Dr. Bobbi Peterson, a second-generation HBCU-educated dentist, is on a mission to honor her family legacy by contributing to Black history and the betterment of health within the Black community.
Driven by the motto, “Bigger Is Better,” Peterson launched a revolutionary new toothbrush, “Big Mouth,” with a unique design and effective functionality. She is not only the first Black woman to design an electronic, battery-operated toothbrush, but the first woman to ever to do so.
Peterson leverages her entrepreneurial spirit as the owner of Aces Braces, a dental practice located in Brooklyn, New York, to teach others about the importance of oral health care through internships, free orthodontic evaluations, and more. She also wrote and published a children’s book, Tanner’s Teeth, which provides insights into the achievements of the first African American dentist.
BLACK ENTERPRISE spoke with Peterson about the inspiration behind “Big Mouth” and how she feels to be a second-generation history maker.
What inspired the seed for what is now Big Mouth?
The inspiration behind the Big Mouth design came from my family! I am the youngest of 7, but I’m the loudest; I have the biggest mouth. My mom nicknamed me “Mighty Mouth” when I was a toddler.
I am the daughter of a dentist so oral care has been ingrained in me as an essential component of good overall health. I am also the daughter of a nurse educator so identifying holistic health challenges and developing healthy solutions for the community comes naturally to me. I love to help people feel better about themselves.
A few years back I was a brand ambassador for what was the only Black-owned manual toothbrush company. There are a few more now, but at that time I wanted to collab with the owner on a possible partnership for an electric toothbrush. I did not discuss my design or features with him; I just floated the idea. But this guy told me that an electronic toothbrush couldn’t be successful with me as the lead ambassador of the brand. I very politely told him that I was dissociating myself from his company and about a year later I decided to launch my own product designed for the people I was already serving!
How did you come up with the name for your brand?
I come from a very tight-knit family out of Newark, New Jersey. Our parents raised all of us to be proud of who we are and to strive for greatness but always serve the community. We have had family conference/video calls every Sunday for years so I spoke with my family about wanting to develop my own electric toothbrush and all of my ideas to design and deliver a product that would be distinct for our community!
As Black people, everything about us is big. Sometimes society tries to make us feel small, but our legacy and our impact is tremendous. There was a lot of loud talking on that call. The name Big Mouth came up because it honored our family tradition. We talk loud when we need to and it signified the simple premise of the Big Mouth brand—bigger is better—when it comes to toothbrushes. In the case of the Big Mouth toothbrush, it looks better, feels better, and it works better! It is silly to think that “one size fits all” applies to anything, but it definitely does not apply to toothbrushes.
What does it mean to you to be the first Black woman to design an electric toothbrush?
It feels absolutely amazing! It is an honor to have the opportunity to contribute to Black history as well as health. It also means that we still have so much work to do so that being the first woman in any arena becomes commonplace.
So, I am a second-generation African American dentist. I studied at the same institution that my Dad did– Howard University. HU! Clearly, we have to work in ways that transcend African American “firsts.” It is unfortunate that we even still have the first African Americans to do anything in the 21st century. But I also understand and realize (in my soul) that being a first is powerful for our culture and it is significant in the annals of history. That said, I didn’t do this work to make history. I designed Big Mouth to make people feel better about themselves and to give people an actual tool to improve their self-esteem and to enhance their impact for every first impression.
With Black History Month in mind, how has Black history influenced you to become a history-maker today?
The very existence of Black history and Black History Month motivates me to break every possible barrier to access, progress, and success. I am driven to succeed and to help others figure out how to help themselves and others. Our culture is so powerful. My brother says this all of the time, but Black culture and history are like our Vibranium. For folks not familiar with Black Panther lore, that just means that our culture is everything. It is–without question–the most valuable “thing” that we have and continue to produce.
What legacy would you like to leave to the future generations of Black dentists and entrepreneurs?
Besides being a dope, well-rounded, extremely vibrant character, I hope that future generations will be inspired to believe in themselves. My father was a dentist, so it wasn’t a stretch for me to think that I could be a dentist. But we need girls, boys, poor folks, people of color, and everybody to believe that they can be a professional in this space. Good oral health care must be as culturally inclusive as possible in order for it to be effective going forward I want young people to believe in themselves enough to think and dream big! I want them to serve their communities and try to do something to make the world a better place.