Ever since I first got hung up on floss, I’ve had conviction that one of the ways to help more people floss daily — and prevent a lifelong battle with gum disease and tooth decay — is to get them started when they’re young kids. This strong belief led to the creation of our new Refillable Cocoflosser for Toddlers. But hold on — it wasn’t that easy.
This small, seemingly simple device is actually the result of providing dental care in parking lots, a trek to Peru, endless hours in a cramped office, nightly struggles with my tot, and years of thought about how to truly make a meaningful difference in the health and well-being of others. It all started when I was just a kid myself.
I grew up spending after-school hours in my mom’s dental office, mostly doing my homework but also appreciating the bustle of the dental practice. Aside from having fun tinkering with the assorted office goodies and dental materials, I loved seeing the relationships my mom had with her patients of all ages, and how she could restore, heal, and transform smiles for people in often life-changing ways.
These childhood memories lie at the core of my drive to reinvent smile care.
In college, I connected with other women who were also considering dentistry for their careers. Together we volunteered at local elementary schools, teaching young children about oral care. This was where and how I decided to follow my mom’s footsteps and pursue dentistry. Sharing prevention education to these children felt truly rewarding and was so much fun — and so my decision was made!
In dental school at the University of the Pacific, I led S.C.O.P.E., Student Community Outreach for Public Education. I coordinated and volunteered in a broad spectrum of underserved community outreach programs. In places like community centers, farmlands, and parking lots, I screened and educated people without access to dental care.
At this time I began to think about what I wanted to accomplish as a dentist. How would I help the most people and create the biggest impact?
After graduating from dental school in 2008, I had the privilege of establishing my own style of care and patient base out of a single chair that my mom was not using in her own practice in San Mateo.
My obsession with floss was born out of this very unique circumstance. My startup dental practice was booming, but I only had that one chair to work out of and thus no time or space to physically do the treatments I prescribed for my patients. So I doubled down on my efforts to educate my patients on prevention.
My unique approach to dental care only grew my practice even more. Thanks to patients who appreciated my conservative style and the time I took to educate them, they referred friends and family, and left glowing online reviews that made our phone ring off the hook with new patients wanting to see me.
Still, my lack of time to see or treat patients incited deep frustration with the state of oral-care and prevention education. The majority of my adult patients had some form of gum disease, and over half of all the cavities I treated (on children and adults) involved areas in between teeth. How could it be that gum disease and tooth decay were (are?) so prevalent, and yet even the most well-educated people in the San Francisco Bay Area weren’t flossing?
I also hated having to break it to a parent that their child had cavities. Parenting is tough, and some moms and dads took the news about their kid’s tooth decay especially hard. But the majority of parents weren’t helping their children to floss — and the parents weren’t flossing themselves.
I grew so discouraged by the state of things, I questioned my career choice and wondered if I would ever truly feel like I was making a difference.
In 2012 in an effort to lift my dental spirit, I traveled to Peru with a group of medical professionals to provide care to underserved populations in Cusco and Urcos. It was there that I practiced dentistry in the most rural places, among farm animals and lacking running water.
Every patient we saw had cavities and gum disease. The lines of people waiting to be seen at times felt endless. While it was truly rewarding to be able to do dentistry for these people, it was there that I again realized how impactful oral-health and prevention education would be.
In 2015, my artistic, entrepreneurial sister, Cat, and I joined forces to launch Cocofloss. Our mission: reduce tooth decay and gum disease by inventing a super-effective, motivating, and fun floss.
Now, seven years later, I’m super proud of our brand and all the headway we’ve made towards getting folks to floss. But a stubborn truth remains: most people still don’t floss!
One big reason: People never built a flossing habit to begin with. For most of us, from a young age our parents helped us build a teeth-brushing habit — and most people do brush their teeth! Flossing, however, is often overlooked in childhood.
Many parents assume that baby teeth don’t matter, because they’ll fall out anyway. Not true! It’s of utmost importance for children to maintain and retain healthy baby teeth until their adult teeth are ready to grow in. There are potentially lifelong consequences of poor oral-hygiene in childhood (read all about it in our blog post “Baby Teeth Matter!”).
