Title:
Toothbrush with rotating upper section
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A toothbrush having a longitudinal axis, comprising a lower section and an upper section. The upper section and the lower section are generally aligned along the longitudinal axis. The lower section comprises a lower handle section and a shaft extending therefrom. The upper section comprises an upper body and a longitudinal cavity. The longitudinal cavity wall conforms to an outer wall of the shaft and is shaped so as to hold the shaft securely enough to avoid separation between the upper and lower sections. The longitudinal cavity wall is shaped so as to mate with the outer wall loosely enough to allow a force of the head pressing against the teeth of a user to effectuate a lateral rotation of the upper section in relation to the lower section. The lateral rotation reduces an amount of manual rotation of the toothbrush performed by the user.



Inventors:
Moss, David B. (Allenhurst, NJ, US)
Application Number:
11/430355
Publication Date:
11/08/2007
Filing Date:
05/08/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
15/172, 15/176.1, 15/145
International Classes:
A46B9/04
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
GRANT, ALVIN J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
STEVEN HOROWITZ, ESQ. (NEW YORK, NY, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A toothbrush having a longitudinal axis and designed to reduce an amount of manual rotation of the toothbrush performed by the user, comprising: a lower section, an upper section, the upper section including a head, a neck and an upper handle section, the head having an array of bristles extending outwardly from said head, the upper section and the lower section being generally aligned along the longitudinal axis, said lower section comprising a lower handle section and a shaft extending longitudinally from the lower handle section, said upper handle section having a longitudinal cavity defined therein and having a longitudinal cavity wall, said longitudinal cavity aligned with the longitudinal axis of the toothbrush, the longitudinal cavity wall conforming generally to a shape of an outer wall of the shaft and shaped so as to hold the shaft securely when the upper and lower sections are connected, the longitudinal cavity wall shaped so as to mate with the outer wall loosely enough to allow a force of the head pressing against a teeth and/or gums of a user during use of the toothbrush to effectuate a lateral rotation of the upper section in relation to the lower section.

2. The toothbrush of claim 1, wherein said shaft has a flange and wherein said longitudinal cavity contains a recess, shaped to securely receive and hold said flange.

3. The toothbrush of claim 2, wherein the flange is made of a compressible material.

4. The toothbrush of claim 1, wherein clearance between the shaft and the longitudinal cavity wall contains a lubricant.

5. The toothbrush of claim 1, wherein clearance between the shaft and the walls of the longitudinal cavity contains lubricant.

6. The toothbrush of claim 1, wherein the outer wall of the shaft and the longitudinal cavity wall are both substantially cylindrical.

7. The toothbrush of claim 1, wherein the lateral rotation is sufficient to obviate a need for the user to turn the toothbrush manually.

8. The toothbrush of claim 1, wherein said upper section and said lower section are capable of a 360 degree rotation in relation to one another.

9. The toothbrush of claim 1, wherein the shaft is made of semi-flexible material.

10. The toothbrush of claim 1, wherein said shaft has a shaft ridge projecting outwardly from the shaft, and wherein said longitudinal cavity has an at least one slot defined therein, each particular slot of the at least one slot positioned and shaped to receive the shaft ridge with sufficient clearance between the shaft ridge and an outer wall of the particular slot to allow lateral rotation of the upper section in relation to the lower section when the shaft ridge is located within the particular slot.

11. The toothbrush of claim 10, wherein said slot has a slot wall including at least one slot end wall that impedes uncontrolled rotation of the shaft ridge past the slot end wall during use of the toothbrush.

12. The toothbrush of claim 11, wherein the shaft ridge is made of material flexible enough to allow the rotation of the shaft ridge past the slot end wall with further effort from the user.

13. The toothbrush of claim 10, wherein said slot is aligned along the longitudinal axis of the toothbrush.

14. The toothbrush of claim 10, wherein clearance between the shaft and the longitudinal cavity wall contains a lubricant.

15. The toothbrush of claim 10, wherein the lateral rotation is sufficient to obviate a need for the user to turn the toothbrush manually.

