Title:
Tooth brush holder
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A toothbrush holder that includes, among other features and capabilities, a holder base plate mountable on a planar surface such as a wall or a mirror and that is formed with a plurality of toothbrush retaining troughs. The troughs project generally outwardly from the holder base plate and are each preferably formed with a distal retaining bulwark that is spaced apart from the holder base plate defining a receiver that is sized large enough to retain an over sized handle of a toothbrush. More specifically, the receiver can be sized to receive and releasably capture the over sized handle, which can have an average dimension in the range of at least about 20 to 50 millimeters or larger. In a variation of the instant invention, a table top version of the toothbrush holder incorporates a holder base that is formed with a plurality of spaced apart bristle receivers and a handle retainer that is superiorly supported from the holder base. The handle retainer is formed with a plurality of spaced apart apertures that are registered with a respective one of the plurality of spaced apart bristle receivers. The handle retainer and the bristle receivers cooperate to define a receiver sized to retain the toothbrush having the over sized handle. In yet another modification, the over sized handle of the toothbrush is releasably captured with a modified handle retainer that incorporates adjustable, eccentric cams fixed in the handle retainer proximate the apertures to adjust their size.



Inventors:
Ryan, Wendy M. (West Jefferson, OH, US)
Application Number:
10/245990
Publication Date:
03/25/2004
Filing Date:
09/17/2002
Assignee:
RYAN WENDY M.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47K1/09; (IPC1-7): A47B81/02
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
GIBSON, ROBERT W
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Attention: Sean M. Casey (New Albany, OH, US)
Claims:

I claim:



1. A toothbrush holder, comprising: a holder base plate adapted to be mountably received against a substantially planar mounting surface; a plurality of troughs projecting generally outwardly from the holder base plate and each formed with a distal retaining bulwark spaced apart from the holder base plate a distance sufficient to define a receiver sized to retain at least a handle portion of a toothbrush adapted with an oversized handle.

2. The toothbrush holder according to claim 1, wherein the generally outwardly projecting troughs are formed to have a substantially arcuate lateral cross sectional profile terminating in the retaining bulwark.

3. The toothbrush holder according to claim 1, wherein the generally outwardly projecting troughs are formed to have a substantially non-curvilinear lateral cross sectional profile terminating in the retaining bulwark.

4. The toothbrush holder according to claim 1, wherein the receiver is adapted to have an average cross sectional lateral dimension in the range of approximately at least 20 millimeters.

5. The toothbrush holder according to claim 1, wherein the receiver is adapted to have an average cross sectional lateral dimension in the range of approximately at least 50 millimeters.

6. The toothbrush holder according to claim 1, wherein each of the plurality of troughs are configured to releasably capture the oversized handle portion of the toothbrush with a frictional spring grip configuration, which oversized handle portion has a cross sectional lateral dimension in the range of approximately at least 20 millimeters.

7. The toothbrush holder according to claim 1, wherein each of the plurality of troughs are configured with a substantially arcuate lateral cross sectional profile shaped to releasably capture the oversized handle portion of the toothbrush with a frictional spring grip configuration, which oversized handle portion has a cross sectional lateral dimension in the range of approximately at least 20 millimeters.

8. A toothbrush holder, comprising: a holder base formed with a plurality of spaced apart bristle receivers; a handle retainer superiorly supported from the holder base and formed with a plurality of spaced apart apertures each being registered with a respective one of the plurality of spaced apart bristle receivers to cooperate therewith to define a receiver sized to retain a toothbrush adapted with an oversized handle.

9. The toothbrush holder according to claim 8, wherein each of the apertures is adapted to have an average cross sectional lateral dimension in the range of approximately at least 20 millimeters.

10. The toothbrush holder according to claim 8, wherein each of the apertures is adapted to have an average cross sectional lateral dimension in the range of approximately at least 50 millimeters.

11. The toothbrush holder according to claim 8, wherein the handle retainer is superiorly supported from the holder base with an upstanding retainer wall formed with at least one evaporation aperture.

12. The toothbrush holder according to claim 8, wherein each of the plurality handle retainer apertures open into respective inferiorly projecting guide troughs that are sized to have an average lateral cross section dimension in the range of approximately at least 50 millimeters.

13. The toothbrush holder according to claim 8, wherein each of the bristle receivers is further formed with respective generally superiorly projecting bristle protector cups.

14. A toothbrush holder, comprising: a handle retainer formed with a plurality of apertures; a plurality of eccentric cams rotatably captured in the handle retainer and positioned respectively proximate the apertures whereby an average lateral cross sectional dimension of the apertures is adjustable for releasable receipt of a toothbrush having an oversized handle, wherein the cams are rotatable between a deployed capture position and a withdrawn release position.

15. The toothbrush holder according to claim 14, wherein each of the apertures is adapted to have, when the respective cam is fully withdrawn, an average cross sectional lateral dimension in the range of approximately at least 20 millimeters.

16. The toothbrush holder according to claim 14, wherein each of the apertures is adapted to have, when the respective cam is fully withdrawn, an average cross sectional lateral dimension in the range of approximately at least 50 millimeters.