So why don’t we just start instilling good flossing habits earlier?
As a mom of a two year old, I totally get it! On some days just getting my daughter to put on pajamas can be a challenge! Getting her to bed feels like an accomplishment in and of itself. I can see how completing a full oral-care routine beforehand might feel like a stretch to many families, especially if parents aren’t flossing their own teeth either.
1. Kids don’t have the dexterity to floss their own teeth until they're at least seven or eight years old. (They can hardly brush their own teeth well!
2. Parents don’t have the time or energy to floss their children’s teeth. For kids, it can take several minutes to get the flossing done. Depending on the day, I know first-hand how chasing, negotiating, and pleading may be involved in order to get a child to sit still for a moment to floss.
3. Flossing kids' teeth is hard! Big fingers don’t fit into small mouths. It can be difficult to get the right angle to reach those back molars.
4. Many kids resist flossing with all their mini might. They don’t like how it feels, smells, or interrupts their play.
5. Most kids' flossers aren’t even that great.
· They’re made with a flimsy, hard-to-hold handle, making it difficult for parents to floss their children’s teeth.
· They use thin, slippery, ineffective floss that may contain PFAS.
· This floss is uncomfortable on tender, tiny gums.
· They’re made of wasteful single-use plastic and aren’t refillable.
Cat and I have been thinking about making a refillable flosser ever since we first created Cocofloss. I knew that using string floss simply isn’t for everyone, especially kids. That said, as the new floss on the block, we weren’t quite ready to invest in making our flosser right out of the gate.
In 2017, Cocofloss gained enough traction for us to start thinking again about the refillable Cocoflosser, and we started talking to industrial designers about our ideas. In 2019, I had just discovered I was pregnant when I visited our manufacturing partner in Singapore and saw our Cocoflossers IRL for the first time. 😍 They were excitingly beautiful, but still not good enough.
After testing this version among our team, friends, family, and my patients, we decided the Cocoflosser had too many technical issues that needed more work. We were determined to design a flosser that was sized correctly for small mouths, gripped Cocofloss well, opened easily for quick refills, and lasted for a long time.
After innumerable hours of engineering and design, countless iterations and prototypes, investing in tooling twice 😭, and so many false starts, we landed at a design that we were happy with!
Finally, just before I have my second baby 😅, Cat and I are thrilled to share our RefillableCocoflosser for Toddlers with you! Cat and I joke that we had to wait until I became a mom for us to be able to launch this product. We’ve poured over every last micron of this device and can’t wait for you all to try it.
This small tool can transform your family’s nightly tooth-care routine — and make future visits to your child’s dentist a lot less painful.It’s specifically designed to allow parents to easily and quickly floss their kiddo’s teeth, using the most effective and delightful floss on the market.
· Designed to work perfectly with a 33-yd Cocofloss dispenser, so you can use it with your tot’s favorite fragrance of super-cleansing, soft, woven Cocofloss — the best dental floss on the market.
· 100% reusable (bye-bye, disposable floss picks). Refill it again and again with Cocofloss.
· Easy for parents to load and hold.
· Made with sturdy, long-lasting, shatterproof Tritan plastic that’s also medical-grade and BPA-free.
· Specially designed for parents to floss mini mouths (not for kids to use by themselves or for adult use).
· Comes with Cocofloss in kid-approved aromas and a cute sticker sheet.
I can proudly say that thanks to the Refillable Cocoflosser for Toddlers, my daughter’s teeth have been flossed just about daily ever since her teeth first grew in. Ayla knows that Cocoflossing is just one of her daily routines, just like Cocobrushing, bathtime, and bedtime. Since she’s two, there are certainly days that she doesn’t want to be flossed, but thanks to the Cocoflosser, we’re able to get it done quickly and efficiently every night!
Once Ayla becomes old enough to floss by herself (maybe when she’s seven or eight), then we’ll graduate to using string floss. But for now, I’m dedicated to helping her — and all children — develop a healthy smile-care habit that will serve her smile well the rest of her life. It’s never too early to start Cocoflossing!
Peace, Love, and Floss,
Dentist, Mom, and Cocofloss Co-founder