Entrepreneurial father and daughter dentists take aim at bad breath

BY MIKE SHERWIN, ASSISTANT EDITOR

A local father and daughter have made waves locally and nationally with a product they’ve created that helps people breath easier — and fresher.

Dr. Marvin Cohen, D.D.S., and his daughter, Dr. Susanne Cohen, D.D.S., created SmartMouth, a mouth wash that they say can provide, with two rinses a day, 24 hours of fresh breath.

“You rinse once in the morning and it prevents bad breath all day, and once at night, and it actually keeps you from having morning breath. You can wake up every day with fresh breath,” said Susanne Cohen, president and CEO of Triumph Pharmaceuticals, Inc. “There’s no other product on the market that can do that.”

Susanne, Marvin and his wife, Charlotte Cohen, teamed up to found Triumph Pharmaceuticals, Inc., in Olivette. The family belongs to Shaare Emeth Congregation.

Susanne said her father, who is chairman of Triumph Pharmaceuticals, Inc., has become known for his work and research on bad breath.

“We call my father ‘the godfather of fresh breath.’ He is an internationally renowned expert and authority on the diagnosis and treatment of bad breath. He was actually asked to author the ‘bad breath’ section of Encyclopedia Britannica,” she said.

“I’ve never known anybody who’s ever known anybody who authored a section of the Encyclopedia Britannica, their medical edition. So it’s our family’s claim to fame.”

While presenting a paper at a conference in Belgium, Marvin Cohen met the chairperson of the Oral Biology and Pathology department at the State University of New York at Stonybrook, who would become key to developing SmartMouth.

Later, when he presented a seminar in Manhattan, the department chair invited him to SUNY-Stonybrook to speak to the dental school faculty.

“I went out there…and at some point he put his arm around my shoulder and led me to one of their research labs,” Marvin said. “Bingo. The second I saw it, I realized that this was the answer to everything I had been lecturing on for the previous six years.”

“It was the most amazing thing I had seen, and he asked me if I’d like to take it and tell dentists about it. I couldn’t say no.”

That answer was zinc ion technology, which allows for a long-lasting breath rinse by not only eliminating bad breath in the short term like conventional mouth washes, but by neutralizing germs and blocking them from releasing further gases that lead to bad breath.

Marvin said it took two years to create SmartMouth from that invention, which is now covered by three international patents.

“It’s the only thing of it’s kind,” he said. “A lot of products will get rid of bad breath for a short time, an hour or so, but this is the only thing that carries on beyond that for twelve hours.”

Susanne said SmartMouth is on the cutting edge of the evolution of fresh breath technology.

“The first generation of mouth washes were germ killers, but germs grow back quickly, so they either mask bad breath, or they just work for a very short time. Then there are odor eliminators that actually go in there and eliminate existing bad breath gases. They oxidize those bad breath gases. They were a step above the first generation,” Susanne explained. “But still, they’re not doing anything to stop the germs from producing new bad breath, so they’re not preventing anything. They’re still short term.”

“With SmartMouth, there are two ingredients. There’s the oxidizer (the odor eliminator) and there’s the zinc. The odor eliminator, just like the second generation of products, helps eliminate bad breath. But the combination of the two ingredients creates a rinse that is very high, very rich in zinc ion. And it’s that zinc ion technology that actually neutralizes those germs, by blocking them, from being able to produce new bad breath gases,” she said.

The Cohens’ product caught the eye of television producers in Hollywood.

“A gentleman who lives in San Diego saw a little blurb about SmartMouth mouthwash in the San Diego Tribune,” Susanne said. “He fell in love with the name, fell in love with the product and called us and said he worked with Mark Burnett Productions and that he helps them find products to integrate into the show, The Apprentice.”

“He said ‘I think it would be a fabulous fit for the show, and I’m wondering if you might be interested in appearing on the show.’ Obviously we were very, very interested,” she said.

“Lo and behold, we were chosen as one of the tasks to be featured.”

SmartMouth worked out a deal to pay for inclusion on the show, and the Cohens flew out to Los Angeles for taping last summer.

Nine months later, in spring 2007, the show aired on NBC. Contestants were charged with coming up with marketing plans for SmartMouth.

The Cohens are not strangers to television. For six years, Susanne marketed a previous product on a television home shopping network. And as experts on the topic of bad breath, the Cohens have appeared on local and national programs.

In February, Susanne appeared on The Today Show on NBC, during a pre-Valentines Day segment about getting fresh breath.

However, the Cohens say that while their television appearances have helped business, the real draw to SmartMouth is the product itself.

“This product literally makes a difference in people’s lives,” Susanne said.

“We hear it every day. Whether it’s just being able to wake up in the morning and being able to spend those first few moments with someone you love, or if it’s your child who had a problem and was being shunned by other kids, or someone who was popping gums and mints all day, because they are so paranoid about their breath,” she said.

“There are so many people whose lives have been impacted. It’s literally making a difference in people’s lives and that really means something to us,” she said.

SmartMouth is carried in almost 30,000 stores nationwide, and available locally at Walgreens, Schnucks and Dierbergs.

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