AAO member Dr. Barbara “Bobbi” Peterson’s successful appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank helped give her company the boost it needed to grow sales of the product she developed, the BigMouth toothbrush.

Dr. Peterson’s journey to orthodontic entrepreneurship began during her childhood. The daughter of a dentist and a nurse educator, she grew up with strong oral hygiene habits and decided to follow in her father’s footsteps, enrolling in the Howard University School of Dentistry after completing her undergraduate degree at Drexel University.

After completing the orthodontic residency program at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, Dr. Peterson opened her orthodontic practice in Brooklyn in 2008.

“Like many orthodontists, I became increasingly concerned about my patients’ oral hygiene,” says Dr. Peterson. “My practice developed to be about 50 percent teen patients and 50 percent adults, and I was surprised by the amount of plaque build-up that I was seeing.’

Developing an Oral Hygiene Solution
Wondering how she could best help her patients avoid developing gingivitis and periodontal disease, Dr. Peterson took a close look at electric toothbrushes, which many of her patients were using.

“Most electric toothbrushes should be effective for plaque removal if used correctly,” she says. “In speaking with patients, though, I realized many people of all ages tend to rush through toothbrushing.  We surveyed patients in our practice and found most were not brushing for the two minutes that we recommend. It also seemed as if the brush heads of electric toothbrushes kept getting smaller and smaller. In my mind, the limited brush size compounded the problem of rushed brushing.”

Interested in how to make an electric toothbrush with a wider head, capable of covering more tooth surface area in the same amount of time while reaching the plaque build-up areas and the gums, Dr. Peterson began planning designs and contacted an engineer.

“After making four prototypes, we arrived at a design that covered a larger tooth surface area at a size that would fit comfortably in most teen and adult mouths,” says Dr. Peterson.

With a completed prototype, Dr. Peterson began working with an attorney to file for a U.S. patent. First, though, there was the question of what to call the toothbrush. For that decision she returned to her childhood experiences.

“I was the youngest of eight children in our family,” she says. “I was the loudest in the family and ‘Mighty Mouth’ became my nickname, so I was always known for having a big mouth.”

Preparing to Pitch “BigMouth” on Shark Tank
The BigMouth electric toothbrush launched in 2022. Once she had six months of strong sales figures, Dr. Peterson believed she could be considered to appear on Shark Tank.

“The show features all stages of entrepreneurship,” she says. “Our application was ready to submit by July 2022 and in August, we were accepted.”

Dr. Peterson worked to improve and refine her pitch and in November 2022, recorded her pitch with the Shark Tank investor judges.

“There is no guarantee that you will get an investment if you appear on the show,” notes Dr. Peterson. “Even if you don’t get funding, though, the publicity is such a great thing for most businesses that it is very worthwhile – if you appear on the air – but there is also no guarantee that your pitch will be broadcast. It was very exciting to learn that my pitch was going to be aired.

“As a big fan of the show, I also knew that the Sharks provide mentoring and guidance and I knew that would be very helpful,” adds Dr. Peterson.

After Shark Tank first aired Dr. Peterson’s pitch on March 3, 2023, the BigMouth toothbrush sold out in 24 hours.  Dr. Peterson also secured an investment as a result of her pitch. Having requested $150,000 for 10% of her company, she agreed to a proposal from investor Barbara Corcoran of $150,000 in exchange for 20% of her company and $2 from every unit she sells. 

View Dr. Peterson’s Shark Tank Pitch

Developing and Enhancing Successful Products
In addition to continuing to operate her orthodontic office in Brooklyn and a satellite office in Philadelphia, Dr. Peterson is working to expand the BigMouth product line.

Having started as an electric toothbrush, the BigMouth is now also available in a sonic format. In addition, special editions in new colors are launched periodically. Prior to her Shark Tank appearance, Dr. Peterson had already incorporated five settings into the BigMouth: gum care, sensitive, clean, polish and whitening.

“Regardless of how the settings are used, I wanted the brush to provide an enjoyable, massage-like feeling that would motivate people to brush and help them enjoy the experience,” she says.

BigMouth products are available on Amazon, on the BigMouth Toothbrush website, and in more than 100 dental offices nationwide.