16. A toothbrush having a longitudinal axis and designed to reduce an amount of manual rotation of the toothbrush performed by the user, comprising: a lower section, an upper section, the upper section including a head and a neck, the head having an array of bristles extending outwardly from said head, the upper section and the lower section being generally aligned along the longitudinal axis, said lower section comprising a lower handle section and a shaft extending from the lower handle section, said upper section having a cavity defined therein and having a cavity wall, said cavity wall shaped and positioned so as to mate with the outer wall of the shaft in a locking relation, said locking relation being loose enough to allow a force of the head pressing against the teeth and/or gums of a user during use of the toothbrush to effectuate a lateral rotation of the upper section in relation to the lower section, said locking relation capable of being disconnected when the toothbrush is not in use.

17. The toothbrush of claim 16, wherein said shaft has a circumferential channel, engraved therein, and wherein the cavity wall contains at least one locking nub, the locking nub projecting from the cavity wall into the cavity, said at least one locking nub positioned and shaped to mate with the circumferential channel so as to hold the upper and lower sections connected to each other when the toothbrush is in use.

18. The toothbrush of claim 16, wherein the cavity wall has a circumferential channel engraved therein, and wherein at least one locking nub is projecting outwardly from the shaft, said at least one locking nub positioned and shaped to mate with the circumferential channel so as to hold the upper and lower sections connected to each other when the toothbrush is in use.

19. The toothbrush of claim 17, wherein the at least one locking nub comprises two locking nubs.

20. The toothbrush of claim 18, wherein the at least two locking nubs comprise two locking nubs.

21. The toothbrush of claim 17, wherein the toothbrush is operated electrically to move the bristles.

22. The toothbrush of claim 18, wherein the toothbrush is operated electrically to move the bristles.

23. The toothbrush of claim 21, wherein the upper section and the lower section close an electrical circuit when connected.

24. The toothbrush of claim 22, wherein the upper section and the lower section close an electrical circuit when connected.

25. The toothbrush of claim 16, wherein said shaft has an aperture on a head portion of said shaft, and wherein the cavity wall contains at least one locking nub, the locking nub projecting from the cavity wall into the cavity, said at least one locking nub positioned and shaped to penetrate the head portion through the aperture so as to hold the upper and lower sections connected to each other when the toothbrush is in use.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The field of this invention is toothbrushes, and more particularly a toothbrush with rotating upper section.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION AND DISCUSSION OF THE PRIOR ART

Most toothbrushes on the market today are extremely difficult to use for people with arthritis, hand prosthesis, or other health conditions in which limited manipulative dexterity manifest themselves. The proper process of brushing teeth with a regular toothbrush involves a great number of intricate movements. A brusher must make sure that throughout the process of brushing, the brush is always at a proper angle, with brushing surface always parallel to the surface of the teeth. The front surface of the lower front teeth has to be cleaned, then the position of the toothbrush has to be reoriented with wrist and fingers and the rear “tongue” surface of the lower front teeth has to be cleaned. Then the process has to be repeated with the front and rear surface of the upper front teeth. Then the process has to be repeated with upper and lower cuspids and bicuspids on both sides of the mouth. Then the back teeth have to be cleaned in the same way, except that now in addition to the side surface, the upper biting surface of each tooth must be carefully cleaned.

While for most of us brushing of teeth is automatic, and while we do not think of the process in such complex terms, for people suffering from arthritis each of these simple reorientations of the toothbrush is an ordeal of pain that has to be repeated hundreds of times per brushing, several times each day. Some choose to avoid the ordeal by brushing the teeth less thoroughly, for shorter amounts of time, or not at all. Latter approaches all result in poor dental hygiene and ultimate tooth ache and loss.

The influx of battery-powered brushes with moving or rotating heads have decreased the number of back and forth movements involved in brushing, but they failed to address the problem of angular manipulations that require the greatest dexterity from arthritic patients. Back-and-forth movements are mostly performed by the upper arm, while movements required to turn and reposition the toothbrush inside of a mouth are performed by wrist and fingers—parts most affected by pain and immobility in arthritic patients. The problem is only more severe in people with partial or full hand prosthesis.

