Title:
Finger toothbrush
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A finger toothbrush comprising an elongate sleeve having an open first end and an enclosed second end with a plurality of protuberances extending generally outwardly from the second end. The open first end is in communication with a generally hollow and generally cylindrical cavity extending from the open first end into the interior of the sleeve. The sleeve further includes means to limit the ingress of an individual's finger through the open first end and into the interior of the sleeve beyond a pre-determined point prior to the finger reaching the second end.



Inventors:
Safieh, Eric (Toronto, CA)
Application Number:
11/882353
Publication Date:
02/05/2009
Filing Date:
08/01/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
15/167.1, 401/282
International Classes:
A46B9/04; A46B5/04; A46B11/04
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
WALCZAK, DAVID J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MEREK, BLACKMON & VOORHEES, LLC (ALEXANDRIA, VA, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A finger toothbrush comprising: an elongate sleeve having an open first end and an enclosed second end, said open first end in communication with a generally hollow and generally cylindrical cavity extending from said open first end into the interior of said sleeve; a plurality of protuberances extending generally outwardly from said second end, and, said sleeve further including means to limit the ingress of an individual's finger through said open first end and into the interior of said sleeve beyond a pre-determined point prior to said finger reaching said second end.

2. The finger toothbrush as claimed in claim 1 wherein said means to limit the ingress of an individual's finger comprises a reduction in the diameter of said cavity.

3. The finger toothbrush as claimed in claim 1 wherein said means to limit the ingress of an individual's finger comprises a reduction in the cross sectional open area of said cavity.

4. The finger toothbrush as claimed in claim 1 wherein said enclosed second end forms a generally rounded tip on said sleeve.

5. The finger toothbrush as claimed in claim 4 wherein said protuberances comprise a plurality of bristles extending generally outwardly from the surface of said tip.

6. The finger toothbrush as claimed in claim 5 wherein said bristles are spaced about the circumference of said tip.

7. The finger toothbrush as claimed in claim 1 wherein said means for limiting the ingress of an individual's finger into the interior of said sleeve comprises a barrier extending across said generally cylindrical cavity.

8. The finger toothbrush as claimed in claim 7 wherein the portion of said sleeve between said barrier and said second end is solid.

9. The finger toothbrush as claimed in claim 8 wherein said solid portion of said sleeve includes a portion offset from the longitudinal axis of said sleeve.

10. A finger toothbrush comprising: a sleeve having an open first end and an enclosed second end, said open first end in communication with a generally hollow cylindrical cavity extending from said open first end and partially into the interior of said sleeve; a generally rounded tip portion at said second end of said sleeve; and, a plurality of protuberances extending generally outwardly from said tip portion, said generally cylindrical cavity including a barrier limiting the ingress of an individual's finger through said open first end and into said sleeve beyond a predetermined point prior to said finger reaching said second end.

11. The finger toothbrush as claimed in claim 4 wherein said tip on said sleeve includes an internal hollow compartment in communication with one or more holes extending through the surface of said sleeve such that material received within said compartment exudes therefrom during use of said finger toothbrush.

12. The finger toothbrush as claimed in claim 4 wherein said tip on said sleeve includes an internal compartment, said compartment sealed and retaining air, water or other liquid, solution or gelatinous material therein.

13. The finger toothbrush as claimed in claim 10 wherein said tip on said sleeve includes an internal hollow compartment in communication with one or more holes extending through the surface of said sleeve such that material received within said hollow compartment exudes therefrom during use of said finger toothbrush.

14. The finger toothbrush as claimed in claim 10 wherein said tip on said sleeve includes an internal compartment, said compartment sealed and retaining air, water or other liquid, solution or gelatinous material therein.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to toothbrushes, and in particular to a new and improved form of finger toothbrush that may be used for brushing teeth and/or massaging gums. In a more particular embodiment the invention relates to a finger toothbrush or oral hygiene device that can be used for babies, infants and small children as a treatment for teething in the early stages of tooth growth and development and as a preventative care device for cleaning and massaging teeth and gums.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Teething is a natural physiological process in a baby's growth and development. It can first occur as early as two or three months of age. Teething typically causes discomfort, pain and restlessness to a baby or infant and makes oral hygiene very difficult to administer. An insufficient or inadequate cleaning of a child's gums and teeth can be a primary cause of tooth decay in infants and small children. To a very large extent tooth decay in infants and small children can be prevented by gently wiping or cleaning the child's teeth and gums. However, all too often teething prevents a parent or a guardian from administering oral hygiene in a timely and effective fashion. Although teething is not preventable, the consequences and affects of teething can often be averted or minimized through appropriate oral hygiene.

