Title:
ORAL CARE SYSTEM
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An oral care system is provided. The system comprises a head having a surface from which a cleaning element extends; a handle connected to the head, the handle comprising a grip structure forming at least a portion of an exterior surface of the handle; and a lock movable between a first state and a second state; wherein, when the lock is in the first state, the grip structure is freely rotatable about an axis relative to the head and, when the lock is in the second state, the grip structure is prevented from rotating relative to the head.



Inventors:
Hohlbein, Douglas (Hopewell, NJ, US)
Application Number:
14/648344
Publication Date:
10/22/2015
Filing Date:
11/30/2012
Assignee:
COLGATE-PALMOLIVE COMPANY
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A46B5/00; A46B5/02
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20160256017PERSONAL CLEANSING AND FLUID APPLICATION APPARATUSSeptember, 2016Jackson
20140130298Novel Pen or Pencil Sleeve DeviceMay, 2014Vassel
20040134007ToothbrushJuly, 2004Davies
20130037049Hygienic articleFebruary, 2013Kulichkov
20160362086DRIVE DEVICE FOR A WINDSCREEN WIPING DEVICEDecember, 2016Biank et al.
20150047672REMOVABLE TIP ORAL HYGIENE DEVICEFebruary, 2015Giwa
20040134024Air recirculating surface cleaning deviceJuly, 2004Allen
20090241283TOOL OPERATED SWITCH FOR VACUUMSOctober, 2009Loveless et al.
20080047089CLEANING CLOTH AND A MOP USING THE SAMEFebruary, 2008Sadovsky
20170073983DEVICE FOR SMOOTHINGMarch, 2017Freudenreich et al.
20100229319SpatulaSeptember, 2010Phillips



Primary Examiner:
KARLS, SHAY LYNN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
COLGATE-PALMOLIVE COMPANY (PISCATAWAY, NJ, US)
Claims:
1. An oral care implement, comprising: a head having a surface from which a cleaning element extends; a handle connected to the head, the handle comprising a grip structure forming at least a portion of an exterior surface of the handle; and a lock movable between a first state and a second state; wherein, when the lock is in the first state, the grip structure is freely rotatable about an axis relative to the head and, when the lock is in the second state, the grip structure is prevented from rotating relative to the head; wherein the lock comprises a lock element that is attached to, or is attachable to, the oral care implement; wherein, in the first state, the lock element is detached from the oral care implement, and wherein, in the second state, the lock element is attached to the oral care implement at a second position on the oral care implement that prevents the grip structure from rotating relative to the head.

2. The oral care implement of claim 1, wherein the lock element engages the grip structure and one of the head and a body of the handle that is not rotatable relative to the head when in the second state.

3. An oral care implement, comprising: a head having a surface from which a cleaning element extends; a handle connected to the head, the handle comprising a grip structure forming at least a portion of an exterior surface of the handle; and a lock movable between a first state and a second state; wherein, when the lock is in the first state, the grip structure is freely rotatable about an axis relative to the head and, when the lock is in the second state, the grip structure is prevented from rotating relative to the head; wherein the lock comprises a lock element that is attached to, or is attachable to, the oral care implement; wherein, when the lock element is attached to the oral care implement at a second position, the lock element is either a) mounted on one of the head and a body of the handle that is not rotatable relative to the head, and engages a feature on the grip structure, thereby preventing the grip structure from rotating relative to the head, or alternatively b) mounted on the grip structure, and engages a feature on one of the head and a body of the handle that is not rotatable relative to the head, thereby preventing the grip structure from rotating relative to the head, wherein the feature comprises one or more of a groove, a channel, a hole, a gap and a protrusion.

4. The oral care implement of claim 3, wherein the groove, channel, hole, gap or protrusion extends radially out from and/or radially into the grip structure or the one of the head and a body of the handle that is not rotatable relative to the head.

5. The oral care implement of claim 1, wherein the lock element is in the form of a C-clip.

6. (canceled)

7. (canceled)

8. The oral care implement of claim 3 wherein, in the first state, the lock element is detached from the oral care implement, and wherein, in the second state, the lock element is attached to the oral care implement at the second position on the oral care implement that prevents the grip structure from rotating relative to the head.

9. The oral care implement of claim 1 wherein, in the first state, the lock element is attached to the oral care implement at a first position on the oral care implement.

10. The oral care implement of claim 9 wherein, when the lock element is attached to the oral care implement at the second position, the lock element is mounted on one of the head and a body of the handle that is not rotatable relative to the head, and engages a feature on the grip structure, thereby preventing the grip structure from rotating relative to the head.

11. 11.-14. (canceled)

15. The oral care system of claim 9 wherein the lock element is movable in a direction parallel to the axis between the first and second positions on the oral care implement.

16. The oral care implement of claim 1, wherein the cleaning element has a distal end furthest from the surface of the head; and wherein the axis passes through the cleaning element at a point on the cleaning element between the surface of the head and the distal end of the cleaning element.

17. (canceled)

18. (canceled)

19. The oral care implement of claim 1, wherein, when the lock is in the first state, the grip structure is freely rotatable through at least 360 degrees about the axis relative to the head.

20. The oral care implement of claim 1, wherein the grip structure is axially fixed relative to the head.

21. The oral care implement of claim 1, wherein the handle comprises a body connected to the head, and wherein the grip structure is connected to the body so as to be rotatable relative to the body about the axis when the lock is in the first state.

22. The oral care implement of claim 21, wherein the grip structure is axially fixed relative to the body, and wherein the body comprises two parts and the grip structure is disposed between the two parts so that the grip structure is axially fixed relative to the body by the two parts.

23. 23.-25. (canceled)

26. The oral care system implement of claim 22, wherein at least a portion of the grip structure comprises a sleeve having an interior cavity, and wherein a portion of the body is disposed within the interior cavity of the sleeve.

27. The oral care implement of claim 22, wherein at least a portion of the body comprises a sleeve having an interior cavity, and wherein a portion of the grip structure is disposed within the interior cavity of the sleeve.

28. The oral care implement of claim 22, wherein the body is immovable relative to the head or unitary with the head.

29. 29.-32. (canceled)

33. The oral care implement of claim 1, wherein the grip structure is at least partly constructed of resilient material, such as thermoplastic elastomer and/or SEBS.

34. The oral care implement of claim 1, wherein the grip structure is at least partly constructed of hard or rigid material, such as hard plastic.

35. (canceled)

36. (canceled)

37. The oral care implement of claim 1, wherein the grip structure comprises a first piece constructed of resilient material and a second piece constructed of hard or rigid material, such as hard plastic.

38. (canceled)

39. The oral care implement of claim 34, wherein the hard or rigid material comprises one or more of polyethylene, polypropylene, polyamide, polyester, cellulosics, SAN, acrylic, ABS and a thermoplastic.

40. The oral care implement of claim 1, wherein the cleaning element comprises one or other of a tooth cleaning element and a soft tissue cleaning element.

41. (canceled)

42. A kit of parts for an oral care system, the kit of parts comprising: a head having a surface from which a cleaning element extends; a handle connectable to the head, the handle comprising a grip structure forming at least a portion of an exterior surface of the handle; and a lock that is movable between a first state and a second state when the handle is connected to the head; wherein, when the lock is in the first state, the grip structure is freely rotatable about an axis relative to the head and, when the lock is in the second state, the grip structure is prevented from rotating relative to the head; wherein the lock comprises a lock element in the form of a C-clip.

43. The kit of parts of claim 42, wherein the cleaning element has a distal end furthest from the surface of the head; and wherein the axis passes through the cleaning element at a point on the cleaning element between the surface of the head and the distal end of the cleaning element.

44. 44.-59. (canceled)

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Oral care implements, especially toothbrushes, are used by many people on a daily basis. Typical oral care implements comprise an elongate handle and a head connected to one end of the handle. The handle provides a structure by which a user grips and manipulates the oral care implement during use. The head typically comprises one or more elements designed to perform their intended function, such as teeth cleaning elements, soft tissue cleaning elements, and/or oral care agents.

Over the years, efforts have been made to improve the design of handles of oral care implements, in order to provide users with increased control of the implements and improved reach of the elements comprised in the heads, in order that the oral care implements may deliver improved cleaning of users' oral cavities during oral care sessions. Such efforts have included the development of handles having multiple components, including a hard core structure and softer gripping covers or grip bodies, in an attempt to increase users' control of the implements. Other existing oral care implements have handles with sections oriented at selected angles relative to one another and relative to the head of the implements, in an attempt to improve reach, so that previously-difficult-to-reach surfaces in the oral cavity can now be reached with elements.