Electric toothbrushes also tend to have a large bulky handle as compared to ordinary mechanical toothbrushes. These toothbrushes are even harder to manually rotate by the user than a regular toothbrush since fine manipulation to position the brush head of an electric toothbrush on teeth surfaces is even harder than the manipulation needed to similarly position a manually-operated brush.

In light of the problem, there is a long-standing, strong, and previously unsatisfied need in the art for a brushing instrument that could alleviate the pain that so many people associate with the daily ritual of brushing of the teeth. There is a need for a toothbrush that, while incorporating the newest advancements in the art could also minimize the necessity of wrist and digit movements and effort in realigning the brush against the surface of the teeth.

The present invention achieves all of these objectives, while also providing numerous additional benefits.

SUMMARY OF THE PRESENT INVENTION

The toothbrush of the present invention comprises two sections, an upper section and a lower section. The sections are held together via a shaft. The shaft, extending from the lower section, is secured inside the longitudinal cavity that is located inside the upper section of the toothbrush. The longitudinal cavity in the upper section is shaped in a way to accommodate and hold the shaft of the lower section securely. Yet the shape and position of the longitudinal cavity and the outer wall of the shaft allows the upper and lower sections to mate one with the other loosely enough to allow a force of the toothbrush head pressing against the teeth and/or gums of a user during use of the toothbrush to effectuate a lateral rotation of the upper section in relation to the lower section when the two sections are connected. This lateral rotation is sufficient to reduce the amount of manual rotation of the toothbrush that would otherwise have to be performed by the user.

In accordance with one form of the present invention, the shaft contains a compressible flange, while the longitudinal cavity contains a corresponding recess to receive and hold the shaft with said compressible flange. The flange provides improved hold and can also be used to control the extent and smoothness of axial rotation. In accordance with another form of the present invention, a circumferential channel and a locking nub, positioned and shaped to mate with the circumferential channel, are used instead of the flange and the recess.

In accordance with another form of the present invention, the increments of rotation are controlled through the means of the shaft ridge, contained inside of a slot in the longitudinal cavity of the upper section. In certain embodiments, a lubricant and/or a friction fit are used to control lateral rotation between the upper and lower sections. In certain preferred embodiments having a shaft ridge, moreover, rotation-limiting slot ridges extend from the slot walls and are designed to impede and prevent uncontrolled free rotation of the shaft ridge and hence uncontrolled lateral rotation of the upper section.

In accordance with yet another form of the present invention, the principle of the rotating upper section is applied to electrical toothbrushes.

IMPORTANT OBJECTS AND ADVANTAGES

The following important objects and advantages of the present invention are:

(1) To provide a toothbrush with improved reach;

(2) To provide a toothbrush with greater tooth surface contact during brushing;

(3) To provide a toothbrush that naturally rotates and aligns its brushing surface to be at the best angle for providing close contact between the teeth/gums and the broadest brushing surface of the toothbrush;

(4) To provide a toothbrush that is more comfortable to use than prior art toothbrushes;

(5) To provide a toothbrush that would allow people with limited manipulative dexterity to change the fine angle orientation of bristles with minimal exertion of force and minimal reorientation of the wrist and digits of the hand;

(6) To provide a toothbrush that would allow people with limited manipulative dexterity to change the fine angle orientation of bristles without releasing the grasp of the handle and without repositioning the toothbrush handle in hand;

(7) To provide a toothbrush with full left-right reorientation of the bristles that would allow people with compromised grasping ability to reach both sides of their mouth with toothbrush bristles without releasing the grasp of the handle;

(8) To provide a toothbrush with full left-right reorientation of the bristles that would allow people with limited manipulative dexterity to reach both sides of their mouth with toothbrush bristles with minimal exertion of force and minimal reorientation of the wrist and digits of the hand;

(9) To provide a toothbrush that is convenient and efficient for brushing the teeth in hard-to-see areas (such as back teeth), or for brushing without a mirror;

(10) To provide a toothbrush that can be disassembled, making it convenient for storage and travel;

(11) To provide a toothbrush with flexible central shaft (shaft), allowing for better contact with the teeth and greater access to hard-to reach areas;

