Story about CEO of bluereo's Journey to Develop an Electric Suction Toothbrush
CEO Seung-min Lee and bluereo's founding story
While volunteering at a facility for disabled welfare, a young man in his 20s had a thought. "Why isn't there a toothbrush specifically designed for individuals with mobility impairments caused by cerebral palsy?" Disabled individuals with limited mobility often struggle to control their bodies, leading to issues like spilling or swallowing toothpaste. While most rely on the assistance of guardians, the task of supporting their head with one hand while spitting out toothpaste with the other hand is a laborious and challenging endeavor.
Seung-min Lee, the young man, held the position of CEO at bluereo. Through volunteer experience, he made a commitment to develop an electric toothbrush specifically designed for individuals with disabilities and limited mobility. He believed that an electric suction toothbrush capable of simultaneously brushing and suctioning would be beneficial for individuals such as the disabled, elderly, and patients.
He established bluereo in 2016, unveiled the G100 electric suction toothbrush in 2019 after three years of research and development. During a recent meeting at bluereo's office in Seoul, the CEO stated, "Oral care for individuals with limited mobility causes significant mental and physical distress for both patients and caregivers. To address this issue, we embarked on the challenge of developing an electric toothbrush with suction capabilities and have received positive responses from advanced welfare countries.
Q&A session with CEO Seung-min Lee
The following is a Q&A session with CEO Seung-min Lee
1. Please introduce the Electric Suction Toothbrush developed by bluereo.
The G100 electric suction toothbrush, developed by bluereo as the world's first of its kind, is designed for individuals with limited mobility who struggle with brushing their teeth independently, such as disabled individuals and patients. While the overall design is similar to regular electric toothbrushes, the power button is conveniently placed on the back of the device for ease of use by caregivers. Additionally, the toothbrush head has a small opening that allows for the suction of 16.9 fl. oz. of toothpaste per minute. The suctioned toothpaste can be hygienically collected in a reusable container through a dedicated hose. Similar to the suctioning of water during dental treatments, the electric toothbrush allows for the simultaneous brushing and suctioning of foam and toothpaste in the mouth. By reducing the time needed for caregivers, to assist with brushing by over 60% compared to conventional methods, it helps alleviate their fatigue."
2. Is bluereo the only company that offers an electric suction toothbrush?
Bluereo is the sole provider of electric suction toothbrush worldwide. As the pioneer in introducing this innovation to the market, bluereo has filed for 95 intellectual property rights (IP) domestically and internationally, with 28 registered patents applied to the product. With a patent office as a shareholder, bluereo ensures the systematic management of its intellectual property rights.
One of bluereo's significant competitive advantages is that its products are developed based on firsthand experiences and observations in the field of welfare. Recognizing the necessity of the product in welfare facilities, feedback from these environments was incorporated into the development process. bluereo takes pride in receiving positive evaluations and support from industry professionals such as assistive technology experts and social workers, as the product was developed in collaboration with assistive device centers.
By incorporating ultrasonic vibrations into the electric toothbrush, bluereo elevates the quality of oral care services, and the suctioning feature has also garnered praise from nurses who primarily assist with oral care. bluereo believes that due to the absence of oral care products specifically designed for individuals with disabilities, the company has gained recognition and empathy from international buyers, leading to potential exports.
3. What has the feedback been from users who have actually used the product?
Even after the development of the electric suction toothbrush, bluereo actively incorporates feedback from caregivers and nursing assistants to enhance the product's completeness. Based on various opinions, including concerns about excessive suction power causing discomfort, the product has been modified and perfected. Through multiple feedback sources, bluereo has received positive evaluations and support from assistive technology experts and social workers."
4. Where is electric suction toothbrush g100 primarily sold now?
We are currently exporting our products to 30 clients in 20 countries, with a focus on the European, North American, and Japanese markets. Particularly in Northern Europe and the United States, including Norway, our product is registered as a medical aid, allowing individuals to receive the product at no personal cost or with partial coverage. Since the launch of the electric suction toothbrush in 2019 with sales of 160 million KRW, our revenue has grown rapidly, reaching 580 million KRW in 2020, 1.2 billion in 2021, and 1.5 billion in 2022.
5. Are there any plans for further product development?
We have plans to enhance the G100 electric suction toothbrush by introducing a feature that dispenses clean water. This addition aims to enable the entire process of supplying, brushing teeth, and suctioning toothpaste to be completed with a single electric suction toothbrush. Like providing oral care services to individuals lying on medical facility beds or seated in wheelchairs, we are developing the product to facilitate a paradigm shift in the oral care environment. bluereo's goal is to develop technology that assists with oral care without any difficulties for those with physical discomfort.
6. What are your thoughts on the continuing lack of oral care for vulnerable individuals in society?
Many advanced countries, including South Korea, Japan, and the United Kingdom, are rapidly entering an aging society. Simultaneously, maintaining oral health is essential and requires proper management and prevention. However, there has been an expansion of post-treatment methods such as implants and prosthetic dental care due to the lack of proactive oral care. As a result, the escalating costs of dental treatment for the elderly and patients have become a significant social issue worldwide.
Fortunately, advanced countries are enacting and implementing laws and policies that make oral care mandatory or reinforce it in care facilities. In Japan, oral care services within care facilities have become legally mandated. In South Korea, a policy to provide scaling as a health insurance benefit for the entire population has been in effect since 2013. In our society as well, the importance of oral care for vulnerable individuals is increasing, and there is a growing recognition and policy focus on preventive oral health management rather than relying solely on post-treatment options like implants. Consequently, it is anticipated that the market size will significantly expand in accordance with this perception and policy shift towards prioritizing oral health prevention and management.
7. What are Bluereo's goals for business diversification?
Bluereo has been actively participating in the registration of its products within the national medical aid policies in the United States and select countries in Northern Europe, providing support and reimbursement for customers' purchases. Moving forward, bluereo directly plans to aim to register its products within the medical aid policies of many countries worldwide. This will enable consumers to acquire bluereo products more easily and affordably.
The business objective of bluereo is clear. To become a leading K-Healthcare company in the global market with oral care products for vulnerable individuals, revolutionizing the paradigm of their oral health and challenging the existing limitations of oral care environments.