17. The toothbrush holder according to claim 14, wherein each of the cams is further configured for actuation about a thumb wheel portion that extends laterally outward from a lateral edge of the handle retainer.

18. The toothbrush holder according to claim 14, wherein the handle retainer further incorporates a tooth paste tube aperture adapted to receive a tube of a dentifrice.

19. The toothbrush holder according to claim 14, further comprising a mount portion supporting the handle retainer and adapted to be received against a substantially vertically extending surface.

20. The toothbrush holder according to claim 14, further comprising a mount portion supporting the handle retainer in a substantially free standing configuration about a substantially horizontally extending surface.

21. The toothbrush holder according to claim 14, wherein each of the plurality of rotatable cams is adapted to retain a selected position except when subjected to a rotationally applied adjustment force.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0001] This invention relates to a device adapted for use as a toothbrush holder. More specifically, the invention relates to an apparatus adapted to store hygienically and conveniently a plurality of large-handled toothbrushes, such as those adapted for children, the elderly, infirmed, and others who are afflicted with less developed, less precise, and or impaired fine motor control.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Dental hygiene is one of the most important aspects of health care and disease prevention. For thousands of years, humankind has been plagued by the discomfort and pain of oral diseases and more particularly tooth decay that has resulted in cavities, more formally known to those with skill in the art as dental carries. Modern humans consume far more sugar than ancient humans and therefore we are more likely than our distant ancestors to suffer from dental carries. In addition to pain and suffering, untreated dental carries can readily become systemic, life threatening infections. Although cavity-related septicemia has undoubtedly led to the untimely demise of many people, contemporary humans do not normally die from dental carries. Nevertheless, the pain, inconvenience, embarrassment (such carries produce bad breath among other difficult to conceal problems), and expense that can result from dental carries are still very real concerns.

[0003] While the burdens imposed by tooth decay, periodontal anomalies, and cavities are clear and easily understood, cavity formation and development is a complex, multivariable process. Among many source or root causes, diet, microbes that transiently or stably colonize the oral cavity, the health of the gums and periodontal tissues, integrity of the protective tooth enamel, the state of the immune system, general health, and other factors are all variables that have been implicated in cavity formation. In spite of the complexities of periodontal disease, tooth decay and cavity development, there is general agreement among those with skill in the art that good dental hygiene is critical in preventing dental anomalies including carries, and that regular and proper tooth brushing can be a cornerstone of good dental hygiene. Tooth brushing scrapes or brushes away conglomerations of bacteria, sugars, and other compounds that are known to those skilled in the art as plaque. Since plaque build up has a central role in cavity formation, tooth brushing is a relatively simple but very important means by which to regularly remove plaque and other contaminants for purposes of preventing dental carries.

[0004] Due to the importance of tooth brushing, devices and techniques for brushing teeth have been known and practiced for a long time. Although many variations and alternatives are possible, the standard toothbrush with which most people are familiar has a handle portion and a brushing portion that contains some type of brush elements that are commonly referred to as bristles. An example of this sort of device can be found in any number of U.S. Letters Patent, including for example, U.S. Pat. No. 4,128,910 to Nakata et al. The prior art is replete with examples of a wide range of attempted improvements and modifications to the basic handle-with-bristles toothbrush configuration. One such additional modification is the addition to the toothbrush of date indicia taught by Jurt in U.S. Pat. No. 4,466,150, which purports to improve efficacy by encouraging regular replacement of the toothbrush. Another example of additional modifications to the toothbrush is the inclusion of electric motors, such as the motor disclosed by Hunter in U.S. Pat. No. 4,479,516, which purport to improve the plaque removal and other cleaning capabilities by imparting energy to the bristles.

[0005] While the various modifications and embodiments of the toothbrush may offer one advantage or the other, the key to success is to implement regular periodic use of whatever style of toothbrush is preferred. Old habits die hard, as the popular saying goes, and so it is no surprise that parents often try to teach their young children to brush their teeth regularly. Children may receive little or no gratification from tooth brushing, and such children may view tooth brushing as a chore to be avoided when possible. To aid parents in instilling good dental hygiene habits into their children, many prior art attempts are directed towards making tooth brushing more amenable to young people.

[0006] One such attempt is found in U.S. Pat. No. 5,269,420 to Harrison et al., which is limited primarily, among other limitations, to the use of a toothbrush adapted to resemble a sporting implement such as a baseball bat, tennis racquet, or the like. A toothbrush holder I also contemplated by Harrison et al. that is adapted to resemble a sporting figure such as a baseball player. While the Harrison et al. approach may make tooth brushing more enjoyable for children who enjoy sports, it suffers from one or more shortcomings. First, the contemplated Harrison et al. holding device is restricted to a device that holds the toothbrush in a substantially vertical position. In this configuration, microbe-laden liquid from the brush may drip down the handle and subsequently serve to contaminate the hands of a user during later use. Another significant limitation of Harrison's teachings is the incompatibility of the toothbrush holder with other, readily available toothbrushes that may not be specially adapted for compatibility with the depicted Harrison et al. holder. For a variety of reasons, it may be inconvenient or impractical for parents or guardians to purchase repeatedly only one type of toothbrush that is compatible for use with the Harrison et al. holder.