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a top view of the toothbrush of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a bottom view of the present invention;

FIG. 3 is a right side view of the present invention in disassembled form; the left side being identical thereto;

FIG. 4 is a front view of the present invention in disassembled form;

FIG. 5 is a rear view of the present invention in assembled form;

FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view of the toothbrush of FIG. 1 along line 6-6 of FIG. 5;

FIG. 6A is a cross-sectional view of the toothbrush of FIG. 1 along line 6A-A of FIG. 5;

FIG. 7 is a top view of a second preferred embodiment of the toothbrush of the present invention;

FIG. 8 is a bottom view of the toothbrush of FIG. 7;

FIG. 9 is a right side view of the toothbrush of FIG. 7 in disassembled state; the left side being identical thereto.

FIG. 10 is a front view of the toothbrush of FIG. 7 in disassembled state;

FIG. 11 is a rear view of the toothbrush of FIG. 7 in assembled state; and

FIG. 12 is a cross-sectional view of the toothbrush of FIG. 7 along line of 12-12 of FIG. 11.

FIG. 12A is a cross-sectional view of the toothbrush of FIG. 7 along line of 12A-12A of FIG. 11.

FIG. 13 is a right side view of an alternative embodiment of the toothbrush of the present invention having two flanges and appearing in disassembled form; the left side view thereof being identical thereto;.

FIG. 14 is a front view of the embodiment of FIG. 13 also in disassembled form;

FIG. 15 is an assembled view of the embodiment of the toothbrush of FIGS. 13-14;

FIG. 16 is a perspective view of a toothbrush of the present invention held during use;

FIG. 17 is a right side view of an alternative embodiment of the toothbrush of the present invention in disassembled form including a partial cross-section of the upper section;

FIG. 18 is a right side view of a further alternative embodiment of an electric toothbrush of the present invention including a partial cross-section of the upper section and which is similar in structure to the mechanical toothbrush of FIG. 17; and

FIG. 19 is a bottom view of the upper section taken from line 19-19 of FIG. 17.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

The apparatus of the present invention will now be illustrated by reference to the accompanying drawings. Preferred embodiments of the toothbrush of the present invention have been assigned reference numerals 10, 10a. Other elements have been assigned the reference numerals referred to below.

It is noted that as used herein the term “tongue surface of the teeth” refers to the surface of the teeth that is against the tongue. In contrast the term “cheek surface of the teeth” means the other side or surface of the teeth that is against the cheek.

The general concept of the toothbrush of the present invention is to allow the upper section 22 of the toothbrush, which includes the bristles 16 of the toothbrush, to rotate laterally in relation to the lower section 20 of the toothbrush 10 when a user having poor manual dexterity attempts to brush his or her teeth. Consequently, when the user presses the brush and exerts a force against the gums and/or teeth, the force exerted produces a counter-force that causes a lateral rotation of the upper section 22 of the toothbrush 10, and in particular the bristles 16 of the head 12 of said toothbrush 10.

Below are several examples of structure that embody and actualize the concept of the present invention. However, it should be understood that the present invention is not limited to the particular structure in which the above concept is embodied.

In one preferred embodiment, toothbrush 10, as generally shown in FIGS. 1-6A, comprises an upper section 22 and a lower section 20. The upper section 22 and the lower section 20 are generally aligned along the longitudinal axis with each other. The upper section comprises an upper handle section 23, a head 12, a neck 14, and a plurality of bristles 16, extending outwardly from the head 12.

The lower section 20 comprises a lower handle section 21 and a shaft 24 that extends longitudinally from the lower handle section 21. Shaft 24 is generally parallel to the longitudinal axis of the lower handle section 21 and accordingly, to the longitudinal axis of the toothbrush 10.

The upper section comprises a longitudinal cavity 26 that is aligned along the longitudinal axis of the toothbrush 10. The perimeter of the longitudinal cavity 26 forms a longitudinal cavity wall 27. The longitudinal cavity wall 27 is shaped to generally conform to the shape of an outer wall 25 of the shaft 24 in such a way as to hold the shaft 24 securely when the upper section 22 and lower section 20 are connected.