When an infant or small child is teething he or she will exhibit a tendency to scratch the area of the gum in concern or gnaw on objects in an effort to help relieve pain. The gums in the affected area typically exhibit swelling, redness, inflammation and soreness to varying degrees. Further, abnormal drooling can sometimes result in a facial rash. Amongst other uncomfortable experiences and side effects, tooth decay may occur as a result of teething symptoms and the difficulty experienced in administering oral care, particularly with oral hygiene and oral care devices that are currently available.

The consequences of developing cavities in baby teeth can be severe and can sometimes go unnoticed for many years. For example, cavities that develop in baby teeth can sometimes spread to the developing permanent tooth beneath the gums. Damage to the permanent tooth in such cases usually goes unnoticed for many years until such time as the permanent tooth emerges through the gum. Further, if a baby tooth develops a cavity and is untimely extracted, the teeth beside it tend to drift into the open space, thereby closing the natural space of the arch that is normally preserved by sound teeth. This can often cause a loss of space necessitating expensive and time consuming corrective care for crowding and other problems that the child may develop at a later point in life.

In an effort to help minimize the affects of teething, and to assist in the cleaning and massaging of the gums of infants and small children, others have developed a variety of sizes and forms of teething rings. Although such rings may be effective for some children, they often tend to be too large for the youngest of babies to insert into their mouths. Smaller infants and children also sometimes do not have sufficient manual dexterity to handle teething rings effectively. In some instances parents or guardians will apply topical medication to help alleviate gum pain. While such medications may help to remove or reduce pain, they do not treat the underlying problems and do not clean the teeth and gums from damaging food debris and plaque. In addition, allergic reactions can result from the application of certain medications.

Still others have developed what may generally be referred to as finger toothbrushes that can be slid over the end of a finger and placed into the mouth of a baby or infant to clean the teeth and massage the gums. Such devices are described in U.S. Pat. No. 2,077,540 issued to Welker, U.S. design Pat. D97360 issued to Stevens and U.S. design Pat. DES 313,317 issued to Brunner et al. While devices of this nature may to varying degrees be somewhat effective in providing the ability to clean the teeth or massage the gums of a baby or infant, they suffer from the inherent problem of requiring the user to insert his or her finger fully into the device in order to manipulate it within the infant's mouth. Such structures make it difficult, or in some cases dangerous, to reach the back portion of the gums or teeth as the user must insert his or her finger fully into the child's mouth. Furthermore, existing devices are limited in their application as they do not allow a baby to gnaw upon them. During use babies or infants will have a tendency to bite down hard upon finger toothbrushes when placed in their mouth, preventing parents or caregivers from effectively cleaning the teeth or massaging the gums and also exposing the user's fingers to injury from biting.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The invention therefore provides a form of finger toothbrush that eliminates a number of the deficiencies of finger toothbrushes that are currently available.

Accordingly, in one of its aspects the invention provides a finger toothbrush comprising an elongate sleeve having an open first end and an enclosed second end, said open first end in communication with a generally hollow and generally cylindrical cavity extending from said open first end into the interior of said sleeve; a plurality of protuberances extending generally outwardly from said second end, and, said sleeve further including means to limit the ingress of an individual's finger through said open first end and into the interior of said sleeve beyond a pre-determined point prior to said finger reaching said second end.

In a further aspect the invention provides a finger toothbrush comprising a sleeve having an open first end and an enclosed second end, said open first end in communication with a generally hollow cylindrical cavity extending from said open first end and partially into the interior of said sleeve; a generally rounded tip portion at said second end of said sleeve; and, a plurality of protuberances extending generally outwardly from said tip portion; said generally cylindrical cavity including a barrier limiting the ingress of an individual's finger through said open first end and into said sleeve beyond a predetermined point prior to said finger reaching said second end.

Further aspects and advantages of the invention will become apparent from the following description taken together with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

For a better understanding of the present invention, and to show more clearly how it may be carried into effect, reference will now be made, by way of example, to the accompanying drawings which show the preferred embodiments of the present invention in which:

FIG. 1 is a side elevational view of a finger toothbrush constructed in accordance with one of the preferred embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a lower side perspective view of the finger toothbrush shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a sectional view taken along the line 3-3 in FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a side elevational view of an alternate embodiment of the finger toothbrush of the present invention;

FIG. 5 is a longitudinal sectional view of a third embodiment of a finger toothbrush according to the present invention; and,

FIG. 6 is an upper side perspective view of a fourth embodiment of the finger toothbrush.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

The present invention may be embodied in a number of different forms. However, the specification and drawings that follow describe and disclose only some of the specific forms of the invention and are not intended to limit the scope of the invention as defined in the claims that follow herein.

