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How toothpaste can contribute to greater quality of life

Brushing teeth: (hopefully) an everyday habit we rarely, if ever, think about. Victor Popov did. The man from Bruges found that the ingredient fluoride affects our waking and sleeping patterns. After years of (market) research, he came up with Karmicare, the world's first oral care product that works on the rhythm of our internal clock. " In the morning, the toothpaste gives you an energy boost, in the evening it calms you down. So at the two ends of the day, you get a separate treatment!"

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Text by Serial Writer Hannes Dedeurwaerder and images by product styling & photography studio Studio Rozanje.

How did you get the idea to set up a project around toothpaste?

Victor Popov (founder and CEO Karmicare): "When I was in digs in Kortrijk, studying Digital Design and Development (DEVINE), I often worked on projects until late. When I finally went to sleep, I always found that I looked forward to brushing my teeth. Especially because I was wide awake in my bed afterwards, even though I had not had any more coffee or eaten heavily. And then my euro fell: it must have something to do with the last thing I did before crawling into bed. And that was brushing my teeth."

I found it baffling that an intimate product like toothpaste, which people put in their mouths daily, could have such an impact on sleep hygiene.

Victor Popov

Then you went to investigate. What did you find out?

"Among other things, that fluoride, usually the main mineral in toothpaste, blocks the melatonin process in the brain. Since melatonin is the hormone that makes us sleepy, I immediately knew why I stayed awake: my sleep cycle was disrupted throughout the night. I found it baffling that an intimate product like toothpaste, which people put in their mouths daily, could have such an impact on sleep hygiene."

Yet that didn't immediately lead to Karmicare. Why not?

"Indeed, I didn't do anything with that for years, until I ended up in what I call my quarter-life crisis: my first company went bust, my then relationship jumped off and I was completely back to zero, symbolised by having to return to Belgium after four years in pit winter. Without a nail to scratch my hole, I had to move back in with my parents. I gained ten kilos, my hair was falling out and I had nothing but negative thoughts. Then I decided that I had to use this low point to reorganise my life: what did I want to do and achieve? That I discovered the power of a smile during that period helped me turn my life in a new direction."

And how did you arrive at that new turn?

"It had always been my ambition to start my own brand: a physical product that would have a positive impact on people's health and mental resilience. And then I remembered that student research on toothpaste. I began to wonder why we brush with the same product in the morning and in the evening, when our bodies are in different states of mind. Surely we shouldn't drink coffee in the evening either, but chamomile tea instead?"

Surely we should not drink coffee in the evening either, but chamomile tea instead?

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"I started doing research on that for three years: what do our teeth need and what does our gums need to be optimally remineralised? I found that existing toothpastes contained a huge amount of chemical crap - parabens, preservatives, metals... - and that there was therefore a lot of room for innovation."

So Karmicare came out of research on the one hand, and a personal struggle on the other. But what became the final result?

"A toothpaste with only natural, pure minerals, where there is a version for morning and a version for evening. The former contains guarana, which gives an energy boost, and the latter contains valerian, which has a calming effect. And most importantly: no fluoride, which only confuses biorhythms. So at the two ends of the day, thanks to the two formulas, you get a separate treatment, addressing the most common ailments."

"In fact, customers have already come to tell me that they brush their teeth twice a day more often because they now have two specific toothpastes. These serve as a reminder, so to speak (laughs)."

But is it also better toothpaste for the teeth themselves?

"Of course, it was also important that the toothpaste would optimally boost oral health and deeply clean the teeth via detoxification. This is why the toothpaste is black, for example, as it contains medical activated carbon, which is highly absorbent and therefore detoxifying. It also contains ingredients that create tooth enamel as well as make teeth stronger and more resistant to caries. In short, customers experience an enormous oral boost, even after short-term use of Karmicare. Many of their oral and dental ailments are now passé!"

In the morning, the toothpaste gives you an energy boost, in the evening it calms you down. So at the two ends of the day, you get a separate treatment!

There is even a link to the US space agency NASA. Can you tell us something about that?

"That organisation has also developed a fluoride-free toothpaste for its astronauts, so that confirmed to me that I was on the right track of thinking. Hydroxyapatite, the mineral they use as an alternative, is also in Karmicare and forms an extra protective layer on the teeth. In Japan, for instance, they hardly know any fluoride, but hydroxyapatite is the standard."

What is the commercial status of the product?

"The products have been available internationally through online channels and our own website since last year, and we are setting up partnerships with dental groups and online pharmacies, such as Pazzox."

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