Despite these efforts, a need still exists for an oral care system that has a structure that delivers improved cleaning of a user's oral cavity during use. For example, there is a need for an oral care system that better ensures that element(s) on the head of an implement can reach oral surfaces and depressions and undulations therein, in order to deliver improved cleaning of the oral surfaces.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A first aspect of the present invention provides an oral care system, comprising: a head having a surface from which a cleaning element extends; a handle connected to the head, the handle comprising a grip structure forming at least a portion of an exterior surface of the handle; and a lock movable between a first state and a second state; wherein, when the lock is in the first state, the grip structure is freely rotatable about an axis relative to the head and, when the lock is in the second state, the grip structure is prevented from rotating relative to the head.

By “freely rotatable” it is meant that the grip structure not biased to a particular angular position relative to the head. Preferably, rotation of the grip structure relative to the head is unrestricted by any other part of the system.

Preferably, the oral care system comprises an oral care implement having the head and the handle; and the lock; wherein the lock comprises a lock element that is attached to, or is attachable to, the oral care implement.

Optionally, in the first state, the lock element is detached from the oral care implement, and, in the second state, the lock element is attached to the oral care implement at a second position on the oral care implement that prevents the grip structure from rotating relative to the head.

Optionally, in the first state, the lock element is attached to the oral care implement at a first position on the oral care implement, and, in the second state, the lock element is attached to the oral care implement at a second position on the oral care implement.

Optionally, when the lock element is attached to the oral care implement at the second position, the lock element is mounted on one of the head and a body of the handle that is not rotatable relative to the head, and engages a feature on the grip structure, thereby preventing the grip structure from rotating relative to the head.

Optionally, when the lock element is attached to the oral care implement at the second position, the lock element is mounted on the grip structure, and engages a feature on one of the head and a body of the handle that is not rotatable relative to the head, thereby preventing the grip structure from rotating relative to the head.

Preferably, the feature comprises one or more of a groove, a channel, a hole, a gap and a protrusion.

Preferably, the lock element comprises a C-clip or a collar.

Preferably, the lock element is movable in a direction parallel to the axis between the first and second positions on the oral care implement.

Optionally, the cleaning element has a distal end furthest from the surface of the head; and the axis passes through the cleaning element at a point on the cleaning element between the surface of the head and the distal end of the cleaning element.

Preferably the grip structure is rotatable relative to the cleaning element about the axis.

Preferably, the point is spaced from the distal end of the cleaning element. The point may be closer to the distal end of the cleaning element than to the surface of the head.

Preferably, the grip structure is rotatable through at least 90 degrees, or at least 180 degrees, or at least 270 degrees, or 360 degrees, or at least 360 degrees, about the axis relative to the head. Optionally, the grip structure is axially fixed relative to the head.

The handle may comprise a body connected to the head. The grip structure may be connected to the body so as to be rotatable relative to the body about the axis when the lock is in the first state. Preferably the grip structure is axially fixed relative to the body.

The body may comprise two parts. The grip structure may be disposed between the two parts so that the grip structure is axially fixed relative to the body by the two parts. The two parts may be two pieces of the body connected together, or may be a single, unitary piece.

The grip structure may be connected to the body by a snap-fit connection.

Preferably, the grip structure comprises a sleeve having an interior cavity, and a portion of the body is disposed within the interior cavity of the sleeve. Alternatively, at least a portion of the body may comprise a sleeve having an interior cavity, and a portion of the grip structure is disposed within the interior cavity of the sleeve.

Preferably, the body is immovable relative to the head. Preferably the body is unitary with the head.

The handle may be connected to the head by a snap-fit connection.

Preferably, the axis is a longitudinal axis of the oral care implement and/or of the handle.

The grip structure may be manually rotatable about the axis relative to the head and/or body by a user. Alternatively, the implement may comprise a powered rotator, such as a motor, for effecting the rotation of the grip structure. The powered rotator may be operable by a user to effect the rotation of the grip structure.

Optionally, the grip structure is at least partly constructed of resilient material, such as thermoplastic elastomer and/or SEBS. Optionally, the grip structure is at least partly constructed of hard or rigid material, such as hard plastic. The grip structure may comprise a first piece constructed of resilient material and a second piece constructed of hard or rigid material, such as hard plastic. The grip structure may be connected to the body by way of the second piece of the grip structure being connected to the body.

Optionally, the head is at least partly constructed of hard or rigid material, such as hard plastic. Optionally, the body is at least partly constructed of hard or rigid material, such as hard plastic. The hard or rigid material may comprise one or more of polyethylene, polypropylene, polyamide, polyester, cellulosics, SAN, acrylic, ABS and a thermoplastic.

Preferably, the cleaning element comprises one or other of a tooth cleaning element and a soft tissue cleaning element. Preferably, a plurality of cleaning elements extend from the head. The plurality of cleaning elements may comprise one or more tooth cleaning elements and/or one or more soft tissue cleaning elements.

A second aspect of the present invention provides a kit of parts for an oral care system, the kit of parts comprising: a head having a surface from which a cleaning element extends; a handle connectable to the head, the handle comprising a grip structure forming at least a portion of an exterior surface of the handle; and a lock that is movable between a first state and a second state when the handle is connected to the head; wherein, when the lock is in the first state, the grip structure is freely rotatable about an axis relative to the head and, when the lock is in the second state, the grip structure is prevented from rotating relative to the head.

Preferably, the lock comprises a lock element in the form of a C-clip or a collar.

Optionally, the cleaning element has a distal end furthest from the surface of the head; and the axis passes through the cleaning element at a point on the cleaning element between the surface of the head and the distal end of the cleaning element.

The kit of parts, or the oral care system provided when the kit of parts is assembled, may comprise any one or more of the above-described optional and preferable features of the oral care system of the first aspect of the present invention.

A third aspect of the present invention provides a method of manufacturing an oral care system, the method comprising the steps of: (a) providing a head; (b) providing the head with a cleaning element that extends from a surface of the head; (c) connecting a handle to the head, the handle comprising a grip structure forming at least a portion of an exterior surface of the handle; and (d) providing a lock that is movable between a first state and a second state, wherein, when the lock is in the first state, the grip structure is freely rotatable about an axis relative to the head and, when the lock is in the second state, the grip structure is prevented from rotating relative to the head.

A fourth aspect of the present invention provides a method of manufacturing an oral care system, the method comprising the steps of: (a) providing a head and a body connected to the head; (b) providing the head with a cleaning element that extends from a surface of the head; (c) connecting a grip structure to the body, the grip structure forming at least a portion of an exterior surface of a handle; and (d) providing a lock that is movable between a first state and a second state, wherein, when the lock is in the first state, the grip structure is freely rotatable about an axis relative to the body and, when the lock is in the second state, the grip structure is prevented from rotating relative to the body.

In the method of the third aspect or the method of the fourth aspect, preferably step (b) comprises providing a head with a cleaning element that extends from the surface of the head and has a distal end furthest from the surface of the head; and preferably the axis passes through the cleaning element at a point on the cleaning element between the surface of the head and the distal end of the cleaning element.

In the method of the third aspect or the method of the fourth aspect, optionally step (c) is carried out after step (b). Alternatively, in the method of the third aspect or the method of the fourth aspect, optionally step (b) is carried out after step (c).

In the method of the third aspect or the method of the fourth aspect, preferably the point is spaced from the distal end of the cleaning element. Preferably, the point is closer to the distal end of the cleaning element than to the surface of the head.

In the method of the third aspect or the method of the fourth aspect, preferably the grip structure is axially fixed relative to the head.

In the method of the fourth aspect, optionally step (c) comprises disposing the grip structure between two parts of the body so that the grip structure is axially fixed relative to the body by the two parts.

In the method of the fourth aspect, optionally step (c) comprises connecting the grip structure to the body by a snap-fit connection.

In the method of the fourth aspect, optionally at least a portion of the grip structure comprises a sleeve defining an interior cavity, and step (c) comprises disposing a portion of the body within the interior cavity of the sleeve. Step (c) may comprise sandwiching the portion of the body between two sections of the grip structure, and preferably then connecting the two sections of the grip structure to each other. Alternatively, at least a portion of the body comprises a sleeve defining an interior cavity, and step (c) comprises disposing a portion of the grip structure within the interior cavity of the sleeve.