[0007] To overcome the limitation of incompatibility of the holder with the standard type of toothbrush, U.S. Pat. No. 6,102,203 to Marro teaches, for example, the use of a cover and a holder adapted for the standard toothbrush. The '203 device is restricted to, among other limitations, a toothbrush cover that resembles the helmet of a sporting team that is adapted to fit over the bristles of the standard type toothbrush. The '203 reference also depicts a toothbrush holder that is adapted to resemble football uprights, baseball bats, or other such sporting implements, which are adapted to receive the standard type toothbrush. While more compatible with standard toothbrushes than other prior art attempts, the '203 patent is still limited with respect to broad appeal and hygiene. First, as already discussed, all children may not necessarily be interested in sports. Second, the holder taught by Marro holds the toothbrush in the undesirable, substantially bristle on top vertical position. Third, the toothbrush cover taught by Marro encourages microbial growth on the toothbrush by trapping moisture. This cover, once colonized by microbes, can subsequently contaminate new toothbrushes, thereby diminishing the benefit of changing the toothbrush and further reducing the appeal and desirability of the '203 toothbrush cover and holder. Furthermore, it may be difficult for young children and those who may suffer from a hand dexterity impairment to hold and to manipulate the standard toothbrush contemplated by Marro.

[0008] Some of the prior art is focused on attempts to make the toothbrush more easily manipulated by children and those having limited dexterity by including an oversized handle on the tooth brush. Such an oversized handle is similar in many respects to the use of oversized handles in similarly specialized pencils. One example of the oversized toothbrush is U.S. Design Patent No. 388,254 to Schiffer, which is limited to one possible design of such a large-handled toothbrush. Since the motor skills of younger children have not yet fully matured, a wide-handled or oversized toothbrush can enable improved manipulation of the toothbrush with less reliance on fine motor control than the smaller sized standard toothbrushes. These over-sized toothbrush handles may also be well suited for, among others, the elderly, those afflicted with degenerative neuromuscular diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, the infirmed, or other such persons that lack or have lost fine motor control.

[0009] Regardless of the particular type or style of toothbrush, the use of some sort of a toothbrush is a desirable and well-established practice. While the style or technique of brushing may differ from person to person or from family to family, some common practices relate to the use and maintenance of the toothbrush. One such common practice is to regularly replace the toothbrush. The bacteria and other microbes removed from the teeth by the toothbrush often remain stuck to the bristles of the toothbrush despite the best of cleaning efforts. Such microbes can accumulate on the brush and render the toothbrush unsanitary. Further to the desirability of cleanliness, another common practice is the use of a dedicated toothbrush storage device so that the toothbrush is not left on a potentially unsanitary and possibly wet sink, counter, or table top after use. Microbes grow best in moist conditions, and so it is generally desirable to prevent the toothbrush from lying on such moist surfaces. It is also generally undesirable to store the toothbrush on such wet surfaces because this results in the bristles contacting the potentially unsanitary surfaces. Furthermore, storage of more than one toothbrush in a rinse or drinking cup will create cross-contamination between toothbrushes, which can hasten the spread of undesirable germs and the like. Furthermore, such cups are often made of a fragile material such as pottery or glass that can easily break with such use resulting in shards or fragments that may cause injury.

[0010] For these and other reasons, it can be understood that there are many benefits to cleanly and conveniently storing the toothbrush in a dedicated holder device. In recognition of the possible benefits, there have been numerous examples of prior art devices for holding toothbrushes in less moist and less unsanitary configurations in order, for example, to impede the process of microbial contamination.

[0011] An example of such an attempt is the toothbrush holder described in U.S. Pat. No. 3,002,630 to Heisser. While the Heisser device is capable of holding a toothbrush, it is limited to a holder that contacts and substantially encloses only the bristles. This may be undesirable for a number of reasons. First, moisture is not allowed to easily evaporate from the bristles of the toothbrush, which maintains an optimal environment for microbial growth. As such, the '630 arrangement actually may shorten the sanitary life of a toothbrush. A second limitation of the '630 device is that the holder taught by Heisser closely contacts the bristles of the toothbrush such that microbes are likely to colonize the interior of the holder. When a new toothbrush replaces an old toothbrush, the new brush is immediately exposed to the microbes from the Heisser holder and much of the benefit of changing the toothbrush is lost. Furthermore, the holder taught by the '630 patent is not adapted to accommodate large-handled toothbrushes such as the ones contemplated by the instant invention.

[0012] To overcome these unsanitary and undesirable limitations, U.S. Pat. No. 3,946,877 to Galicia discloses another attempted toothbrush holder. The '877 holder is restricted to a toothbrush holder that engages the toothbrush by the handle without contacting the bristles. The '877 arrangement avoids the moisture-accelerated contamination inherent in the Heisser holder, but introduces another complexity. The Galicia device is limited to configurations that hold the toothbrush or toothbrushes in a substantially vertical position, which can encourage microbe-laden liquid from the bristles to collect on toothbrush handle, thereby contaminating the handle and contaminating the hands of subsequent users. An additional limitation of the '877 patent is that, as with the other prior art devices known to date, it not compatible for use with large, wide, or otherwise over-sized toothbrush handles.

