Start It Up

Smiles for the People

Smiles for the People was founded by Joe Brennan, a 22-year-old humanitarian and entrepreneur with a vision for providing dental care to those who otherwise wouldn't have access to it. While there are a slew of companies built on the "one-for-one" business model, Brennan wants to disrupt it by partnering with select charitable organizations who already work in relief and aid, rather than donating specific products to people in need. That way, financial help goes where it's needed most. We caught up with Joe about Smiles for the People's mission, the benefits of a bamboo toothbrush and common oral care mistakes:

How do you live up to your mission of selling "environmentally responsible dental supplies while helping to improve the oral health of people who can't access or afford the dentist?"

It's pretty simple, really. We sell the most environmentally responsible toothbrushes on the market, and for every brush you buy, we give the penny-for-penny equivalent of one toothbrush to a dental charity providing care to kids in need. Our concern for people and our concern for the planet go hand-in-hand. Because global warming disproportionately impacts the poorest people in our society, we can't seriously care for the poor without caring for the environment. So, we power our website with wind, produce all of our printed materials on paper from sustainable sources, use veggie-based ink, and offset the carbon emissions of every shipment.

Bamboo brush,

We can't seriously care for the poor without caring for the environment.
In what ways do you diverge from the typical "one-for-one" business model?

I love answering this question, because I think there are important differences between what we are trying to do and what some other companies are doing in this area. We believe in our "Giving Partners" 100%. We believe that they know what they're doing, and we want to help them do more of it. We don't donate physical toothbrushes for every toothbrush we sell (unless that's what our partners want). Instead, we write them a check for a specific purpose. We let our "Giving Partner's" develop local solutions to their own unique local issues. Because the oral health crisis around the world is so broad, we think this is the best way to get people the care they truly need.

What are the benefits of a bamboo toothbrush?

Every year, Americans toss about 50 million pounds of plastic toothbrushes into landfills, and that plastic never biodegrades. Bamboo, on the other hand, is one of the most sustainable resources in the world. It grows rapidly, can grow in damaged soil and is 100% biodegradable. Our brushes are constructed from the simplest materials so that they return to the Earth in the simplest way.

How often should you change your toothbrush?

The American Dental Assocation recommends changing your toothbrush every three months. They make this recommendation because bristles can wear down over time, becoming less effective. So, if you brush harder than the average person, you may want to replace your toothbrush a bit more frequently. And if you find it hard to remember to replace your brush on time, sign up for our toothbrush subscription and you'll automatically receive a new brush when you need one.

How do you properly dispose of a toothbrush?

We have some great tips on our website for disposing of or reusing our biodegradable brushes. You can even send the brush back to us when you are done with it. We'll offset the carbon emissions of your shipment and send you a coupon for a new brush.

What are the most common oral care mistakes?

Not flossing! Brushing alone only does half the job. Most people know that brushing is one of the best ways to prevent dental problems, and most people brush their teeth regularly, but flossing is a different story. You really do need to do it everyday.

    What about toothpaste?
    We've always been fans of Tom's of Maine. Real peppermint oil, no artificial sweeteners like saccharin and it leaves your mouth feeling clean and fresh.
    $4 at

Published on

June 7, 2013

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