At the same time, the longitudinal cavity wall 27 is shaped so as to mate with the outer wall 25 of the shaft 24 loosely enough to allow a force of the head 12 and bristles 16 pressing against teeth and/or gums of a user during the use of the toothbrush 10 to effectuate a lateral rotation of the upper section 22 in relation to the lower section 20. Such connection would allow the entire upper section 22, including the head 12 and bristles 16 to naturally rotate into the proper position for brushing, when the user merely presses the head 12 and bristles 16 against the gums and/or teeth. This would alleviate the user of the requirement to constantly readjust the toothbrush with wrists and digits to conform to the intricate angles of the brushing surfaces of the teeth, gums and the tongue. Instead, upper section 22, and in particular the bristles 16 as part of head 12 would rotate when the user presses the bristles 16 against the teeth and/or gums for brushing. In addition, it is believed that such rotation allows the head 12 and bristles 16 to naturally align themselves to such an angle and position as would provide the greatest contact between the bristles 16 and the surface of the teeth and would accordingly be most beneficial for brushing.

In certain preferred embodiments, there is a small clearance between the outer wall 25 of the shaft 24 and the longitudinal cavity wall 27. That clearance is filled with a lubricant 77 which serves to make rotation of the upper section uniform and reliable. Examples of such lubricants 77 include various oils and greases and the full range of suitable lubricants including water as is well-known to those skilled in the art. In certain other embodiments, the lubricant 77 is limited to certain areas along the longitudinal axis, as described further below.

As discussed below, a system of ridges and slots can be used to regulate lateral rotation of upper section 22 or 22a in relation to lower section 20 or 20a. In such a case, there will be certain embodiments wherein lubricant 77 is absent or limited to portions of the connection between upper section 22, 22a and lower section 20, 20a other than where a shaft ridge and a slot is present. Accordingly, although FIGS. 6A and 12A show the presence of lubricant 77, such lubricant may be omitted in certain embodiments. Lubricant 77 is more likely to be present at the points/areas shown in cross-sectional FIGS. 6 and 12.

FIGS. 1-6A illustrate the embodiment of the brush 10, where the shaft 24 is smoothly shaped and rounded at the upper end to facilitate easy disassembly of the upper and lower sections of the toothbrush along the longitudinal axis for storage. One reason to have the option of disassembly of brush 10 into sections (and in certain embodiments removal of shaft 24) is space-saving when traveling or otherwise storing toothbrush 10 in a holder. During ordinary use of the toothbrush 10, such as intensive brushing while standing, or with certain embodiments of brush 10, disassembly may be unnecessary. For such uses an embodiment of the toothbrush 10A discussed below may be preferred.

In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1-6A, upper section 22 is held to lower section 20 by friction along the length of the shaft 24 and longitudinal cavity 26. Another factor maintaining the connection between the lower and upper sections in the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1-6A is the presence of a shaft ridge 29 extending from shaft wall 25 of shaft 24 mating with a corresponding slot 35 in longitudinal cavity 26 of upper section 22, as explained further below. In certain embodiments, a lower wall 40 of the slot 35 prevents lower section 20 from falling out of upper section 22. Furthermore, lubrication material 77 such as grease can be sticky enough to substantially increase the tack force needed to be overcome to separate upper section 22 from lower section 20.

FIG. 7 through FIG. 12B illustrate the embodiment of the toothbrush 10a, where the top section of the shaft 24a has a flange 30 that would make it harder to remove lower section 20 from upper section 22. The corresponding longitudinal cavity 26a on the upper section 22a contains a recess 32 conforming to the shape of flange 30. Recess 32 is designed to securely receive, accommodate, lock and hold shaft 24a at the location of flange 30.

It should be noted that the flange 30 does not have to be at the top section of the shaft 24a and does not have to be limited to one in number. As best illustrated on the embodiment of toothbrush 10b on FIGS. 13-15, there can be several flanges, such as an upper flange 30a and a lower flange 30b attached to or expanding from the shaft/post 24b. These flanges can be located at any point of flange 30a and fit into correspondingly located, inverse-flange-shaped recesses such as the upper recess 32a and a lower recess 32b in FIGS. 13-14.