In the attached Figures a finger toothbrush constructed in accordance with one of the preferred embodiments of the invention is noted generally by reference numeral 1. Finger toothbrush 1 is comprised generally of an elongate sleeve 2 having an open first end 3 and an enclosed second end 4. First end 3 is in communication with a generally hollow and generally cylindrical cavity 5 that extends from first end 3 into the interior of sleeve 2. In the embodiments of the invention that are shown, enclosed second end 4 forms a generally rounded tip 6 on the end of sleeve 2. A plurality of protuberances 7 extend generally outwardly from enclosed second end 4. It is expected that in most instances protuberances 7 will be comprised of a plurality of bristles that extend outwardly from the surface of tip 6 and that are arranged in a series of rows or in a pre-determined geometric pattern forming an overall brush-like surface, as indicated in FIG. 1. In other cases the bristles may be spaced about the circumference of tip 6 as indicated in FIG. 6. In still other embodiments of the invention smaller patches of bristles or protuberances may be spaced about the exterior of enclosed second end 4 of sleeve 2. Protuberances 7 could also take the form of relatively small bumps, ridges, or nodes.

As shown in the attached drawings, in a preferred embodiment of the invention elongate sleeve 2 and hollow cavity 5 have somewhat of a cylindrical shape, permitting an individual's finger to be inserted through open first end 3 into the cavity. An integral part of the invention is the inclusion of a means to limit the ingress of an individual's finger into hollow cavity 5, and into the interior of sleeve 2, beyond a pre-determined point. In the embodiment of the invention shown in FIGS. 1 through 3, the means to limit the ingress of an individual's finger into the interior of sleeve 2 comprises an area 8 of hollow cavity 5 having a reduced diameter that prevents an individual's finger from moving further into the cavity. In this embodiment the exterior diameter of elongate sleeve 2 is also reduced, forming a reduced diameter neck that terminates at tip 6. The reduction in diameter of hollow cavity 5 is such that, when inserted through first end 3, an individual's finger will be prevented from passing through cavity 5 beyond the point where its diameter is reduced. In other versions of the invention the exterior diameter of sleeve 2 need not be reduced.

In alternate embodiments of the invention the means by which the ingress of an individual's finger through open first end 3 and into the interior of sleeve 2 is limited may take the form of various other physical or mechanical structures. For example in the embodiment shown in FIGS. 4 and 5, such means comprises a barrier 9 that extends across the hollow cavity, effectively terminating the cavity at that point. Here, the portion of sleeve 2 between barrier 9 and second end 4 is solid. However, it should be appreciated that in other embodiments barrier 9 could be a partition extending fully or partially across hollow cavity 5 preventing any further ingress of an individual's finger there through, with the remainder of the portion of the sleeve between the barrier and second end 4 being generally hollow. In still further versions of the invention, barrier 9 may take the form of one or more individual ribs or nodules extending inwardly from the interior surface of hollow cavity 5 such that the cross-sectional area of the cavity is reduced to the point that further ingress of an individual's finger is prevented at the point of the nodules or ribs. It will thus be appreciated by one of skill in the art having a full understanding of the invention that the particular form of barrier or means to prevent ingress of an individual's finger into cavity 5 beyond a pre-determined point may vary significantly, provided that the barrier provides a mean to limit the ingress of a finger through the cavity. As such a portion of sleeve 2 and rounded tip 6 will extend beyond the limit of where an individual's finger can be inserted into the elongate sleeve.

It will thus be understood that the design and construction of the invention as described and shown herein will permit sleeve 2 to be slid over the finger of an individual such that the finger toothbrush can be inserted into the mouth of an infant or child (or for that matter an adult if desired) to enable protuberances 7 to be used to massage the gums and/or clean the teeth. The encasement of the finger within sleeve 2 increases hygiene by creating a barrier between the skin of the person administering care and the child's oral cavity. Further, through the incorporation of a means or barrier to limit the ingress of an individual's finger into the interior of the sleeve beyond a pre-determined point, finger toothbrush 1 is presented with a tip portion containing protuberances 7 upon which an infant or child can gnaw or bite without exposing a caregiver's finger to harm. As mentioned, the portion of sleeve 2 from barrier 9 to second end 4 may be of the same diameter as the remainder of the sleeve or may be comprised of a reduced diameter neck portion that terminates in tip 6. In instances where the finger toothbrush is to be used for the massaging of the gums or cleaning teeth of an infant or small child, a reduced diameter neck portion at the end of sleeve 2 enhances its ability to massage the gums and clean the teeth toward the back of the child's mouth. To further enhance the ability to reach into a child's mouth, in one embodiment of the invention (as shown in FIG. 4) a portion of sleeve 2 extending between barrier 9 and second end 4 may be offset from the longitudinal axis of the sleeve.

