UCSB alumna Christina Ramirez recently founded the nonprofit organization One Brush, which strives to supply low-income children with the proper tools for maintaining oral hygiene.
The group functions as the TOMS shoes of the dental industry — for every toothbrush they sell, a toothbrush and a lesson in oral hygiene will go to a child in need, beginning with children in Latin America. The marketed toothbrushes are biodegradable, made of bamboo and packaged in artistically designed bags that will be sold for about $5 each on college campuses.
While dental health has long been overshadowed by other more pressing needs, oral hygiene is an important preventive measure for many endemic diseases, according to Ramirez.
“I’m not a dentist; I’m not in any dental programs, but it’s a global epidemic that was seriously neglected,” Ramirez said. “There are a lot of different organizations that provide Qshoes. They provide vaccines or provide malaria nets, but nothing ever took the preventive approach for oral hygiene.”
According to Ramirez, she and several dentists traveled to Peru, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Guatemala to establish a relationship with various communities and schools after she created the nonprofit during her senior year in 2006 for a global studies writing class project.
“I realized this thing had legs and just decided to go for it,” Ramirez said. “I decided to develop it seriously in 2010.”
In time Ramirez hopes to spread the program to other regions of Latin America and eventually reach Asia.
“One Brush is really focused on starting from the infrastructure, really making an impact and then once we see an impact, expanding it,” Ramirez said.
One Brush University Relations & Grassroots Coordinator Mithi Desai, who graduated from UCSB last year, was a classmate of Ramirez’s and began interning for the nonprofit after hearing about the idea. Desai said she has been working for the organization, which works with children in grades one through five, ever since.
“Every day is just awesome,” Desai said. “It’s really great when you’re working for a company with a group of people who really care about a really great cause that will benefit a greater good and all these children. I love it.”
This month, Ramirez will go to the Magic Fair Fashion Trade Show in Las Vegas to connect with artists who will design the toothbrush packaging, she said.
“Every couple months, One Brush is going to come up with a new bag collection,” Ramirez said. “The bags will be designed by artists, musicians, designers, creative thinkers — people who really have a case-making ability.”
Erica Flor, a second-year theater major, said the program has the potential to impact communities across the globe.
“Boys from I.V. should learn from this,” Flor said.