[0013] Yet another example of an attempt to overcome the limitations of prior art attempts is the holder taught by Perler et al. in U.S. Pat. No. 4,854,457. The Perler et al. toothbrush holder, among other limitations, engages and holds a toothbrush by the handle in a substantially horizontal position. This arrangement holds the toothbrush in a possibly more desirable horizontal position without contacting the bristles. Although the '457 patent attempts to improve upon the holder taught by the '877 and the '630 patents, Perler et al. teaches only a limited embodiment that is restricted to use with standard type of toothbrush and that does not suggest, disclose, or otherwise contemplate compatibility with large-handled toothbrushes.

[0014] Although oversized handles are well suited and widely used by young people and by others, toothbrush holders presently known and otherwise contemplated in the prior art do not contemplate or suggest, and are not readily adapted for use with the oversized handles described herein. In the absence of a holding device designed to accommodate such a typical but increasingly preferred oversized toothbrush handles, users are left with no alternatives but to place the difficult to store large handle tooth brushes in a convenient drawer, or upon a washroom counter or table top horizontal surface, or to store the brush between uses in a rinse or drinking cup, all of which options suffer the noted drawbacks and undesirable results.

[0015] What has long been needed in the art is a toothbrush holder that stores toothbrushes in a sanitary location and position; that is readily adapted for use with the oversized toothbrush handles commonly used by children, the elderly, the infirmed, and others who might require or desire such an oversized handle; and that is widely compatible with the large variety of past, present, and prospective toothbrush configurations and designs. The present invention meets these and other needs, and does so without adding any complexities or expenses to the manufacture or use of such devices.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

[0016] In its most general configuration, the present invention advances the state of the art with a variety of new capabilities and overcomes many of the shortcomings of prior devices in new and novel ways. In one of the many preferable and contemplated configurations, a toothbrush holder that is especially adapted for compatibility with over sized toothbrush handles is described. The contemplated toothbrush holder according to the principles of the instant invention includes a holder base and or base plate that can be adapted to be free standing, to be hung from, or to be mounted to and against a wall, a mirror, or any other similarly configured bathroom or wash room appurtenance that can be adapted to support the toothbrush holder. The holder also further incorporates, among other elements and features, a plurality of troughs that are configured to project generally outward from the holder base or base plate. The troughs are each formed with a distal retaining bulwark that is spaced apart from the holder base or base plate at a distance, which distance is sufficient to define a receiver that is sized to retain at least a handle portion of the toothbrush having an oversized handle.

[0017] The receiver forming troughs can have any of a number of possible lateral cross sectional profiles that can be customized for receiving the over sized toothbrush handle, which can be a in a range or class of sizes and configurations, or which can be proprietary to a particular brand, style, or specially adapted configuration of such over sized handles. Additionally, the troughs can have a longitudinal dimension that is specially configured to receive and releasably capture only the over sized handle portion of the toothbrush whereby the bristles remain completely open to the surrounding air for accelerated drying times. In alternative variations, the longitudinal dimension of the troughs and respective receivers can be dimensioned to receive and releasably capture the entire longitudinal length of the toothbrush, from the handle end to the opposite bristle end. Moreover, in yet other variations, the longitudinal dimension can vary between troughs and receivers of the respective pluralities of the contemplated toothbrush holders.

[0018] In an exemplary illustration of one possible lateral cross sectional profile of the contemplated receiver forming troughs, a substantially arcuate lateral cross sectional profile that terminates in the retaining bulwark is depicted, which profile can be circular, semi-circular, ovoid, elliptical, hyperbolic, parabolic, and in the shape of higher and lower order curves, splines, and other types of curvilinear profiles. In another possible exemplary configuration, a substantially non-curvilinear lateral cross sectional profile is similarly contemplated that can be rectilinear, triangular, polygonal, trapezoidal, hexagonal, and the like.

[0019] In any of the contemplated embodiments, configurations, and modifications thereto, the receiver and or receiver forming trough can be formed to accommodate receipt and releasable capture of the over sized toothbrush handle by having a range of possible average cross sectional profile dimensions that can be in the range of approximately between 10 and 150 millimeters or larger, and more preferably in the range of between about 15 and 80 millimeters, and even more preferably in the range of between about 20 and 50 millimeters, and most preferably in the range of about 20 and 30 millimeters, or larger.

[0020] Any of the preceding embodiments, variations, and alternatives may also further be preferably and or optionally configured to have one or more of the plurality of troughs adapted in a spring grip type of arrangement to releasably capture the oversized handle portion of the toothbrush with a frictional fit. In this possible adaptation, the receiver forming troughs can be adapted to receive and releasably capture a range of possible over sized toothbrush handles configurations that have a range of cross sectional lateral dimensions including a dimension in the range of approximately at least 20 millimeters.

[0021] In another possible configuration of a toothbrush holder according to the features and capabilities of the instant invention, the free-standing or mounted toothbrush holder may also further incorporate any of the preceding features and capabilities and, among other elements and features, a holder base that is formed with one or more spaced apart bristle receivers and a superiorly positioned handle retainer supported from and or on the holder base. The handle retainer is formed with a plurality of spaced apart apertures that are each superiorly registered with a corresponding one of the plurality of spaced apart bristle receivers. In this arrangement, the bristle receivers and the handle retainer apertures cooperatively form a receiver that is configured, shaped, and sized to receive and releasably retain the over sized handle of the toothbrush contemplated for use with the instant invention.