In the method of the third aspect or the method of the fourth aspect, preferably the axis is a longitudinal axis of the oral care implement or of the handle.

In the method of the third aspect or the method of the fourth aspect, preferably the cleaning element comprises one or other of a tooth cleaning element and a soft tissue cleaning element. Preferably, step (b) comprises providing the head with a plurality of cleaning elements that extend from the surface of the head. The plurality of cleaning elements may comprise one or more tooth cleaning elements and/or one or more soft tissue cleaning elements.

In the method of the third aspect or the method of the fourth aspect, the resultant oral care system provided when the method is performed may comprise any one or more of the above-described optional and preferable features of the oral care system of the first aspect of the present invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a front view of an oral care system according to a first embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a longitudinal cross-sectional view of the oral care system of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a longitudinal cross-sectional view of an oral care system according to a second embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4 is a longitudinal cross sectional view of an oral care system according to a third embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 5 is a longitudinal cross sectional view of an oral care system according to a fourth embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 6 is a longitudinal cross sectional view of an oral care system according to a fifth embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 7 is a longitudinal cross sectional view of an oral care system according to a sixth embodiment of the present invention; and

FIGS. 8(a) to 8(d) are a series of front views of an oral care system according to the present invention, the views illustrating relative movement between a grip structure and a head of an oral care implement of the system.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The following description of the preferred embodiments is merely exemplary in nature and is in no way intended to limit the invention, its application, or uses. The description of illustrative embodiments according to principles of the present invention is intended to be read in connection with the accompanying drawings, which are to be considered part of the entire written description. In the description of embodiments of the invention disclosed herein, any reference to direction or orientation is merely intended for convenience of description and is not intended in any way to limit the scope of the present invention. Relative terms such as “lower,” “upper,” “horizontal,” “vertical,” “above,” “below,” “up,” “down,” “top” and “bottom” as well as derivative thereof (e.g., “horizontally,” “downwardly,” “upwardly,” etc.) should be construed to refer to the orientation as then described or as shown in the drawing under discussion. These relative terms are for convenience of description only and do not require that the apparatus be constructed or operated in a particular orientation unless explicitly indicated as such. Terms such as “attached,” “affixed,” “connected,” “coupled,” “interconnected,” and similar refer to a relationship wherein structures are secured or attached to one another either directly or indirectly through intervening structures, as well as both movable or rigid attachments or relationships, unless expressly described otherwise. Moreover, the features and benefits of the invention are illustrated by reference to the preferred embodiments. Accordingly, the invention expressly should not be limited to such preferred embodiments illustrating some possible non-limiting combination of features that may exist alone or in other combinations of features.

In the following description, the invention is embodied in a system comprising a manually-operated oral care implement, more specifically a manually-operated toothbrush. However, in other embodiments, the invention is embodied in a system comprising a powered toothbrush wherein one or more cleaning elements provided to the head of the implement are drivable so as to be moved relative to the handle of the implement. In still further embodiments, the invention may be embodied in systems comprising other forms of oral care implements, such as a soft-tissue cleansing implement, an inter-proximal pick, a flossing tool, a plaque scraper, or another ansate implement designed for oral care. It is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilised, and that structural and functional modifications may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention.

FIGS. 1 and 2 illustrate an oral care system according to a first embodiment of the present invention. The system comprises an oral care implement, in this case a toothbrush, generally designated with the reference numeral 100 and a lock comprising a lock element 200 in the form of a C-clip. The toothbrush 100 generally comprises a handle 110 and a head 120. The handle 110 provides the user with a mechanism by which he/she can readily grip and manipulate the toothbrush 100. The handle 110 includes ergonomic features which provide a high degree of control for the user while maintaining comfort. The head 120 has a proximal portion 121 and a distal portion 122. The head 120 includes, at its proximal portion 121, a neck 123 connected to a distal end 104 of the handle 110. The neck 123 is generally of a narrower cross sectional area than at least the distal end 104 of the handle 110 and, in some embodiments, the neck 123 is generally of a narrower cross sectional area than all of the handle 110. The head also includes, at its distal portion, a plurality of tooth cleaning elements 130, which are generically illustrated as a block.

Generally, the toothbrush 100 extends from a proximal end 101 (which is also the proximal end 103 of the handle 110) to a distal end 102 (which is at the distal end of the distal portion 122 of the head 120) along a longitudinal axis A-A. Although the handle 110 is a non-linear structure in the illustrated embodiment, the longitudinal axis A-A of the implement 100 is linear in the illustrated embodiment. However, the invention is not so limited, and in certain embodiments, the implement 100 may have a simple linear handle 110 that is longitudinally aligned along the linear longitudinal axis A-A of the implement 100.

The head 120 is connected to the handle 110. As discussed in greater detail below, in this embodiment the head 120 is connected to a body 140 (discussed in greater detail below) of the handle 110 of the toothbrush 100, with the head 120 and body 140 being formed as an integral structure using an injection molding process. The body 140 is immovable relative to the head 120. The body 140 and the head 120 are a single, unitary structure. However, in other embodiments, the head 120 and the body 140 may be formed as separate components which are operably connected at a later stage of the manufacturing process by any suitable technique known in the art, including without limitation thermal welding, sonic welding, a tight-fit assembly, a coupling sleeve, adhesion, fasteners, and a snap-fit connection. Whether the head 120 and the body 140 are constructed as a single piece or a multi-piece assembly (including connection techniques) is not limiting of the present invention in all embodiments. Furthermore, other manufacturing techniques may be used in place of and/or in addition to injection molding to create the handle 110 and/or the head 120 (or components thereof), such as milling and/or machining.

In this embodiment, each of the head 120 and the body 140 are constructed of a hard or rigid material, specifically the hard plastic polypropylene (PP). However, in variations to this embodiment, the head 120 may instead or additionally be constructed of one or more of the following hard or rigid materials: polyethylene, polypropylene, polyamide, polyester, cellulosics, styrene-acrylonitrile (SAN), acrylic, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and a thermoplastic. Also, in variations to this embodiment, the body 140 may instead or additionally be constructed of one or more of the following hard or rigid materials: polyethylene, polypropylene, polyamide, polyester, cellulosics, styrene-acrylonitrile (SAN), acrylic, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and a thermoplastic.

It should be noted that relative terms such as distal, middle, proximal, upper, lower, top, bottom, lateral, front, rear, left, right etc. are merely used to delineate relative positions of the components of the implement 100 with respect to one another and are not intended to be in any further way limiting of the present invention.

The head 120 generally comprises a front surface 124 and a rear surface 125. The front surface 124 and the rear surface 125 of the head 120 can take on a wide variety of shapes and contours, none of which are limiting of the present invention. For example, the front and rear surfaces 124, 125 can be planar, contoured or combinations thereof. The front surface 124 and rear surface 125 are joined by a peripheral or lateral surface 126 of the head 120.

The plurality of tooth cleaning elements 130, which are generically illustrated as a block, are provided on and extend outward from the front surface 124 of the head 120 for cleaning contact with an oral surface, preferably teeth. While the set of cleaning elements 130 is particularly suited for brushing teeth, the set of cleaning elements 130 can also be used to clean oral soft tissue, such as a tongue, gums, or cheeks instead of or in addition to teeth. As used herein, the term “cleaning element” is used in a generic sense to refer to any structure that can be used to clean or massage an oral surface, such as teeth or soft tissue, through relative surface contact.

In this embodiment, a plurality of cleaning elements 130 is provided. However, in a variation to this embodiment, only one cleaning element 130 is provided. Also, in this embodiment, the cleaning elements 130 comprise a plurality of bristles. However, in variations to this embodiment, the cleaning elements may additionally or alternatively comprise any one or more of the following, without limitation: filament bristles, fiber bristles, nylon bristles, spiral bristles, rubber bristles, elastomeric protrusions, flexible polymer protrusions, co-extruded filaments, flag bristles, crimped bristles, anti-bacterial bristles and combinations thereof and/or structures containing such materials or combinations.