In the preferred embodiment, flange 30 is made of compressible material, such as rubber. However, another material may be used for tighter lateral lock, or for a change in frictional characteristics. Similarly, in the preferred embodiments, shafts 24, 24a, 24b are made of a rigid material

In certain alternative embodiments, the present invention contemplates further enhancing the movement of the bristles 16 in response to pressure against the teeth and/or gums. This is achieved by use of a semi-flexible shaft 24 (24a, 24b). This allows upper section 22 to be movable left and right to a small extent since shaft 24 is semi-flexible. Semi-flexible materials include certain plastics or hard resinous materials as well as other materials well known to those skilled in the art. The thickness of certain portions of the shaft 24 (24a, 24b) can also be varied to vary the degree of flexibility. In this case, when bristles 16 are pushed against the teeth and/or gums, the force is counteracted not only by the lateral rotation of the upper section but also by the bending of upper section 22 away from the longitudinal axis.

It is contemplated by the present invention that the rotation of the upper section 22 in relation to the lower section 20 can be incremental, continuous, or a combination of both. In addition, the maximum lateral rotation of the upper section 22 can span a variety of arcs in different embodiments. Such arcs can range from 0 to 360 degrees and beyond, depending upon the intended use. The control over the degree and the type of rotation can be achieved through the use of friction, a combination of nipples and recesses, ridges and recesses or slots, lubrication, and/or any other means now known or later invented. The coefficient of friction between the outer surface of the shaft and the cavity walls depends on and can also be varied by the substitution of the materials on the surfaces of the lower section 20, 20a and upper section 22, 22a and the degree of tightness of the fit between them (i.e. the size of any clearance between the upper 22 and lower 20 sections).

In certain preferred embodiments, the rotation of the lower section 20 and upper section 22 is a combination of incremental and continuous rotation. The control over rotation is achieved through a shaft ridge 29, projecting outwardly from shaft 24 and preferably forming an integral unit thereto. In certain alternative embodiments, this ridge 29 can instead project directly from flange 30. In the preferred embodiment, the attachment points connecting the shaft 24 and a shaft ridge 29 are rigid, although the shaft ridge 29 itself may be constructed of flexible material.

In embodiments with shaft ridge 29, when upper section 22 and lower section 20 are united, shaft ridge 29 is contained inside one or more slots. The collection of slots, which may be singular or plural, is referred to herein as the at least one slot 35. The at least one slot is/are defined within longitudinal cavity 26a. The slots 35 are shaped to receive the shaft ridge 29 with sufficient clearance between the shaft ridge 29 and an outer wall 35b of each particular slot to allow lateral rotation of the shaft 24, 24a and the shaft ridge 29 within the slot 35. This is best appreciated from FIGS. 6A and 12A.

This lateral rotation of the shaft 24, 24a and the shaft ridge 29 within each slot 35 of the at least one slot 35 accordingly allows rotation of upper section 22 in relation to lower section 20. In the preferred embodiment, such rotation is of continuous nature and allows the head of the toothbrush to naturally vary the angle of the head 12 and bristles 16 and to align itself to the brushing surface of the teeth, gums and the tongue.

In certain embodiments, some degree of incremental rotation may be desirable in order to prevent the head 12 and bristles 16 from accidentally rotating away from the intended brushing surface. In one of such embodiment such incremental rotation is achieved through the use of multiple slot end walls or rotation-limiting slot ridges, sometimes referred to herein as the at least two slot end walls 35a or rotation-limiting slot ridges 35a. These slot end walls rotation-limiting slot ridges 35a extend into the at least one slot 35 enough to block rotation of the shaft ridge 29 past the end of a slot 35 during the course of brushing, or least block such rotation unless additional force/effort is applied.

In certain alternative embodiments, two shaft ridges 29 can extend into one slot 35 of the at least one slot 35 and are positioned at the left and right outer limits of the slot 35.

Although the magnitude of the arc spanning a slot 35 of the at least one slot 35 can range from 0 to 360 degrees, in the preferred embodiment, individuals slots 35 of the at least one slot 35 have rotational arcs of approximately 70 to 90 degrees, which should provide sufficient continuous rotation in order for the head 12 and the bristles 16 to naturally adjust to fine angles on the brushing surface, yet be limiting enough to prevent upper section 22 from rotating away from the brushing surface.