[0022] The instant toothbrush holder configuration may also be further formed to include one or more generally upstanding retainer walls that can be formed to project superiorly from the holder base to support the handle retainer. One or more of the generally upstanding retainer walls may also be preferably and or optionally formed with at least one evaporation aperture sized to improve the exposure of the bristle receivers to the surrounding ambient atmosphere for improved and possibly accelerated drying times of the bristles of the retained toothbrush. In further variations, the bristle receivers may also be adapted to incorporate generally superiorly projecting bristle protector cups that can protect and separate bristles of the retained toothbrush.

[0023] In yet further possible variations of any of the preceding embodiments and variations, another alternative arrangement of the toothbrush holder of the instant invention can be adapted to incorporate the handle retainer that is formed with the plurality of apertures, but which also further includes one or more rotatable eccentric cams that can adjust a lateral dimension of the contemplated apertures. More particularly, the handle retainer rotatably captures the eccentric cams in and or upon the handle retainer so as to position the cams proximate to each of the respective apertures. As the cams are actuated, an average lateral cross sectional dimension of the apertures is adjusted for releasable receipt of a toothbrush having an oversized handle. Each of the cams can be preferably be rotated and or otherwise repositioned in a number of possible configurations between a deployed toothbrush capture position and a withdrawn release position that enables capture, retention, release, and removal of the releasably captured toothbrush.

[0024] In the rotatable eccentric cam configurations of the toothbrush holder of the instant invention, one or more of the depicted cams may also be adapted whereby a portion of the cam projects laterally outward from the handle retainer or is otherwise accessible for actuation. One or each cam can be formed with a thumb wheel portion that can be moved and or rotated to thereby adjust the lateral cross sectional dimension of the aperture as the eccentric cam is actuated and repositioned about its respective offset axis of rotation or movement. Moreover, each or any of the eccentric cams may be further adapted to have a frictional angular displacement preload whereby a predetermined rotational or displacement threshold force must be applied before the eccentric cam moves about its respective offset axis so as to prevent unwanted motion of the cam.

[0025] Any of the preceding configurations, variations, and alternative toothbrush holders may also be further adapted to incorporate one or more recesses or apertures sized and shaped to receive and retain one or more dentifrice containers including, for purposes of illustration, a tooth paste tube, a whitening substance container, a rinse substance, and the like. Further, any and each of the contemplated arrangements and variations of the holders of the instant invention may be further adapted to have a free standing configuration suited for shelf, table, or counter top placement, for under-shelf hanging placement, and or for wall, mirror, and other vertical surface mounting

[0026] These variations, modifications, and alterations of the various preferred embodiments may be used either alone or in combination with one another as can be better understood by those with skill in the art with reference to the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments and the accompanying figures and drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0027] Without limiting the scope of the present invention as claimed below and referring now to the drawings and figures, wherein like reference numerals, and like numerals with primes, across the several drawings, figures, and views refer to identical, corresponding, or equivalent elements, components, features, and parts:

[0028] FIG. 1 depicts an elevated perspective view, in modified scale, of a toothbrush holder according to the principles of the instant invention;

[0029] FIG. 2 is an anterior view, in reduced scale and rotated, of the toothbrush holder of FIG. 1;

[0030] FIG. 3 is a plan view, in similar scale and rotated, of the toothbrush holder of FIG. 2;

[0031] FIG. 4 is a side view, in similar scale and rotated, of the toothbrush holder of FIG. 2;

[0032] FIG. 5 is an elevated perspective view, in modified scale and rotated, of a variation of the toothbrush holder of FIG. 1;

[0033] FIG. 6 is cross sectional view, in enlarged scale and rotated, with portions of the structure removed for purposes of illustration, taken about a substantially superior to inferior cutting plane that passes through the toothbrush holders of FIGS. 1 and 5;

[0034] FIG. 7 is a cross sectional view, in modified scale and rotated, taken about a generally superior to inferior cutting plane passing through the toothbrush holders of FIGS. 1 and 5;

[0035] FIG. 8 is an elevated perspective view, in modified scale, of another toothbrush holder according to the principles of the instant invention;

[0036] FIG. 9 is a cross sectional view, in modified scale and rotated, taken about section line 9-9 of the toothbrush holder of FIG. 8;

[0037] FIG. 10 is an exploded view, in modified scale, of the toothbrush holder of FIG. 9;

[0038] FIG. 11 is an elevated perspective view, in modified scale, of another toothbrush holder according to the principles of the instant invention;

[0039] FIG. 12 is an exploded view, in modified scale and rotated, of the device of FIG. 11;

[0040] FIG. 13 is a plan view, in modified scale and rotated, with portions of the structure removed for illustration purposes of the apparatus of FIGS. 11 and 12; and

[0041] FIG. 14 is cross section view, in modified scale and rotated, taken about section line 14-14 of the device of FIG. 11.

