THIS is history with a modern touch

When Leen Sadder tossed out an empty tube of toothpaste one night, she was stumped. Just that day, she had received a student project at the New York School of Visual Arts to redesign the first thing she threw away when she got home. But how does someone rework the basic toothbrush and toothpaste model?

After long research into the science of oral hygiene, Sadder landed on an article about the dental benefits of the Miswak, a traditional method from the region for teeth cleaning that entirely removes toothpaste from the process.

The Miswak is an all-natural twig that is the root of a tree called the Salvadora Persica. It is included in one of the Sunnahs of Islam, tying it to Muslim history and making it one of the oldest methods of oral hygiene. The fibers on the inside of the stick contain natural substances that keep the teeth clean and plaque-free, making toothpaste unnecessary and the process entirely organic.

“I found it strange that I had grown up in the Middle East but had never heard about it,” Sadder, originally from Lebanon, said.  “I decided to go ahead and take on the challenge of reintroducing it to the world.” Leen set to work redesigning and modernizing the Miswak concept, and TH IS toothbrush was born.

The miswak branch itself was already fairly self-sufficient, but Leen wanted to make miswak a brush on the go for customers with modern considerations. Sadder worked with her team to design a reusable carrying case that removed the extra packaging of regular toothbrushes and toothpaste, in addition to providing a clean and easy way to cut and trim the Miswak brush.

“THIS celebrates the natural qualities and beauty of the Miswak by displaying it in a transparent case, but also makes it easier to use on a daily basis,” Sadder said. “The cutter helps peel and cut the outer bark to reveal fresh bristles with every use, and the case makes it easy to protect and carry the Miswak.”

Sadder’s initial designed quickly became a hit on the web, on industrial design blog Core77, tech blog Gizmodo, and environmentally-concious site Treehugger. It was eventually voted #27 on the Dieline Top 100 Package Designs of 2011, and was a semifinalist in the Adobe Design Achievement Awards.

“The general reaction has been overwhelmingly positive,” Leen said. “A lot of people around the world are interested in the product- whether they're consumers, investors, distributors or suppliers. It has gained a lot of attention from the Muslim community, the environmentalists as well as designers.”

Now past the initial design stages, THIS toothbrush is the subject of a crowd-funding campaign on the relatively new, a MENA-specific platform to promote Arab entrepreneurs by getting their projects funded by the general public. THIS campaign is aiming for $18,000 to manufacture the first line of toothbrushes, but if they don’t reach their goal THIS toothbrush will struggle to maintain the funds.

“I see THIS being a line of products that celebrates the Miswak and makes it easy to use,” Sadder said. “We also hope to create various products to use your Miswak at home or on the go, as well as different tools that make it easier and more routine. There's so much that can be done, but we're starting small and seeing how it goes.”


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