush company was started on the small Caribbean island of Tortola, one of seventy two British Virgin Islands. James O'Halloran and Kevin Foley were architects who were fascinated by the idea of a functional and enjoyable toothbrush.

Dentists claim that their major problem as that of compliance - people don't use toothbrushes for long enough and don't do a good job of maintaining their oral hygiene. They believe that with diligence - all teeth could be perfectly maintained.

The RADIUS design began at this point - it aimed to make the toothbrush comfortable and enjoyable - soft bristles, large head area for low pressure and a comfortable handle.

RADIUS Original Toothbrush

The original design was produced by James in April 1982 and was followed by a lengthy gestation period that lasted until late 1983.

James, Kevin and a group of friends funded the new company and this investment was used to develop molds and do some preliminary marketing studies.

The final manufactured version had 5,500 very thin bristles (about 2/3 the thickness of an Oral B 60 - then the No.1 toothbrush). It came in right or left handed versions and the body of the toothbrush was made of cellulose.

The design was revolutionary - nobody had ever thought of using very fine filaments or of using a large head to lower pressure on the gums. The idea of actually making a handle that responded to the right and left orientation of the world's population was regarded as scandalous. This design did not fit into one of those little slots that toothbrushes were sold from - that had been the main criteria for the shape of a toothbrush for 50 years.

The head was an organic oval shape - the tufts of bristles arranged so that they did not line up in parallel - this meant that they did not repetitively track along the gum line and cause cervical erosion.

By late 1983 RADIUS was established in a loft building in New York's Flatiron District, with a subcontractor in Leominster, Mass. making the brushes. We began selling to design stores, pharmacies and mail order catalogs.

In early 1984 RADIUS Toothbrush won the "e;Accent on Design"e; award for the most innovative use of design. Sales to specialty stores increased and the company became well established.

A fan club developed, Sting called to find out where he could pick up a RADIUS on a US tour, Whoopi Goldberg talked about us on TV, Robert Redford wouldn't be without his, Jane Fonda had several in each of her severalhouses and Cher refused to give up hers to an artist seeking to incorporate it in a painting of her.

Independent pharmacies, first in New York, later throughout the country became big customers - giving RADIUS a view of larger markets. Health Food stores became very strong accounts. Brookstone, an upmarket mall retailer, selling elegant tools and appliances, was a major customer through these years. Norm Thompson, the large Oregon based mail order catalog company was a staunch supporter of our company.

In 1986, the Oral B company approached, the president's children had begun to use RADIUS, loved it, told their Dad, who contacted us to discuss a joint marketing deal. The deal fell through - but RADIUS learned from Oral B the effectiveness of the original design.

Manufacturing in Kutztown

By 1988, James and Kevin had had enough of New York and bought the Heffner-Dietrich Grain Mill in Kutztown, in Pennsylvania's Hex Country. The 1863 mill was restored over the next few years into a very beautiful workplace, where the world supply of RADIUS toothbrushes are manufactured.

All through the New York years, we had been unhappy about other people making our toothbrush. Eventually this was the principal force that drove us to Kutztown and to manufacture our own products. Machines were bought, bristling equipment installed, a variety of English and Belgian "e;lads"e; were sent over to tune and set up these machines. James became the No. 1 manufacturing guru - RADIUS was in the manufacturing business and controlled its own destiny.

Product Development

This decision was serendipitous, new developments such as the SCUBA and the travel case have come directly out of the knowledge received from making our own product. RADIUS now attends the major conferences of brush makers and has one of the most up to date manufacturing facilities in the world - a visit is recommended.

The SCUBA Toothbrush

The original idea for this product came from fascination with a new form of injection molded rubber (Santoprene) made by Monsanto. We had inquired of our manufacturer in Leominster, if it would be possible for us to make a toothbrush with this material. His emphatic and negative answer pushed us to develop the ideas that led to the first all rubber brush.

Once we had our own injection molding machines and could experiment - we found it quite easy to make a rubber brush and shortly after introduced the SCUBA, the name being an evocation of the similar materials used in underwater diving equipment.

RADIUS is in a permanent state of redesign and improvement. The all-rubber SCUBA brush has just been completely revised and improved. It now has a very soft rubber handle and neck, which absorbs pressure as you are brushing. The head is 30% thinner (tip of bristle to back of head dimension), it rates as the thinnest made anywhere - this allows access to the very tight tooth/cheek space - one of the most problematic for toothbrushes. Both the Original and the SCUBA brushes are now made with hexagonal bristles that lock into place on manufacture. These bristles do a better job of plaque removal and allow 6,500 individual bristles to be placed in the head.

Travel Case Packaging

Radius spends a lot of time working on solutions for our users. The travel case and wall clip packaging allows our customer to easily store RADIUS on trips, to dry it on the wall mounted clip and has the added benefit that the box is not thrown away - you get some use out of it.

The use of the packaging to create something useful out of a potential addition to land fill is part of a philosophy of investigating the forces behind our products and their implications on the environment.

Many suppliers of products have minimal involvement in the production of their product and no intimate understanding of how to reduce its impact.

Fisher-Price Toothbrushes

Fisher-Price approached RADIUS in late 1998 with the concept of developing children's toothbrushes consistent with their focus on innovation and quality. The idea was to use our design, manufacturing and marketing skills together with their research facilities.

Most of the design philosophy was based on work at Fisher-Price's research laboratory in East Aurora, New York. They are particularly skilled in the use of focus groups and "e;at home studies"e; and have a large staff devoted to analysis of the results obtained from these sources. They have their own school and teachers and have developed a good sense of what is good for children over the last 70 years.

Research and development started in January, 1999 and we launched in late 1999. Our studies indicated the need for three individual models for ages six months to seven years.

The four toothbrushes span from six months to seven years. Each has a different brushing strength - ranging from ultra soft through very soft - compared to the average children's toothbrush at 100 grams.

As the child ages the bristle length and thickness increase - making the brush responsive to the actual needs of developing children.

Under the age of three, most children have their teeth cleaned by a parent. The first two toothbrushes, Baby and Little People, are designed for this - but also allow the child to learn the basics of brushing.

The spatula shaped handle is wide and flat and allows the hand to slide up for balance and comfort. Children have hands that are 20% larger proportionally than adults, yet most children-s toothbrushes are scaled copies of adult brushes.

The third and fourth toothbrushes, Rescue Heroes and Jazz, have rubber grips for use by over three year olds - who brush on their own. The wide spatula handle fits a child hand comfortably and the grips prevent slipping.

The head design follows the random oval pioneered by RADIUS. It allows for a very soft brushing action without repetitive wear caused by parallel rows of bristles.

  Fisher-Price Table    
Brushing Pressure
Nylon Diameter
# Bristles
6 - 24 months
45 grams
Ultra Soft
Little People
1 - 3 years
55 grams
Extra Soft
Rescue Heroes/JAZZ
3 - 7 years
65 grams
Very Soft

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RADIUS® was founded on the Caribbean island of Tortola. James O'Halloran and Kevin Foley were architects who were fascinated by the idea of a functional and enjoyable toothbrush.

Before RADIUS® embarks on making a new product, we put the concept through an evaluation to make sure that we are not just making some more landfill in the name of progress.