The plurality of cleaning elements 130 can be connected to the head 120 in any manner known in the art. For example, anchor free tufting (AFT) could be used to connect the cleaning elements 130. In AFT, a plate or membrane is secured to the brush head 120 such as by ultrasonic welding. The bristles (or other elements, such as elastomeric elements) extend through the plate or membrane. The free, distal ends 131 of the bristles 130 on one side of the plate or membrane perform the cleaning function. The ends of the bristles 130 on the other side of the plate or membrane are melted together by heat to be anchored in place. Any suitable form of cleaning elements 130 may be used in the broad practice of this invention. Alternatively, the cleaning elements 130 could be mounted to tuft blocks or sections by extending through suitable openings in the tuft blocks so that the base of the cleaning elements 130 is mounted within or below the tuft block. Staple technology may instead be used.

Regardless as to the type and number of cleaning elements 130 provided, the or each cleaning element 130 has its distal end 131 furthest from the front surface 124 of the head 120. As illustrated in FIG. 1, at least one cleaning element 130 extends from the front surface 124 of the head 120 so that the longitudinal axis A-A of the implement 100 passes through the, some or each of the cleaning element(s) 130. For each of the cleaning element(s) 130 that the longitudinal axis A-A passes through, the axis A-A passes through the cleaning element 130 at a point on the cleaning element 130 between the front surface 124 of the head 120 and the free, distal end 131 of the cleaning element 130. The significance of this feature is explained below.

If desired, the rear surface 125 of the head 120 may comprise one or more structures for oral cleaning, such as one or more soft tissue cleansers (as shown in FIGS. 8(b) to 8(d)). Such soft tissue cleansers may be constructed of a thermoplastic elastomer (“TPE”) and may include one or more projections, such as nubs and/or ridges, for engaging and massaging soft oral tissue, such as the tongue.

The handle 110 of the implement 100 of this embodiment comprises, in addition to the body 140, a grip structure 150, or “grip”. The grip structure 150 forms a portion of an exterior surface 111 of the handle 110, and comprises a plurality of protrusions 158, such as one or more of nubs, bumps, ridges and ribs. The protrusions 158 provide the grip structure 150 with a textured surface, which aids a user's holding and manipulating of the implement 100 during an oral care session.

In this embodiment, the grip structure 150 consists of only one piece. In this embodiment, the grip structure 150 is constructed of a resilient material which, comprises a thermoplastic elastomer. In other embodiments, the resilient material may instead or also comprise styrene-ethylene/butylene-styrene (SEBS). In still further embodiments, the grip structure 150 may instead or additionally be constructed of one or more hard or rigid materials, such as hard plastic. The hard or rigid material may comprise any one or more of polyethylene, polypropylene, polyamide, polyester, cellulosics, styrene-acrylonitrile (SAN), acrylic, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and a thermoplastic. For example, as shown in FIG. 3 (discussed in more detail below), a second embodiment of the oral care implement 100 according to the present invention comprises a grip structure 150 having a first piece or portion 151 constructed of resilient material, which in the second embodiment is a thermoplastic elastomer, and a second piece or portion 152 connected to the first piece 151 and constructed of hard or rigid material, which in the second embodiment is a hard plastic, such as polypropylene.

Returning to the first embodiment of FIGS. 1 and 2, the grip structure 150 comprises a sleeve having an interior surface 153 that defines an interior cavity of the sleeve. The grip structure 150 and the body 140 are relatively arranged so that a first portion 145 of the body 140 is disposed within the interior cavity of the sleeve. The interior surface 153 of the grip structure 150 and an exterior surface 143 of the first portion 145 of the body 140 are dimensioned so as to permit movement of the grip structure 150 relative to the body 140. That is, a clearance in the form of an annular gap is provided between the interior surface 153 and the exterior surface 143. In the present embodiment, in which both of the interior surface 153 of the grip structure 150 and the exterior surface 143 of the portion of the body 140 are cylindrical, the diameter of the interior surface 153 is slightly greater than the diameter of the exterior surface 143.

The grip structure 150 is connected or mounted to the body 140 so as to be rotatable relative to the body 140. Moreover, the grip structure 150 is connected or mounted to the body 140 so as to be rotatable relative to the head 120, and thus relative to the cleaning element(s) 130. The grip structure 150 is rotatable relative to the body 140 and relative to the head 120 about the longitudinal axis A-A of the oral care implement 100. In this embodiment, the grip structure 150 is rotatable through 360 degrees (indeed, through more than 360 degrees) about the longitudinal axis A-A relative to the body 140 and relative to the head 120. Moreover, the grip structure 150 is free to rotate about the longitudinal axis A-A relative to the body 140 and relative to the head 120. That is, rotation of the grip structure 150 relative to the body 140 and relative to the head 120 is unrestricted by any other part of the implement 100 so, for example, the grip structure 150 not biased to a particular angular position relative to the body 140 or relative to the head 120.

Rotation of the grip structure 150 relative to the head 120 is illustrated in FIG. 1. An alternative position of the head 120 relative to the grip structure 150 is shown in dashed lines, this position being reached following relative rotational movement between the head 120 and the grip structure 150. This relative rotation is further illustrated in FIGS. 8(a) to 8(d). In each of FIGS. 8(a) to 8(d), the grip structure 150 is at the same position relative to the page, but the head 120 (and the body 140) are rotated through 90 degrees between successive Figures. The skilled person would be able to understand the similar relative rotational movement between the head 120 and the grip structure 150 in an embodiment of the implement 100 that excludes the body 140 (such as the fifth embodiment, discussed below).

The body 140 of the implement 100 of this embodiment comprises a first part 141, which includes the first portion 145 of the body 140 having the exterior surface 143 discussed above, and a second part 142. The two parts 141, 142 are two pieces of the body 140 connected together although, in a variation to this embodiment, the two parts 141, 142 could be a single, unitary piece. The first part 141 has a surface 141a, which is non-parallel to the longitudinal axis A-A, against which surface 141a a first axial end 150a of the gripping structure 150 abuts. With the first axial end 150a of the gripping structure 150 abutting the surface 141a of the first part 141, a second portion 146 of the first part 141 is not disposed within the internal cavity of the grip structure 150 but, instead, protrudes from a second axial end 150b of the grip structure 150. The second part 142 of the body 140 is connected to the first part 141 of the body 140 by any means, such as adhesive, welding, bonding, snap-fit connection, mating screw-threads, etc. The second part 142 has a surface 142a, which is non-parallel to the longitudinal axis A-A, against which surface 142a the second axial end 150b of the gripping structure 150 abuts. Accordingly, the grip structure 150 is disposed between the two parts 141, 142 of the body 140 so that the grip structure 150 is axially fixed relative to the body 140 and relative to the head 120 by the two parts 141, 142 of the body 140.

In a variation to the described embodiment, the axial length of the gripping structure 150 may be slightly shorter than the axial distance between the surface 141a of the first part 141 and the surface 142a of the second part 142, so that the first axial end 150a of the gripping structure 150 may not abut the surface 141a of the first part 141 at the same time as the second axial end 150b of the gripping structure 150 abuts the surface 142a of the second part 142, whereby a small degree of axial movement of the gripping structure 150 relative to the body 140 is permitted. Preferably the axial length of the gripping structure 150 is at least 90% of the axial distance between the surface 141a of the first part 141 and the surface 142a of the second part 142. More preferably, the axial length of the gripping structure 150 is at least 95% of the axial distance between the surface 141a of the first part 141 and the surface 142a of the second part 142.

In a variation to the illustrated first embodiment, the grip structure 150 is connected to the body 140 by a snap-fit connection, while still being freely rotatable about the axis A-A relative to the body 140 and head 120.

As discussed above, the grip structure 150 is freely rotatable about the longitudinal axis A-A relative to the head 120, and thus relative to the cleaning element(s) 130. Moreover, as also discussed above, the at least one cleaning element 130 extends from the front surface 124 of the head 120 so that the longitudinal axis A-A of the implement 100 passes through the, some or each of the cleaning elements 130. For each of the cleaning element(s) 130 that the longitudinal axis A-A passes through, the axis A-A passes through the cleaning element 130 at a point on the cleaning element 130 between the front surface 124 of the head 120 and the free, distal end 131 of the cleaning element 130. Accordingly, the oral care implement 100 has an “oral surface self-tracking function” during use in an oral care session. That is, as the cleaning element(s) 130 are moved across teeth, soft tissue or another oral surface, the head 120 and cleaning element(s) 130 rotate relative to the grip structure 150 to follow the oral surface, without the user needing to change their grip on the grip structure 150. Accordingly, without the user needing to move the surface of their hand and/or digits relative to the exterior surface of the grip structure 150, the cleaning element(s) 130 are free to follow the contours and undulations of the oral surface being cleaned. This provides improved cleaning of the user's oral cavity, since it is better ensured that the cleaning element(s) 130 on the head 120 of the implement 100 can reach and contact the oral surfaces to be cleaned.