The slot end walls 35a and/or the shaft ridge 29 must be flexible enough to allow the rotation of the shaft ridge 29 past the slot end wall 35a when the user intentionally applies force to do so. This would allow the user who, for example, is holding the toothbrush 10 in his right hand and is cleaning the tongue surface of the teeth on the left side to rotate with his left hand (or his mouth) the upper section 22 of toothbrush 10, 10a, 10b approximately 180 rotational degrees in a clockwise direction to clean the tongue surface of the teeth on the right side or the cheek surface of the teeth on the left side without significantly repositioning his wrist or releasing the toothbrush held in his arthritic right hand or prosthesis.

Although in most preferred embodiments shaft 24a, 24 is generally integrally connected to lower section 20a, 20, it is also contemplated by the present invention that shaft 24, 24a can be a separate part that is removable. As such, shaft 24, 24a would be inserted into a lower longitudinal cavity 28 in the lower handle section 21 of lower section 20a, as best appreciated from FIGS. 9 and 10. This would eliminate a stress point where the shaft 24a meets the top of lower handle section 21 and thereby provide a more securely embedded shaft 24a, preventing the possibility of the breakage of shaft 24a at the point of connection with lower handle section 21. In addition, if shaft 24a is removable, additional storage space can be achieved.

When shaft 24a is removable, this further distributes the frictional pressure and makes for a smoother lateral rotation of the upper section 22a in relation to the lower section 20a since each section (20a, 22a) would be capable of rotating independently around shaft 24a. In addition, lubricant 77 can be interposed between the bottom of the shaft 24a and the bottom of lower longitudinal cavity 28.

In another preferred embodiment of the toothbrush of the present invention (herein described in relation to the reference numerals of the first-described preferred embodiment but which may be applied to other preferred embodiment herein), the connection between upper section 22 and lower section 20 is held in place by means of at least one protuberance 66 extending from longitudinal cavity wall 27 of upper section 20 and preferably two opposing protuberances 66 that extend into the cavity 26. The at least one protuberances 66 are also referred to as at least one locking nub 66, or locking nubs 66.

In this embodiment, shaft 24 is not elongated but is short and rounded like a head and has a circumferential channel 64 or groove 64 engraved into shaft 24, for example at a lower portion of the shaft 24, for the accommodation of the protuberance 66. The locking nubs 66 are shaped and positioned to fit into the circumferential channel 64 in such a way as to hold the upper and lower sections connected to each other during use of the toothbrush 10. The principle of function of the nubs and the circumferential channel is generally similar to that described above in connection with the flange 30 and the recess 32. For example, the locking nub may be made of a compressible plastic to allow the upper portion of the shaft past locking nubs so that the locking nubs can sit in the channel. In certain preferred embodiments, moreover, the head portion 24c of the shaft, that is, the portion of the shaft 24 above the circumferential channel, can be made to be rounded on the sides to facilitate the easing of the head portion past the locking nubs, as best seen in FIG. 17.

As explained above with respect to other preferred embodiments, the connection is such that a force of the head pressing against teeth and/or gums of a user during use of the toothbrush 10 is able to effectuate a lateral rotation of the upper section 22 in relation to the lower section 20.

While there is just one circumferential channel 64 and two locking nubs 66 in the preferred embodiment, the number of locking nubs 66 and circumferential channels 64 may vary in alternative embodiments. In addition, in certain embodiments the locking nubs 66 can be located on the shaft 24 of the lower section 20, whereas the circumferential channel 64 can be engraved into the cavity wall 27 of upper section 22.

In certain preferred embodiments, as shown in FIG. 17, the upper section may also have an “udder” 101 extending into the cavity 26 so as to forcibly penetrate an aperture on a top of the head portion 24c of shaft 24 and lock into shaft 24 using a frictional fit, a compressible plastic bulge or other structures and means well known to those skilled in the art. Although FIG. 17 depicts both the locking nubs 66 and the udder 101, the present invention contemplates one and not two of these connection mechanisms to be present in the toothbrush, i.e. nubs or the udder.

