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Innovation in oral health is more than helping people achieve good teeth

Charlene Wong

Name: Charlene Wong

Position: Marketing Manager, Oral Healthcare 

We didn’t need scientists to prove the power of the smile, but they proved it anyway.


Over the years, numerous studies have shown that smiling, by activating the release of neuropeptides that fight off stress, improves our mood and the moods of those around us 1.


Perhaps unsurprisingly, smiling has also been proven to boost our attractiveness to others, with one particular study conducted by the University of Bern in Switzerland finding that a happy facial expression could even compensate for relative unattractiveness.


We know that smiles help make a good first impression, and so, we appreciate the importance of owning an impressive set of pearly whites.


What we don’t seem to know, however, is that just as smiling makes for a happier society, a healthy mouth makes for a healthy body.

A healthy life begins with good oral hygiene

The research is pretty clear on this. For years, scientists have known that gum disease is a risk factor for heart disease and cancer and that poor oral health can seriously aggravate symptoms for those already suffering from such conditions2.


For example, one Harvard study3 found that men with a history of gum disease had a 63% higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer than those with healthy gums, while another clinical study found that 40% of people with gum disease also reported having a second chronic condition4.


That 3.9 billion people are currently suffering from some form of oral disease is therefore deeply distressing. But there’s hope because most cases of oral disease are easily preventable. In fact, that’s why I joined Philips in the first place. I wanted to have a positive impact on people’s lives by selling products I was passionate about, and Philips provided the opportunity to do just that.

My story with Philips

As with all Philips products, those that make up the Oral Healthcare division’s portfolio have the potential to improve the lives of billions of people around the world by making it far easier for people to maintain good oral hygiene.


The prospect of selling such meaningful products was all that went through my mind when I interviewed for the position of Philips Oral Healthcare’s Assistant Marketing Manager four years ago. I remember viewing the company as a unicorn of sorts: a rare breed of Fortune 500 that offered its employees interesting career progressions while simultaneously contributing to the betterment of society.


At the time, the Oral Healthcare division was an emerging business with huge potential, and so I was delighted to join the company.


I tasted success from day one, and soon developed a hunger for more.

Philips inspired us to be bold, take ownership of our work and hold each other accountable to our results. It was an environment that brought out the best in me."

I put in the hard yards and was duly rewarded a year later when I was promoted to Marketing Manager of the Oral Healthcare business, a position that I still hold today and one that sees me tasked with increasing the Oral Healthcare business’s market share.


It’s a great role that calls upon my creativity and commercial acumen in equal amounts. But while it’s a balanced position in this regard, the role’s diverse range of responsibilities also mean that no two days are the same. Every day offers opportunities for growth – and, in my mind at least, growing is the most important form of winning.


What makes our electric toothbrushes so special?

I still get a kick every time I see someone in a shop purchasing one of our awe-inspiring products because while the progressive culture at Philips makes me excited to come to work every day, the products are undoubtedly the lifeblood of the company; their hugely positive societal impact is what compelled me and most of my colleagues to jump aboard in the first place.


Even our entry-level electric toothbrush, the Philips Sonicare Elite+, removes three times more plaque than a manual toothbrush, improves gum health and maintains white teeth. It’s that much more effective than a manual toothbrush not only because it delivers 31,000 brush strokes per minute but also because maintaining good oral health is more difficult than we care to admit.


The fact is our mouths are complex structures, and it’s harder than we think to reach certain areas and protect our teeth from over-brushing (yes, that’s a thing!) by relying solely on our own judgement.


The chances of routinely missing problem areas when using manual toothbrushes are high. It’s one of the reasons why 98% of dental professionals surveyed in the US said that they would feel more confident in their patients looking after their mouth, teeth and gums in between visits to the dentist if they used a connected, powerful toothbrush.


What’s more, many of us fall far short of the mark when it comes to basic oral hygiene practices. For example, did you know that you should wait at least 30 minutes after eating a main meal before brushing your teeth? According to a study commissioned by FDI World Dental Federation, only 44% of you can answer “yes” to that question.


Of course, if you opt to buy a Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart toothbrush, your limited oral hygiene knowledge won’t matter too much. Fitted with smart sensor technology and Bluetooth® connectivity, the DiamondClean Smart tells you which teeth to brush and for how long via a 3D map of your mouth shown on our Sonicare mobile app. Not only does it help you to track and improve brushing coverage, it alerts you when you’re brushing too hard, highlights trouble areas and lets you know when you’ve missed a bit.


It also removes ten times more plaque, improves gum health seven times more effectively and removes up to 100% more stains than a manual toothbrush.  It’s smart devices like these which help consumers take better ownership and control of their health and wellness.


Add in a built-in timer that lets you know when you’ve brushed for two minutes – dentists recommend we brush our teeth with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes, twice a day – and you begin to appreciate how transformative buying an electric toothbrush can be for your health.


All our electric toothbrushes come with these baseline capabilities, but most offer other vital functions such as dedicated teeth whitening modes that remove up to 100% more stains than a manual toothbrush, sensors that let you know if you’re damaging your teeth by brushing too hard, and tongue-cleaning technology that eradicates bad breath.


I feel truly honored to be responsible for marketing these remarkable toothbrushes to the consumer because they have the potential to improve the health of billions of people around the world by drastically reducing the prevalence of oral disease.

Advocating such products on a daily basis reminds me that every day counts – that if we stay focused on our goals, we can make a huge difference to the lives of others.” 

For this reason alone, I can comfortably say that choosing to work at Philips was one of the best decisions I ever made.


I joined the company so that I could improve people’s lives. But somewhere along the way, I learnt that that’s the only way to improve your own life, too.