In the present embodiment, the point on the cleaning element(s) 130 through which the axis A-A passes is at a location between the distal end 131 and the front surface 124 of the head 120. For at least some of the cleaning elements 130, the point may be at the respective distal ends 131 of the cleaning elements 130, which may better ensure that the distal ends 131 of the cleaning elements 130 track the oral surface being cleaned. For one or more other of the cleaning elements 130, the point is spaced from the respective distal ends 131 of the cleaning element(s) 130, which may better ensure that the cleaning elements 130 apply a force to the oral surface being cleaned, particularly if the cleaning elements 130 are resilient. In any case, preferably the point is closer to the distal ends 131 of the cleaning elements 130 than to the front surface 124 of the head 120.

As mentioned above, the oral care system of the first embodiment further comprises a lock. The lock element 200 is movable between a first state and a second state, as will be described in more detail below. In FIGS. 1 and 2, the lock element 200 is attached to the oral care implement 100 at a first position on the oral care implement 100, which is the lock's first state. More particularly, the lock element 200 is mounted on the second part 142 of the body 140 of the handle 110, which is not rotatable relative to the head 120. The lock element 200 includes an interior protrusion 201 that engages a groove in an exterior surface of the second part 142 of the handle 140, whereby the lock element 200 is prevented from rotation about the axis A-A relative to the head 120. When the lock is in this first state, i.e. the lock element 200 is in the first position shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the grip structure 150 is freely rotatable about the axis A-A relative to the head 120, as discussed above.

However, by gripping an outer surface 211 of the lock element 200, a user is able to move the lock element 200 in a direction towards the head 120 and parallel to the axis A-A from the first position to a second position on the oral care implement 100, to place the lock in its second state. This movement is relative to the handle 110, body 140, grip structure 150 and head 120. When the lock element 200 is at the second position, i.e. the lock is in its second state, the protrusion 201 at the interior of the lock element 200 engages both the groove in the second part 142 and a groove 159 formed in the exterior surface of the grip structure 150, whereby the grip structure 150 is prevented from rotating relative to the head 120. That is, the lock element 200 prevents the grip structure 150 from rotating relative to the head 120.

Subsequently, the user is able to move the lock element 200 from its second position to its first position, thereby removing the protrusion 201 from the groove 159 and permitting the grip structure 150 to rotate freely relative to the head 120.

FIG. 8(a) shows the lock element 200 in its second position, and FIGS. 8(b) to 8(d) show the lock element 200 in its first position, permitting relative free rotation of the head 120 and grip structure 150.

The oral care system of the first embodiment may be manufactured as follows. As a first step, the head 120 and the body 140 of the handle 110 are provided. They may be formed together during manufacture as a single, unitary piece, such as using an injection molding process, a milling process, and/or a machining process. Alternatively, the head 120 and body 140 may be formed initially as two separate pieces, such as by any of an injection molding process, a milling process, and/or a machining process, and subsequently connected to each other at a later stage of the manufacturing process by any suitable technique known in the art, including without limitation thermal welding, sonic welding, a tight-fit assembly, a coupling sleeve, adhesion, fasteners, and a snap-fit connection.

As a second step, the head 120 is provided with the at least one cleaning element 130 that extends from the front surface 124 of the head 120. This may be by any of the techniques discussed above, such as through AFT, through the use of staples, or otherwise. The or each of the at least one cleaning element 130 may take any of the forms discussed above, such as a tooth cleaning element, a soft tissue cleaning elements, a bristle, an elastomeric element, etc.

As a subsequent third step, the grip structure 150 (including groove 159) is provided and connected to the body 140, optionally by a snap-fit connection, so as to be freely rotatable relative to the body 140 about the longitudinal axis A-A of the implement 100, the grip structure 150 forming at least a portion of the exterior surface 111 of the handle 110. As discussed above, the axis A-A passes through the at least one cleaning element 130 at a point on the cleaning element 130 between the front surface 124 of the head 120 and the distal end 131 of the cleaning element 130. The grip structure 150 is disposed between the two parts 141, 142 of the body 140 so that the grip structure 150 is axially fixed relative to the body 140 and head 120 by the two parts 141, 142. That is, the sleeve of the grip structure 150 is slid over the body 140 so that the first portion 145 of the body 140 becomes located within the interior cavity of the sleeve. The second part 142 of the body is then connected to the first part 141 of the body by any of the mechanisms discussed above, so as to trap the grip structure 150 between the two parts 141, 142. The grip structure 150 may be provided by being made by any one of an injection molding process, a milling process, and/or a machining process.

In a variation to this method, the third step may be carried out before or at the same time as the second step.

Finally, the lock is provided by attaching the lock element 200 to the implement 100 at either the first position or the second position.

A second embodiment of the present invention will now be described with reference to FIG. 3. The second embodiment comprises all of the above-described elements of the first embodiment of the present invention, and the like elements are indicated in FIG. 3 with the same reference numerals as used in FIGS. 1 and 2. In the interests of conciseness, the elements common to the two embodiments will not be described in detail again with reference to FIG. 3. All of the above-described possible variations to the first embodiment are equally applicable to the second embodiment.

The oral care implement 100 of the system of the second embodiment differs from the implement 100 of the first embodiment only in the form and construction of the grip structure 150. In the first embodiment, the grip structure 150 consists of only one piece. In the second embodiment, the grip structure consists of two or more pieces connected together. More specifically, the grip structure 150 has a first piece 151 constructed of resilient material, such as a thermoplastic elastomer and/or SEBS, and a second piece 152 constructed of hard or rigid material, in this case a hard plastic, such as polypropylene. The hard or rigid material may alternatively or additionally comprise any of the plastics discussed above.

The first piece 151 forms most of the exterior surface of the grip structure 150. In a variation to this embodiment, the first piece 151 may form all of the exterior surface of the grip structure 150. There may be provided a plurality of such first pieces 151, each of which is connected to the second piece 152. In such a variation, the first piece(s) 151 may each comprise a protrusion from the second piece, such as a nub, bump, ridge or rib, to aid a user's grip on the grip structure 150.

The grip structure 150 is connected to the body 140 by way of the second piece 152 being connected to, or mounted on, the body 140. The first piece 151 is not directly connected to the body 140, but only is connected to the body 140 indirectly via the second piece 152. The grip structure 150 is disposed between the two parts 141, 142 of the body 140, as discussed above for the first embodiment. Since both the body 140 and the second piece 152 of the grip structure are formed of a hard material, the grip structure 150 is able easily to rotate freely relative to the body 140 with the body 140 and the second piece 152 contacting one another. However, since the first piece 151 is constructed of a resilient material, the grip structure 150 has a comfortable exterior surface for gripping. Preferably, the coefficient of friction of the exterior surface of the first piece 151 is greater than the coefficient of friction of the interior surface 153 of the second piece 152.

The lock element 200 of the system of the second embodiment is substantially the same as the lock element 200 of the first embodiment, except that the groove 159 is formed only in the first piece 151 of the grip structure 150. In a variation to this embodiment, the groove 159 may extend through both the first and second pieces 151, 152 of the grip structure 150.

The oral care system of the second embodiment may be manufactured substantially in accordance with the above-described method of manufacture of the first embodiment, differing only in the manner by which the grip structure 150 is provided. According to the second embodiment, the grip structure 150 is made by first forming the second piece 152 of the hard material, for example by way of one of an injection molding process, a milling process, and/or a machining process. The second piece 152 may be rotationally symmetrical and preferably has cylindrical symmetry. The material of the first piece (s) 151 is then moulded onto the second piece 152, such as by injection moulding. Also, the groove 159 is formed in one or both of the first and second pieces 151, 152.

A third embodiment of the present invention will now be described with reference to FIG. 4. The third embodiment comprises many of the above-described elements of the first embodiment of the present invention, and the like elements are indicated in FIG. 4 with the same reference numerals as used in FIGS. 1 and 2. In the interests of conciseness, the elements common to the two embodiments will not be described in detail again with reference to FIG. 4. All of the above-described possible variations to the first and second embodiments are equally applicable to the third embodiment.