[0042] Also, in the various figures and drawings, various reference symbols and letters may used to identify significant features, dimensions, objects, and arrangements of elements described herein below in connection with the several figures and illustrations.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0043] The instant invention addresses many long-felt, but heretofore unsolved problems in the art of toothbrushes that incorporate oversized handles, including oversized handles that incorporate various features such as, for example without limitation, motorized devices, that are needed for effective dental hygiene by children, the elderly, and others that have various hand dexterity related impairments and challenges. The inventive and novel toothbrush holders illustrated here, demonstrate significant advances over prior toothbrush holders because they can be employed for use with present day toothbrushes that incorporate industry standard handle dimensions and configurations. However, without added cost or complexity, the improved toothbrush holders according to the principles of the present invention advance the state of the art by establishing compatibility with the ever increasing range of toothbrush configurations, including for purposes of example without limitation, the seemingly unending variations of toothbrushes that incorporate over sized and oddly configured handles.

[0044] For purposes of illustrating the many components, features, elements, and capabilities of the toothbrush holders of the instant invention, the term or phrase oversized handle is intended to have many possible definitions. Preferably, one such definition contemplated herein is to be understood by those having skill in the art as referring to an oversized toothbrush handle that has one or more cross sectional lateral dimensions that are larger or greater than that of conventionally and traditionally sized toothbrush handles, which conventional and traditional handles can have average cross sectional lateral dimensions in the range of about 5 to 15 millimeters or so. Even more preferably, such oversized handles can have one or more cross sectional lateral dimensions that can be in the range of approximately between at least 10 to 20 millimeters and larger. Such larger or oversized toothbrush handles can be adapted for applications that require greater average diameters for purposes of improving grip capabilities for specially impaired or challenged users, for incorporating motorized devices, for including integral dentifrice substances and or cartridges in the handle, and combinations thereof, and other similar applications requiring such increased handle sizes.

[0045] With reference now to the various figures, and with specific reference to FIGS. 1, 2, 3, and 4, a toothbrush holder 100 for receiving and releasably retaining toothbrushes having over sized handles (not shown) is illustrated. The holder 100 incorporates, among other elements and components, a holder base and or base plate 110, which is shown in a wall or mirror mounting configuration that can be mounted with adhesive and or other conventional fasteners such as screws, hanging hooks and wire, and similarly capable fastening components. The holder base or base plate 110 may also be preferably or optionally adapted for use with an additional component or components (not shown but within the skill and capability of those skilled in the art) that can enable the holder 100 to be free standing on a horizontal surface, or to be hung from an edge or an underside of a shelf.

[0046] The preferred toothbrush holder 100 additionally includes one or more troughs 115 that are adapted to project generally outward or anteriorly from the holder base or base plate 110. In one of many equally suitable configurations, the troughs 115 define about a distally extended edge a retaining bulwark 120 that is spaced apart from the holder base or base plate 110. The retaining bulwarks 120 are spaced apart a distance so that a receiver 125 is formed that is sized to retain at least a handle portion of the contemplated toothbrush that ha s an oversized handle (not shown, but see, for purposes of illustration without limitation, U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,269,420 to Harrison et al. and Design 388,254 to Schiffer).

[0047] While shown in FIGS. 1, 2, 3, and 4 to have one possible and particularly exemplary and illustrative configuration, the receiver 125 forming troughs 120 can have any of a number of possible lateral cross sectional profiles. With specific reference to FIGS. 1 and 4, those having requisite skill in the relevant arts can appreciate that the lateral cross sectional profile of the trough 120 and receiver 125 can be specially configured for receiving variously shaped, configured, and over sized toothbrush handles that can be received and held using the generally arcuate lateral cross sectional profile of the noted figures.

[0048] However, in contrast, the selected lateral cross sectional profile can be selected from any of a number of possible sizes, shapes, and configurations. Such sizes, shapes, and configurations can be incorporated in one or more of the depicted troughs such that a single toothbrush holder 100 can be adapted for compatibility with a range of possible sizes, shapes, and configurations of such toothbrushes.

[0049] The toothbrushes contemplated for use with the holders 100 of the invention can be specific to a special kind of toothbrush, such as a motorized or paste dispensing device, or can be particular or proprietary to a particular manufacturer, brand, style, or specially adapted configuration of such toothbrushes that are each formed with such over sized handles.

[0050] With continued reference to the various figures and with reference now also to FIG. 5, another variation of the present invention is depicted as a tooth brush holder 130, which incorporates similarly configured base plate 110′ having distally projecting receiver 125′ forming troughs 115′ that terminate in retaining bulwarks 120′ and which further incorporates a variation in a longitudinal dimension when compared to holder 100 of FIGS. 1, 2, 3, and 4. More specifically, those with knowledge in the relevant arts may be able to discern that the holder 100 of FIGS. 1, 2, 3, 4 is formed with a generally longitudinal dimension “L” that can be defined for compatibility with a child-sized toothbrush that may be in the range of about 80 to 150 millimeters, or shorter or longer.

