CEAS Alumnus Revolutionizes the Art of Teeth Whitening – University of Cincinnati

When I started thinking about diffusion from my time at CEAS, I hypothesized that very thin layers of the peroxide composition are likely to be as effective as one thick layer. This turned out to be true. Then the revelation came over me – if I only need a very, very thin layer, then I just have to protect that layer from being thinned with saliva. From there I made a strip of an adhesive peroxide gel and stuck it on my teeth and immediately thought? Eureka? I got it! ???? Sagel remembers. This moment? 2:30 p.m. on February 18, 1997? was the moment of defining the truth that would change Sagel’s career forever. The next challenges on Sagel’s plate were a long-lived process of converting the conceptualization into a marketable teeth whitening product, followed by a tedious year of patent enforcement litigation and advertising disputes.

From conceptualization to the shelf

As mentioned earlier, peroxide was found to be a relevant part of the original Crest Whitestrips formula, despite the opinion of the majority of scientists and engineers at P&G. Since peroxide is a highly reactive compound, this posed another problem if the product lasted longer than should stand on a shelf for a couple of hours. The highly reactive nature of peroxide increases exponentially in a thin film in which the surface decomposes with oxygen and water. So the first prototypes of Whitestrips were only stable for a few hours, ?? explains Sagel. To address this problem, Sagel’s team began to optimize the first prototype in methodical, hypothesis-based experiments.

When asked what the key element for successful technical collaboration is, Sagel replied, “I invented Whitestrips when I was very young at the company (P&G). Indeed, there were more naysayers than followers. During my 23 years at P&G I learned something very important about working together, and it is that innovation starts with a very small, skilled group.

At the start of the Whitestrips innovation process, Bob Dirksing, an elite P&G research fellow, and young Paul Sagel worked side by side. Sagel says, “You can’t plan an innovation.” it arises from a continuous cycle of boundless curiosity, experiments and observations that appears chaotic to an observer. Dirksing’s wisdom and leadership paired with Sagel’s enthusiastic energy and creativity have produced something far superior together than the two together.

Needless to say, the dynamic pair increased the stability of the prototype from hours to days, weeks to months, and eventually years. Today, Crest Whitestrips has a shelf life of more than two years, although almost all peroxide experts thought this was impossible.

Avoid relational and legal curveballs

The challenges for Sagel and the P & G research and development team didn’t stop there. When Crest Whitestrips first hit the market, were dentists still consumers? Main source for tray-based whitening options. Crest had a strong relationship with the dental community and didn’t want their new product to sacrifice the relationship or the dentists? Multi-million dollar industry. Through careful thought and honest discussion, Crest was able to maintain positive relationships with dentists. Whitestrips is the No. 1 dentist-recommended teeth whitening product in the United States, according to Crest2

Despite several successful overhauls carried out during the Whitestrips construction process, there was another curveball aimed at Crest, this time from its main competitor Colgate. In 2003, Colgate claimed that P&G falsely promoted Crest Whitestrips as “clinically proven to be superior and teeth whitened” twice better? as Colgate’s product Simply White.?? 3 After a year of defense? Sagel served as an expert and company representative? And a unanimous vote later, Colgate lost $ 79 million to P&G. The case is now being used as a case study for the company

Harvard Business School


A family of technical innovators

Interestingly enough, Sagel comes from a family of engineers. Alone in his immediate family are the following relatives of CEAS alumni:

  • Leslie Hopkins, sister, 96 chemical engineering alumna and current director of research and development at P&G.
  • Greg Hopkins, brother-in-law, 96 chemical engineering alumni
  • Doug Witten, brother-in-law, 96 Civil and Architectural Engineering alumni and site management
  • Ralph Sagel, cousin, 86-year-old chemical engineering graduate and recently retired from P&G.

In addition, Sagel’s father, two uncles, an aunt and several cousins ​​engineer for Procter & Gamble. Engineering really runs in the Sagel family bloodline.

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