In certain alternative embodiments, not only can the locking nubs 66 function to hold the lower section 20 aligned with and attached to the upper section 22, but they can also function as the rotation limiting ridges. In such an embodiment, a break in the circumferential channel 64, or another protuberance 64a projecting from the circumferential channel 64 can act as the shaft ridge. Following the principles described above in connection with discussion of the shaft ridge 24 and rotation-limiting ridges 35a, this protuberance 64a or break in the channel 64 (shaft ridge) will limit the rotational arc that the locking nubs 66 can make.

It should also be appreciated that the concept of the present invention wherein toothbrush 10 has a rotating upper section 22 and a lower section 20 that is held by the user can also be applied to electric toothbrushes. Electric toothbrushes tend to have a large bulky handle as compared to ordinary mechanical toothbrushes. These would be even harder to manually rotate by the user than a regular toothbrush since fine manipulation to position the brush head of an electric toothbrush on teeth surfaces is even harder than the manipulation needed to similarly position a mechanical brush. Therefore, the incorporation of the present invention into electrical toothbrushes of various designs would be of great benefit.

In particular, as shown in FIG. 18, the physical structure of the embodiment of FIG. 17 can be employed for electric toothbrushes. In that case udder 101 functions as an electric contact touching the top of head portion 24c and it need not penetrate head portion 24c.

The present invention contemplates numerous embodiments as an electrical toothbrush. Although details of electrical toothbrushes are known to those skilled in the art and are described herein generally, certain details are uniquely related to the toothbrush of the present invention and are described herein.

The present invention embodied in an electric toothbrush contains the same elements described herein for the invention embodied in a mechanical embodiment, except that an electric toothbrush would obviously also contain the necessary electrical parts that it make it work as an electric toothbrush. For example, it would also contain the electrical mechanism (not shown) that causes the brush head 12 or bristles 16 to vibrate, rotate, emit plaque-destroying ultrasound or to perform any other functions associated with electrical toothbrushes. In some embodiments, the shaft 24, 24a may have to be designed so that it accommodates the electrical mechanism and this may require widening the diameter of the toothbrush 10, 10a.

In a preferred embodiment of the present invention applied to an electric toothbrush, the electrical motor (not shown) and the power source (not shown) of the toothbrush may be fully contained in a rotating/vibrating head of the toothbrush 10 or fully contained in the lower section 20 of the toothbrush 10. In the latter case, the electrical mechanism (not shown) in the lower section 20 can be connected with moving parts of the upper section 22 through the use of belts (not shown) or other connectors (not shown) inside of the shaft 24, through oscillating magnetic signals, or through the use of any of numerous other means well known to those skilled in the art.

In certain electric embodiments of toothbrush 10, the motor (not shown) is located in the upper section 22, while the power supply (not shown), such as batteries is contained in the lower section 20. In such an embodiment, wires, if they were to be used to conduct electrical current from the lower section 20 to the upper section 22 of electric toothbrush could interfere with the lateral rotation of the upper section and could impede disassembly of the toothbrush. It is noted that in one of the preferred embodiments of the electrical toothbrush of the present invention, there are no wires for the electrical connection of the upper section 22 to the lower section 20. Instead, sections of the shaft 24 and sections of the cavity wall 27 comprise electrical contacts. The contacts on the shaft 24 and cavity wall 27 (for example udder 101 of FIG. 19) are shaped and aligned with each other to allow the upper section 22 and the lower section 20 to close an electrical circuit (not shown) when the toothbrush 10 is assembled and to maintain an electrical circuit when a portion of the upper section 22 is rotating.

It is to be understood that while the apparatus of this invention have been described and illustrated in detail, the above-described embodiments are simply illustrative of the principles of the invention. It is to be understood also that various other modifications and changes may be devised by those skilled in the art which will embody the principles of the invention and fall within the spirit and scope thereof. It is not desired to limit the invention to the exact construction and operation shown and described. The spirit and scope of this invention are limited only by the spirit and scope of the following claims.