[0051] In contrast, the holder 130 may be configured with a substantially longitudinal dimension L′ that can be defined to be shorter than dimension L of holder 100. In this alternative variation, holder 130 can receive and retain a similarly configured and sized oversized handle toothbrush in the receiver 125′ of trough 115′ whereby the bristles thereof can overhang an edge 117′ when a toothbrush having an oversized handle is received with substantially all or a part of the oversized handle being seated in the receiver 125′ of the trough 115′. With this possibly preferable or optional holder 130 arrangement in mind, those skilled in the art may appreciate that variations such as holder 100 may be configured whereby such bristles do not overhang an edge. In these configurations of holders 100, 130, specially adapted configurations can be implemented to receive and releasably capture only the over sized handle portion of the toothbrush whereby the bristles can be substantially surrounded and protected by the receiver 125 of trough 115 or can overhang an edge 117′ to remain completely open to the surrounding air for possibly faster drying times. Although the various figures depicted thus far show each of the troughs 115, 115′ of the respective holders 100, 130 to have respective longitudinal dimensions, each trough 115, 115′ of each holder 100, 130 can be independently configured with unique longitudinal dimensions so as to achieve compatibility with a wider range of differently configured over sized handle toothbrushes that may be of dissimilar lengths.

[0052] For purposes of additional illustration, reference continues to the previously described figures and is now also made to FIGS. 6 and 7. In the various illustrative figures and in the accompanying descriptions, many possible lateral cross sectional profiles of the receiver 125, 125′ defining troughs 115, 115′ are contemplated. For purposes of illustration but not for purposes of limitation, FIGS. 1, 4, 5, 6, and 7, depict one preferable or optional lateral cross sectional profile that is substantially of an arcuate lateral cross sectional shape that terminates in the retaining bulwark 120. Although shown to be proportionally in a substantially circular shape, the lateral cross sectional profile can also be, among other possibly equally suitable profiles, circular, semi-circular, ovoid, elliptical, hyperbolic, parabolic, and in the shape of higher and lower order curves, splines, and other types of curvilinear profiles. Although not reflected in the various figures, those having a degree of knowledge in the relevant arts may also be capable of understanding that many other possibly desirable profiles are contemplated for purposes of the instant invention. Such additionally profiles can include substantially non-curvilinear lateral cross sectional profiles such as, for purposes of further illustration without limitation, rectilinear, triangular, polygonal, trapezoidal, hexagonal, and the like.

[0053] Each or any of the preceding embodiments and modifications thereof can incorporate one or more of the receiver 125, 125′ defining troughs 115, 115′ to be capable of receiving and releasably capturing the over sized toothbrush handle, such as toothbrush handle “BH” (FIG. 7). This capability is accomplished in any number of preferable or optional ways including wherein one or more average cross sectional profile dimensions, such as dimension “X”, can be in the range of approximately between 10 and 150 millimeters or larger, and more preferably in the range of between about 15 and 80 millimeters, and even more preferably in the range of between about 20 and 50 millimeters, and most preferably in the range of about 20 and 30 millimeters, or larger.

[0054] Preferably, the toothbrush holders 100, 130 according to the instant invention are manufactured from one or more moisture, mildew, bacteria, microbe, and mold resistant materials that are known to be well-suited for the widest contemplated range of applications. Also, the preferred material can be selected for use in special purpose applications and environments as may be desirable, including for example, cleaning environments like sterilization equipment and conventional home dishwashing units. Such preferred toothbrush holder 100, 130 materials can be selected from the group of materials that includes, for purposes of illustration without limitation, glass, ceramics, metals, thermoset and elastomer monomers and polymers, and monomeric and polymeric thermoplastics, which monomers and polymers may include thermoplastic materials selected from acetal resins, delrin, fluorocarbons, polyesters, polyester elastomers, metallocenes, polyamides, nylon, polyvinyl chloride, polybutadienes, silicone resins, ABS (an acronym for “acrylonitrile, butadiene, styrene”), polycarbonate (also referred to in the plastics industry as “PC”) polypropylene, liquid crystal polymers, alloys and combinations and mixtures and composites thereof, and reinforced alloys and combinations and mixtures and composites thereof.

[0055] With such possibly suitable fabrication materials in mind, those having skill in the art may also further appreciate that each or any of the preceding arrangements, modifications, and alternatives may also further optionally or preferably be adapted wherein one or more of troughs 115, 115′ are adapted to have a spring grip type of capability arrangement that is configured to releasably capture the oversized handle portion of the toothbrush, having any of the contemplated dimensional sizes and shapes, with a “snap” and or frictional fit.

[0056] With reference also now to FIGS. 8, 9, and 10, another free-standing or mounted configuration of a toothbrush holder 140 is illustrated that incorporates any or all of the previously described elements, features, materials, dimensions, and capabilities. The free-standing or mounted toothbrush holder 140 may, in addition to incorporating any of the preceding elements and arrangements, include a holder base 145 that is formed with one or more spaced apart bristle receivers 150, that can be configured as shallow recesses or generally superiorly or upwardly projecting cups, and which can store the contemplated large handled toothbrush in a bristle down more sanitary arrangement that enables rapid drying of the bristles. A superiorly positioned handle retainer 155 is supported from and or on the holder base 145, which handle retainer 155 is formed with one or more spaced apart apertures 160 that are each superiorly registered with a corresponding one of the one or more spaced apart bristle receivers 150.