In the third embodiment, the handle 110 still comprises a body 140 and a grip structure 150, but the body 140 does not have a part equivalent to the second part 142. The body 140 consists of only one part 141 and is constructed of a hard or rigid material, such as a hard plastic. A portion 145 of the body 140 comprises a sleeve having an interior surface 146 that defines an interior cavity of the sleeve, and a first portion 155 of the grip structure 150 is disposed within the interior cavity of the sleeve. A second portion 157 of the grip structure 150 comprises an exterior surface for holding by a user, which exterior surface forms a portion of the exterior surface 111 of the handle 110.

The interior surface 146 of the body 140 and an exterior surface 156 of the first portion 155 of the grip structure 150 are dimensioned so as to permit movement of the grip structure 150 relative to the body 140. That is, a clearance in the form of an annular gap is provided between the interior surface 146 and the exterior surface 156. In the present embodiment, in which both of the interior surface 146 of the body 140 and the exterior surface 156 of the first portion 155 of the grip structure 150 are cylindrical, the diameter of the interior surface 146 is slightly greater than the diameter of the exterior surface 156.

The grip structure 150 is connected to the body 140 by way of a snap-fit connection between the grip structure 150 and the body 140, more specifically between a second piece 152 of the grip structure 150 and the body 140. However, in variations to this embodiment, other forms of connection may be used. The grip structure 150 is freely rotatable relative to the body 140. Moreover, the grip structure 150 is connected or mounted to the body 140 so as to be freely rotatable relative to the head 120, and thus relative to the cleaning element(s) 130. The grip structure 150 is freely rotatable relative to the body 140 and relative to the head 120 about the longitudinal axis A-A of the oral care implement 100.

In the third embodiment, the grip structure 150 consists of two pieces 151, 152 connected together. More specifically, the grip structure 150 has a first piece 151 constructed of resilient material, such as a thermoplastic elastomer and/or SEBS, and the second piece 152 constructed of hard or rigid material, in this case a hard plastic, such as polypropylene. The hard or rigid material may alternatively or additionally comprise any of the plastics discussed above.

The first piece 151 forms most of the exterior surface of the grip structure 150. In a variation to this embodiment, the first piece 151 may form all of the exterior surface of the grip structure 150. The grip structure 150 is connected to the body 140 by way of the second piece 152 being connected to, or mounted on, the body 140. The first piece 151 is not directly connected to the body 140, but only is connected to the body 140 indirectly via the second piece 152. Since both the body 140 and the second piece 152 of the grip structure are formed of a hard material, the grip structure 150 is able easily to rotate relative to the body 140 with the body 140 and the second piece 152 contacting one another. However, since the first piece 151 is constructed of a resilient material, the grip structure 150 has a comfortable exterior surface for gripping. Preferably, the coefficient of friction of the exterior surface of the first piece 151 is greater than the coefficient of friction of the exterior surface 156 of the second piece 152.

In a variation to the illustrated third embodiment, the grip structure 150 may consist of only one piece, and may be constructed of any one or more of the materials discussed above for grip structures 150 of the first and second embodiments.

The oral care system of the third embodiment further comprises a lock comprising a lock element 200. In FIG. 4, the lock element 200 is attached to the oral care implement 100 at a first position on the oral care implement 100, which is the lock's first state. More particularly, the lock element 200 is mounted on the grip structure 150, which is rotatable relative to the head 120. The lock element 200 includes an interior protrusion 201 that engages a groove in an exterior surface of the grip structure 150, whereby the lock element 200 is prevented from rotation about the axis A-A relative to the grip structure 150. When the lock is in this first state, i.e. the lock element 200 is in the first position shown in FIG. 4, the grip structure 150 is freely rotatable about the axis A-A relative to the head 120, as discussed above.

However, by gripping an outer surface 211 of the lock element 200, a user is able to move the lock element 200 in a direction towards the head 120 and parallel to the axis A-A from the first position to a second position on the oral care implement 100, to place the lock in its second state. This movement is relative to the handle 110, body 140, grip structure 150 and head 120. When the lock element 200 is at the second position, i.e. the lock is in its second state, the protrusion 201 at the interior of the lock element 200 engages both the groove in the grip structure 150 and a groove 149 formed in the exterior surface of the body 140, which is not rotatable relative to the head 120. Accordingly, the grip structure 150 becomes prevented from rotating relative to the head 120. That is, the lock element 200 prevents the grip structure 150 from rotating relative to the head 120.

Subsequently, the user is able to move the lock element 200 from its second position to its first position, thereby removing the protrusion 201 from the groove 149 and permitting the grip structure 150 to rotate freely relative to the head 120. The oral care system of the third embodiment may be manufactured substantially in accordance with the above-described method of manufacture of the second embodiment, differing only in the manner by which the grip structure 150 is connected to the body 140. According to the second embodiment, a portion of the body 140 is disposed within a sleeve of the grip structure 150. In contrast, in the third embodiment, the first portion 155 of the grip structure 150 is disposed within the sleeve of the body 140, and optionally is connected to the body 140 by a snap-fit connection. Also, in the third embodiment, the groove 159 is provided at the end of the grip structure 150 proximal the first part 141 of the body 140. In the third embodiment, the lock is provided by attaching the lock element 200 to the implement 100 at either the first position or the second position.

A fourth embodiment of the present invention will now be described with reference to FIG. 5. The fourth embodiment comprises many of the above-described elements of the second embodiment of the present invention, and the like elements are indicated in FIG. 5 with the same reference numerals as used in FIG. 3. In the interests of conciseness, the elements common to the two embodiments will not be described in detail again with reference to FIG. 5. All of the above-described possible variations to the first to third embodiments are equally applicable to the fourth embodiment.

In the fourth embodiment, the handle 110 still comprises a body 140 and a grip structure 150 but, in contrast with the second embodiment, the body 140 does not have a part equivalent to the second part 142. The body 140 consists of only one part 141 and is constructed of a hard or rigid material, such as a hard plastic.

As for the second embodiment, the grip structure 150 has two pieces 151, 152. The first piece 151 is constructed of resilient material, such as a thermoplastic elastomer and/or SEBS, and the second piece 152 is constructed of hard or rigid material, in this case a hard plastic, such as polypropylene. The hard or rigid material may alternatively or additionally comprise any of the plastics discussed above. The first piece 151 forms most of the exterior surface of the grip structure 150. In a variation to this embodiment, the first piece 151 may only form all of the exterior surface of the grip structure 150. The grip structure 150 is connected to the body 140 by way of the second piece 152 being connected to, or mounted on, the body 140. The first piece 151 is not directly connected to the body 140, but only is connected to the body 140 indirectly via the second piece 152. Since both the body 140 and the second piece 152 of the grip structure are formed of a hard material, the grip structure 150 is able easily to rotate relative to the body 140 with the body 140 and the second piece 152 contacting one another. However, since the first piece 151 is constructed of a resilient material, the grip structure 150 has a comfortable exterior surface for gripping. Preferably, the coefficient of friction of the exterior surface of the first piece 151 is greater than the coefficient of friction of the interior surface 153 of the second piece 152.

The grip structure 150 is connected to the body 140 by way of a snap-fit connection between the grip structure 150 and the body 140, more specifically between the second piece 152 of the grip structure 150 and the body 140. However, in variations to this embodiment, other forms of connection may be used. The grip structure 150 is freely rotatable relative to the body 140. Moreover, the grip structure 150 is connected or mounted to the body 140 so as to be freely rotatable relative to the head 120, and thus relative to the cleaning element(s) 130. The grip structure 150 is freely rotatable relative to the body 140 and relative to the head 120 about the longitudinal axis A-A of the oral care implement 100.

In a variation to the illustrated fourth embodiment, the grip structure 150 may consist of only one piece, and may be constructed of any one or more of the materials discussed above for grip structures 150 of the first, second and third embodiments.

The oral care system of the fourth embodiment further comprises a lock comprising a lock element 200. In FIG. 5, the lock element 200 is attached to the oral care implement 100 at a first position on the oral care implement 100, which is the lock's first state. More particularly, the lock element 200 is mounted on the first part 141 of the body 140 of the handle, which is not rotatable relative to the head 120. The lock element 200 includes an interior protrusion 201 that engages a groove in an exterior surface of the first part 141 of the body, whereby the lock element 200 is prevented from rotation about the axis A-A relative to the head 120. When the lock is in this first state, i.e. the lock element 200 is in the first position shown in FIG. 5, the grip structure 150 is freely rotatable about the axis A-A relative to the head 120, as discussed above.