It is expected that in most instances finger toothbrush 1 will be formed from a generally soft, pliable, resilient material such as rubber, silicone or other similar products that are commonly used in the construction of baby bottle nipples, teething rings and similar devices. Protuberances 7 may be comprised of the same material or, alternatively, may be formed from nylon or any one of a wide variety of other synthetic or natural fibres that are commonly used to form the bristles of toothbrushes and other oral hygiene appliances. In yet a further embodiment, sleeve 2 may be constructed from a more rigid plastic or other material commonly used in the construction of standard toothbrushes. Where finger toothbrush 1 is constructed from rubber or flexible material sleeve 2 will preferably be dimensioned such that it may be secured over an individual's finger by means of a friction fit. In instances where the sleeve is formed from a more rigid material it may be desirable to incorporate indentations, finger holding ribs or ridges, or other mechanical structures that will assist in gripping and holding the sleeve onto an individual's finger.

It should also be noted that protuberances 7 may be formed integrally with elongate sleeve 2, and be comprised of the same material. Where the protuberances are in the form of small nibs or ridges upon tip 6, it is expected that they will be moulded in place on sleeve 2 as the sleeve is formed. Alternately, the protuberances may be secured to the end of the sleeve by means of mechanical fastening mechanisms, through the use of adhesives, or through commonly employed plastic or rubber related welding processes.

It will be appreciated that the overall length and other dimensional aspects of finger toothbrush 1 may be varied while remaining within the broad scope of the invention. For example, the neck portion, or that portion that extends between barrier 9 and second end 4, may be made relatively short such that the overall appearance of the finger toothbrush is not unlike that of a standard baby bottle nipple or pacifier. Alternately the neck portion may be elongated to allow increased flexibility and maneuverability within an infant's mouth.

In some instances it may be desirable to apply a small amount of a topical medical or other substance to protuberances 7 so that the medication can be applied directly to the gums or teeth. In other instances second end 4 of sleeve 2 may include a separate compartment 10 which can be filled with medication, liquids, solutions, gels or other materials such that the medication or material can be applied to a child's teeth or gums as the child bites down or gnaws on the end of elongate sleeve 2. In such cases one or more holes 11 will typically connect compartment 10 to the exterior surface of second end 4, thereby permitting solution or material received within the compartment to be exuded therefrom during use. It will be appreciated that a number of different and separate compartments may be incorporated into the second end of elongate sleeve 2. Those compartments can be designed for holding different solutions or components (for example one may include an analgesic, another may include a fluoride solution, etc.). Alternately, finger toothbrush 1 may further be fitted with one or more sealed compartments that may be filled with air, water or other material that will alter the pliability of second end 4 and thereby enhance the characteristics of the end of the finger toothbrush making it softer and more conducive to gnawing on the part of small children when teething. The incorporation of a sealed compartment full of water or other material within the end of elongate sleeve 2 also allows the toothbrush to remain in a warmed or cooled state for an extended length of time when it is desirable to apply a heating or cooling effect to the teeth or gums. Finally, finger toothbrush 1 may be constructed so that it is of a disposable nature with internal compartment 10 pre-filled with a particular liquid, solution or gel-type material. Alternately, the compartment may include a filling hole to allow an individual or caregiver to fill or replenish the compartment with a desired material.

It will thus be appreciated from a thorough understanding of the present invention that the finger toothbrush as described and shown will provide a means for massaging the gums and wiping and/or cleaning the teeth of infants, small children and adults alike. The finger toothbrush provides a mechanism that is safe, effective and, unlike standard toothbrushes that have long handles, presents no choking hazard. Through the utilization of an individual's finger as the means to manipulate the protuberances on the toothbrush, the invention also minimizes the possibility that the end of the toothbrush will be driven into the back of the mouth causing potential damage to the mouth or throat. As discussed, the design of the finger toothbrush also prevents a caregiver's finger from becoming bitten or injured when an infant or small child bites down or gnaws on the end of the device. Tip 6 of elongate sleeve 2 may be formed in such a manner that presents an effective and simple mechanism to deliver and administer medication and/or other substances to a child's oral cavity.

It is to be understood that what has been described are the preferred embodiments of the invention and that it may be possible to make variations to these embodiments while staying within the broad scope of the invention. Some of these variations have been discussed while others will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art.