[0057] In this alternative exemplary and optional configuration of an toothbrush holder according to the contemplated embodiments of the instant invention, the bristle receivers 150 and the handle retainer 155 and apertures 160 are arranged together to define respective receivers 165 that are adapted to have at least one lateral cross sectional dimension X, as described hereinabove in connection with preceding embodiments and modifications, for compatibility with any of a wide range of over sized handle toothbrushes. As with any of the preceding embodiments and modifications, and even though depicted to have a generally circular cross sectional profile, the apertures 160 and related and cooperating elements of holder 140 may be further adapted to incorporate one or more of the other possible desirable lateral cross sectional arcuate or curvilinear or non-curvilinear lateral cross sectional profiles.

[0058] The alternatively configured toothbrush holder 140 can be fabricated to optionally of preferably incorporate a single contiguous or more than one generally upstanding retainer wall(s) 170. One, each, or all of such retainer walls 170, are adapted to extend from the holder base 145 to support the handle retainer 155. The retainer wall(s) 170 can be further alternatively formed with one or more evaporation apertures 175 that can be configured to augment the exposure of the bristle receivers 150 to perhaps in some applications facilitate the sterilization and or cleaning external atmospheres, and or to possibly speed the drying of the bristles of the retained toothbrush. In yet further examples of possibly desirable configurations, the toothbrush holder 140 may also further incorporate substantially inferiorly projecting guide troughs 180 that can further define the receivers 165.

[0059] With continuing reference to each of the preceding figures, illustrations, and the accompanying descriptions, reference is also now made specifically to FIGS. 11, 12, 13, and 14, wherein another alternative configuration is depicted in a toothbrush holder 200. The toothbrush holder 200 also of the instant invention preferably adapted with a modified handle retainer 210 that can be fabricated to include one or more apertures 215 that are sized to enable bristle up or bristle down storage of the large handled toothbrushes in a more sanitary and preferable configuration.

[0060] The modified handle retainer 210 may also incorporate an inferior portion 220 that receives a superior portion 225 to capture one or more rotatable eccentric cams 230. The cams rotate about offset respective axes on cam pins 235 that are seated in the inferior and superior portions 220, 225 of the modified handle retainer 210. The pins 235 and cams 230 can be formed from materials that when assembled establish a rotational friction fit configuration so as to establish a frictional reaction force that resists rotation of the cams 230, which can be desirable in certain applications where it is preferred to prevent unwanted or undesirable rotation of the cams 230 except when they are subjected to rotational forces imposed for purposes of deploying or withdrawing the cams 230 from the apertures 215 during insertion and removal of a toothbrush or toothbrush handle. In other words, each cam 230 can be received on the respective cam pin 235 to have a frictional angular displacement preload that establishes a preferred or predetermined rotational or displacement threshold force, which must be applied before the eccentric cam 230 moves about its respective offset axis on cam pin 235 so as to prevent unwanted motion of the cam 230.

[0061] The eccentrically rotatable cams 230 can be actuated to adjust a lateral dimension X of the apertures 215 so as to establish compatibility of the modified toothbrush holder 200 with a wide range of oversized toothbrush handles. The lateral dimension X is the same parameter defined in connection with the preceding embodiments and configurations. Each or any of the cams 230 can be further positioned and adapted to project generally laterally outward from the handle retainer 210 so as to establish a thumb wheel portion 240 that can improve the capability for rotation and actuation. In the alternative or in combination therewith, a cam access recess (not shown but intended to be proximate the thumb wheel portion 240 of the cam 230) can be formed in the modified handle retainer, which can also improve the capability for rotation and actuation of the cams 230.

[0062] One or more recesses or apertures 245 can be formed in any of the preceding embodiments and alternative configurations, including the modified holder 200, that are sized and shaped to receive and retain one or more dentifrice and related containers including, for purposes of illustration, a tooth paste tube, a whitening substance container, a rinse substance, and the like. Although only depicted in the various figures in connection with the modified holder 200, the contemplated one or more recesses or apertures 245 may be incorporated into any of the other various holder variations contemplated herein including holders 100 and 140. Further, any and each of the contemplated arrangements and variations of the holder 200 of the instant invention may be further adapted to have a free standing configuration suited for shelf, table, or counter top placement, for under-shelf hanging placement, and or for wall, mirror, and other vertical surface mounting, which can be similar in construction and capability to any of the preceding configurations, variations, alternatives, and modifications described herein

[0063] Numerous alterations, modifications, and variations of the preferred embodiments disclosed herein would be apparent to those skilled in the art and they are all contemplated to be within the spirit and scope of the instant invention, which is limited only by the following claims. For example, although specific embodiments have been described in detail, those with skill in the art can understand that the preceding embodiments and variations can be modified to incorporate various types of substitute and/or additional materials, relative arrangement of elements, and dimensional configurations for compatibility with the wide variety of possible tooth brushing devices, equipment, dentifrice containers, and related items and articles that are available in the marketplace. Accordingly, even though only few embodiments, alternatives, variations, and modifications of the present invention are described herein, it is to be understood that the practice of such additional modifications and variations and the equivalents thereof, are within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined in the following claims.





 
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