March 22, 2024
by Gabriele Maycher, CEO, GEM Dental Experts Inc. BSc, PID, dip DH, RDH: 

Hygiene Spotlight features an exceptional dental hygienist every month. This month we are showcasing the duo Jessica Drader, Founder, CEO and Registered Dental Hygienist (C) & Amy Pannu, Founder, CFO and Registered Dental Hygienist (C).

How did you get into dental hygiene?

Jess: I began as a certified dental assistant, working at Clayburn Dental. I developed a passion for oral care and wanted to be my own provider. Becoming a dental hygienist, I’m able to really connect with my patients and provide them with exceptional care.

Amy: I started working at Clayburn Dental during my first year of university. It was a position that started at the front desk and expanded to include back-of-the-office duties such as assisting hygienists with their periodontal charting. Everything about the hygienists’ hour with their patients intrigued me! I observed, listened, and learned what I could. I knew I could see myself doing the same, so I started taking courses that I could use as prerequisites for the dental hygiene program. After graduating, I returned to the same dental office in 2007 and practised for the next 15 years there.

Tell us about your personal feelings regarding sustainability and the specific environmental concerns that motivated you to start AVO Everlasting Essentials Inc.

We both grew up on the west coast of BC and love nature. Environmental concerns, including awareness of the health of our oceans and wildlife, has always been on our minds. We value sustainable living, specifically with products that decrease plastic waste. As dental hygienists, we are handing out plastic toothbrushes to every patient as they exit their appointment. We knew there had to be a better way for the future, so we began thinking “What does the perfect toothbrush look like, feel like, and how does it impact people and the planet?”.

Reflecting on your personal experiences as Registered Dental Hygienists, can you share a pivotal moment or realization that sparked the idea to create sustainable oral care products?

Practising hygiene, we often give our patients a “goodie bag” at the end of each appointment. This is a plastic bag with their plastic toothbrush and plastic floss sample. We started doing the math of how many plastic toothbrushes the population must go through each year, and knowing plastic toothbrushes do not decompose, we thought, there must be a better way to decrease billions of pounds of global plastic waste that was coming from toothbrushes alone! We didn’t see many companies promoting sustainable oral care products, especially in our area. So, we decided to be innovative and create something of our own that is modern, luxurious, and sustainable, which would be appealing to our demographic.

Can you walk us through the materials you chose for your toothbrush and why you chose them?

The replaceable brush head is made of polylactic acid (PLA), which is a biodegradable plastic, made with a composition of corn, wheat, and sugarcane. We chose this as it is better than the standard petroleum-based plastics that never degrade. We needed the material to be strong and durable while people are brushing with it, but still wanted a biodegradable component that was better for the environment. The bristles are made of castor bean oil as we wanted to utilize a natural fiber as opposed to traditional nylon or polyester toothbrush bristles.

The reusable handle is made of anodized aluminum. Anodized means the colouring is permanent on the handle, and the aluminum is strong and durable and, if needed, infinitely recyclable. Aluminum is also very easy to clean.

What considerations went into the design of the AVO sustainable toothbrushes that make it both user friendly and effective?

Angulation and size of the brush head was designed for effectively reaching molars and the angulation was also key for air-drying bristles to limit bacteria growth. Our densely packed bristles are designed for accessibility to all surfaces of teeth.

Magnetic storage is for decluttering the bathroom counter and for a modern, clean aesthetic.

Textured finger placement design is to encourage users to hold the handle closer to the brush head and to lighten the pressure of aggressive toothbrushing techniques.

Tell us more about AVO’s Mint Toothpaste. What led to the formulation with organic avocado oil and xylitol, and why did you choose to make it fluoride-free, SLS-free, and additive-free?

More and more patients had been asking the same question more frequently across all operatories: What natural toothpaste do you recommend? This really got us thinking – we’ve basically tried them all, but why don’t we have a favourite or a go-to when it comes to a fluoride-free option? We knew xylitol was a must in the formulation and we wanted to use naturally derived ingredients to help those with sensitivities and concerns about ingredients such as SLS, additives, parabens, dyes, and artificial flavours. Organic avocado oil is our signature ingredient and will be in all formulations for its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties.

What future formulations are you currently working on, and how do they align with your commitment to inclusivity and environmental sustainability?

We will be formulating a kids toothpaste and a non-mint flavour next! We are also adding nano-hydroxyapatite to our ingredients list. We have learned, from sourcing and research, that biodegradable tubes are possible and we intend to use those for our next production run.

Could you share more about your commitment to cruelty-free, vegan, and gluten-free products and the steps taken to ensure these qualities in your toothpaste?

Our manufacturer’s state-of-the-art facility is NSF ISO certified, FDA registered and cruelty-free. They produce the highest quality of personal care products and nutraceuticals on the market today. They have an exceptional team of chemists and quality control standards and assurances. This applies to our product being gluten-free and vegan. We were a part of the entire formulation process, and approved the ingredient INCI list with the most naturally derived and highest quality of non-GMO and select organic ingredients.

Where can consumers currently find AVO Everlasting Essentials products? Are you planning to expand your distribution channels in the future?

Online through our website and within BC we have some dental offices and local retailers. We are just getting into wholesale space via e-commerce and expanding to a distributor with our own AVO representative. We will soon be in retail across Canada!

Can you recount a particularly memorable or defining moment during the development of your sustainable toothbrushes and toothpaste that affirmed your commitment to this venture?

Every process of starting your own product line will be simultaneously exciting and scary. When we received our first prototype of the AVO toothbrush and got to feel and see it physically in our hands, it was affirmation that we were creating something pretty special.

With our toothpaste, we went through many formulations, with different ingredients and flavours. We knew we wanted to keep it as clean as possible with the best flavour. When we finally approved a formulation that we loved, that was an incredible feeling. We knew the consumers would love it, and so far, they have! The continued support from our community and consumers giving us outstanding reviews has been very encouraging also.

Considering the environmental and social impact of your products, what legacy do you hope to leave through AVO Everlasting Essentials, both in the oral care industry and beyond?

Our vision is to have our consumers understand the positive impact of switching from their plastic toothbrush to a sustainable toothbrush. We hope they implement this in their other products and food choices and create a more sustainable living routine.

We know the negative impact and damage of our over-filled landfills and plastics in our oceans. If we do our part each day, we will leave a cleaner planet for our future generations.

AVO’s vision is to help you improve your oral health naturally while protecting and preserving the health of our planet by reducing plastic waste.

Thank you to Gabriele Maycher for conducting the interview.

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