However, by gripping an outer surface 211 of the lock element 200, a user is able to move the lock element 200 in a direction away from the head 120 and parallel to the axis A-A from the first position to a second position on the oral care implement 100, to place the lock in its second state. This movement is relative to the handle 110, body 140, grip structure 150 and head 120. When the lock element 200 is at the second position, i.e. the lock is in its second state, the protrusion 201 at the interior of the lock element 200 engages both the groove in the first part 141 and a groove 159 formed in the exterior surface of the grip structure 150, whereby the grip structure 150 is prevented from rotating relative to the head 120. That is, the lock element 200 prevents the grip structure 150 from rotating relative to the head 120.

Subsequently, the user is able to move the lock element 200 from its second position to its first position, thereby removing the protrusion 201 from the groove 159 and permitting the grip structure 150 to rotate freely relative to the head 120.

The oral care system of the fourth embodiment may be manufactured substantially in accordance with the above-described method of manufacture of the second embodiment, differing only in the manner by which the grip structure 150 is connected to the body 140. According to the second embodiment, the grip structure 150 is disposed or trapped between two parts 141, 142 of the body 140. In contrast, in the fourth embodiment, no second part 142 of the body is provided, and the grip structure 150 is connected to the body 140 by way of a snap-fit connection between the grip structure 150 and the body 140, or by way of another suitable connection that still permits the rotation of the grip structure 150 relative to the head 120 and body 140. The groove 159 is formed at the end of the grip structure 150 proximal the first part 141 of the body 140.

In the fourth embodiment, the lock is provided by attaching the lock element 200 to the implement 100 at either the first position or the second position.

A fifth embodiment of the present invention will now be described with reference to FIG. 6. The fifth embodiment comprises many of the above-described elements of the third embodiment of the present invention, and the like elements are indicated in FIG. 6 with the same reference numerals as used in FIG. 4. In the interests of conciseness, the elements common to the two embodiments will not be described in detail again with reference to FIG. 6. All of the above-described possible variations to the first to fourth embodiments are equally applicable to the fifth embodiment.

In the fifth embodiment, the handle 110 no longer has a part equivalent to the body 140. The handle 110 consists of only the grip structure 150, which is rotatably connected to the head 120. The head 120 comprises a sleeve having an interior surface 127 that defines an interior cavity of the sleeve, and a first portion 155 of the grip structure 150 is disposed within the interior cavity of the sleeve. A second portion 157 of the grip structure 150 comprises an exterior surface for holding by a user, which exterior surface forms a portion of the exterior surface 111 of the handle 110.

The interior surface 127 of the head 120 and an exterior surface 156 of the first portion 155 of the grip structure 150 are dimensioned so as to permit movement of the grip structure 150 relative to the head 120. That is, a clearance in the form of an annular gap is provided between the interior surface 127 and the exterior surface 156. In the present embodiment, in which both of the interior surface 127 of the head 120 and the exterior surface 156 of the first portion 155 of the grip structure 150 are cylindrical, the diameter of the interior surface 127 is slightly greater than the diameter of the exterior surface 156.

The grip structure 150 is connected to the head 120 by way of a snap-fit connection between the grip structure 150 and the head 120, more specifically between a second piece 152 of the grip structure 150 and the head 120. However, in variations to this embodiment, other forms of connection may be used. The grip structure 150 is freely rotatable relative to the head 120, and thus relative to the cleaning element(s) 130, about the longitudinal axis A-A of the oral care implement 100.

The grip structure 150 consists of two pieces 151, 152 connected together. More specifically, the grip structure 150 has a first piece 151 constructed of resilient material, such as a thermoplastic elastomer and/or SEBS, and the second piece 152 constructed of hard or rigid material, in this case a hard plastic, such as polypropylene. The hard or rigid material may alternatively or additionally comprise any of the plastics discussed above.

The first piece 151 forms most of the exterior surface of the grip structure 150. In a variation to this embodiment, the first piece 151 may form all of the exterior surface of the grip structure 150. The grip structure 150 is connected to the head 120 by way of the second piece 152 being connected to, or mounted on, the head 120. The first piece 151 is not directly connected to the head 120, but only is connected to the head 120 indirectly via the second piece 152. Since both the head 120 and the second piece 152 of the grip structure 150 are formed of a hard material, the grip structure 150 is able easily to rotate relative to the head 120 with the head 120 and the second piece 152 contacting one another. However, since the first piece 151 is constructed of a resilient material, the grip structure 150 has a comfortable exterior surface for gripping. Preferably, the coefficient of friction of the exterior surface of the first piece 151 is greater than the coefficient of friction of the exterior surface 156 of the second piece 152.

In a variation to the illustrated fifth embodiment, the grip structure 150 may consist of only one piece, and may be constructed of any one or more of the materials discussed above for grip structures 150 of the first to fourth embodiments.

The oral care system of the fifth embodiment further comprises a lock comprising a lock element 200. In FIG. 6, the lock element 200 is attached to the oral care implement 100 at a first position on the oral care implement 100, which is the lock's first state. More particularly, the lock element 200 is mounted on the grip structure 150, which is rotatable relative to the head 120. The lock element 200 includes an interior protrusion 201 that engages a groove in an exterior surface of the grip structure 150, whereby the lock element 200 is prevented from rotation about the axis A-A relative to the grip structure 150. When the lock is in this first state, i.e. the lock element 200 is in the first position shown in FIG. 6, the grip structure 150 is freely rotatable about the axis A-A relative to the head 120, as discussed above.

However, by gripping an outer surface 211 of the lock element 200, a user is able to move the lock element 200 in a direction towards the head 120 and parallel to the axis A-A from the first position to a second position on the oral care implement 100, to place the lock in its second state. This movement is relative to the handle 110, grip structure 150 and head 120. When the lock element 200 is at the second position, i.e. the lock is in its second state, the protrusion 201 at the interior of the lock element 200 engages both the groove in the grip structure 150 and a groove 129 formed in the exterior surface of a proximal portion 121 of the head 120. Accordingly, the grip structure 150 becomes prevented from rotating relative to the head 120. That is, the lock element 200 prevents the grip structure 150 from rotating relative to the head 120.

Subsequently, the user is able to move the lock element 200 from its second position to its first position, thereby removing the protrusion 201 from the groove 129 and permitting the grip structure 150 to rotate freely relative to the head 120.

The oral care implement 100 of the fifth embodiment may be manufactured substantially in accordance with the above-described method of manufacture of the third embodiment, differing only in that the grip structure 150 of the handle 110 is connected to the head 120 rather than to a body of the handle 110. According to the fifth embodiment, the first portion 155 of the grip structure 150 of the handle 110 is disposed within the sleeve of the head 120.

More specifically, the oral care implement 100 of the fifth embodiment may be manufactured according to the following steps. First, the head 120 is provided, including the groove 129. Then, as a second step, the head 120 is provided with at least one cleaning element 130 that extends from the first surface 124 surface of the head 120. As a third step, the handle 110 is connected to the head 120, the handle 110 comprising the grip structure 150 that forms at least a portion of the exterior surface 111 of the handle 110, the handle 110 being connected to the head 120 so that the grip structure 150 is freely rotatable relative to the head 120 about the axis A-A, wherein the axis A-A passes through the cleaning element 130 at a point on the cleaning element 130 between the surface 124 of the head 120 and the distal end 131 of the cleaning element 130.

In a variation to this method, the third step may be carried out before or at the same time as the second step.

Finally, the lock is provided by attaching the lock element 200 to the implement 100 at either the first position or the second position.

In the fifth embodiment, the connection between the head 120 and the handle 110 may be such that the head 120 is connectable and, preferably, then disconnectable from the handle 110, such that the head 120 may be replaced when worn. Indeed, in respective variations to each of the described embodiments, the handle 110 may be connectable to the head 120 and preferably then disconnectable. The present invention may be embodied as a kit of parts for an oral care system, the kit of parts comprising: one or more heads 120 having a surface 124 from which at least one cleaning element 130 extends, the cleaning element 130 preferably having a distal end 131 furthest from the surface 124 of the head 120; a handle 110 connectable to the head 120, the handle 110 comprising a grip structure 150 forming at least a portion of an exterior surface 111 of the handle 110; and a lock that is movable between a first state and a second state when the handle 110 is connected to the head 120; wherein, when the lock is in the first state, the grip structure 150 iz freely rotatable relative to the head 120 about an axis A-A that preferably passes through the cleaning element 130 at a point on the cleaning element 130 between the surface 124 of the head 120 and the distal end 131 of the cleaning element 130 and, when the lock is in the second state, the grip structure 150 is prevented from rotating relative to the head 120.

A sixth embodiment of the present invention will now be described with reference to FIG. 7. The sixth embodiment comprises many of the above-described elements of the fourth embodiment of the present invention, and the like elements are indicated in FIG. 7 with the same reference numerals as used in FIG. 5. In the interests of conciseness, the elements common to the two embodiments will not be described in detail again with reference to FIG. 7. All of the above-described possible variations to the first to fifth embodiments are equally applicable to the sixth embodiment.

In this embodiment, the head 120 is connected to the handle 110 of the implement 100. More specifically, the head 120 is connected to a body 140 of the handle 110. The handle 110 comprises, in addition to the body 140, a grip structure 150, or “grip”, which forms an exterior surface 111 of the handle 110. The grip structure 150 comprises a sleeve having an interior surface 153 that defines an interior cavity of the sleeve. The grip structure 150 and the body 140 are relatively arranged so that a first portion 145 of the body 140 is disposed within the interior cavity of the sleeve. The interior surface 153 of the grip structure 150 and an exterior surface 143 of the first portion 145 of the body 140 are dimensioned so as to permit movement of the grip structure 150 relative to the body 140. That is, a clearance in the form of an annular gap is provided between the interior surface 153 and the exterior surface 143. In the present embodiment, in which both of the interior surface 153 of the grip structure 150 and the exterior surface 143 of the portion of the body 140 are cylindrical, the diameter of the interior surface 153 is slightly greater than the diameter of the exterior surface 143.

The grip structure 150 is connected or mounted to the body 140 so as to be freely rotatable relative to the body 140. Moreover, the grip structure 150 is connected or mounted to the body 140 so as to be freely rotatable relative to the head 120, and thus relative to the cleaning element(s) 130. The grip structure 150 is freely rotatable relative to the body 140 and relative to the head 120 about the longitudinal axis A-A of the oral care implement 100. Note that the longitudinal axis A-A does not pass through any cleaning element 130 at a point on the cleaning element 130 between the surface 124 of the head 120 and the distal end 131 of the cleaning element 130. However, in variations to this embodiment, it may instead do so.

The grip structure 150 comprises first and second sections 152a, 152b, each of which preferably is constructed of one or more hard or rigid materials, such as hard plastic. The hard or rigid material may comprise any one or more of the materials discussed above. Each of the first and second sections 152a, 152b has a respective interior surface 153a, 153b. The grip structure 150 is connected to the body 140 by way of the first portion 145 of the body 140 being sandwiched between the first and second sections 152a, 152b, so that the interior surfaces 153a, 153b of the first and second sections 152a, 152b face the exterior surface 143 of the first portion 145 of the body 140. Together, the interior surfaces 153a, 153b form the interior surface 153 of the grip structure 150. The first and second sections 152a, 152b are joined to each other, by adhesive, welding, or by other means, at a join between the first and second sections 152a, 152b that extends parallel to the longitudinal axis A-A.

The exterior surface 143 of the first portion 145 of the body 140 has an annular protrusion 147, with the axis A-A passing through a centre of the annulus. Each of the interior surfaces 153a, 153b includes a recess 154a, 154b taking the shape of a semi-annulus whereby, when first and second sections 152a, 152b are joined to each other with the first portion 145 of the body 140 therebetween, the interior surface 153 of the grip structure 150 has an annular recess 154 that receives the annular protrusion 147. The combination of the annular recess 154 and the annular protrusion 147 creates an interference fit between the body 140 and the grip structure 150, whereby the grip structure 150 is immovable relative to the body 140 in the direction of the axis A-A. In variations to this embodiment, the recess 154 and protrusion 147 may be non-annular.

The oral care system of the sixth embodiment further comprises a lock comprising a lock element 200. The lock is structured and operated in substantially the same way as the lock of the fourth embodiment, so detailed description thereof will be omitted in the interests of conciseness. However, the locks differ in that, in the sixth embodiment, the groove 159 is formed only in the second sections 152b the grip structure 150. In a variation to this embodiment, the groove 159 may extend into both the first and second sections 152a, 152b of the grip structure 150.

The oral care implement 100 of the sixth embodiment may be manufactured by providing the head 120 and the handle 110, the handle 110 having a body 140 connected to the head 120; providing the head 120 with one or more cleaning elements 130 that extend from a surface 124 of the head 120, the cleaning elements each having a distal end 131 furthest from the surface 124 of the head 120; and connecting the grip structure 150 to the body 140 by sandwiching the first portion 145 of the body 140 between first and second sections 152a, 152b of the grip structure 150 and connecting the first and second sections 152a, 152b to each other. Note that the second section 152b includes the groove 159. The grip structure 150 is connected to the body 140 so that it forms at least a portion of the exterior surface 111 of the handle 110 and so that it is connected to the body 140 so as to be freely rotatable relative to the body 140 about the axis A-A that passes through the cleaning elements 130 at a point on some or all of the cleaning elements 130 between the surface 124 of the head 120 and the distal ends 131 of the cleaning elements 130. Finally, the lock is provided by attaching the lock element 200 to the implement 100 at either the first position or the second position.

In other variations to the described embodiments, the head 120 may include various oral surface engaging elements, such as inter-proximal picks, brushes, a flossing element, a plaque scraper, tongue cleansers and soft tissue massagers.

In each of the above embodiments, the grip structure 150 is manually rotatable about the longitudinal axis A-A relative to the head 120 (and relative to the body 140, where provided). That is, the rotation of the grip structure 150 is not caused or effectable by any part of the implement 100 itself, so that the rotation of the grip structure 150 must be effected by a user turning the grip structure 150 relative to the head 120 (and body 140 where provided). In respective variations to the described embodiments, the implement 100 may itself comprise a powered rotator, such as a motor, for effecting the rotation of the grip structure 150. The powered rotator may be operable by a user to effect the rotation of the grip structure 150.

In each of the first, second, third, fifth and sixth embodiments discussed above, at least one cleaning element 130 extends from the front surface 124 of the head 120 so that the longitudinal axis A-A of the implement 100 passes through the, some or each of the cleaning element(s) 130. For each of the cleaning element(s) 130 that the longitudinal axis A-A passes through, the axis A-A passes through the cleaning element 130 at a point on the cleaning element 130 between the front surface 124 of the head 120 and the free, distal end 131 of the cleaning element 130. However, in respective variations to these embodiments, the longitudinal axis A-A does not pass through any cleaning element 130 at a point on the cleaning element 130 between the surface 124 of the head 120 and the distal end 131 of the cleaning element 130. The respective methods of manufacture would be amended accordingly.

In each of the above-described embodiments, the lock provides a means for a user to selectively permit free rotation of the grip structure 150 relative to the head 120. In each of the above-described embodiments, the lock element 200 comprises a C-clip. In other embodiments, the lock element 200 comprises a collar, preferably an annular collar, attached to the implement 100.

In each of the above-described embodiments, the lock element 200 is movable between first and second positions on the implement 100. In other embodiments, this need not be possible. In such other embodiments, in the first state, the lock element 200 may be detached from the oral care implement 100, and, in the second state, the lock element 200 may be attached to the oral care implement 100 at one of the above-described second positions on the oral care implement 100 thereby to prevent the grip structure 150 from rotating relative to the head 120.

In each of the above-described methods of manufacture, the lock is provided by attaching the lock element 200 to the implement 100 at either the first position or the second position. In methods of other embodiments, the lock element 200 is not attached to the implement 100, but is instead merely provided with the implement, e.g. packaged with the implement 100, and is attachable to the implement 100.

In each of the above-described embodiments, the lock element 200 has a protrusion 201 that engages a feature in the form of a groove in the implement 100. In other embodiments, the feature additionally or alternatively comprises one or more of a groove, a channel, a hole, a gap and a protrusion. The methods of manufacture would be appropriately and correspondingly amended.

While the invention has been described with respect to specific examples including presently preferred modes of carrying out the invention, those skilled in the art will appreciate that there are numerous variations and permutations of the above described systems and techniques. It is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and structural and functional modifications may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention. Thus, the scope of the invention should be construed broadly as set forth in the appended claims.