What is big little brush?

Joel Hanna, Co-founder, big little brush

big little brush is a social enterprise that takes really little things, like toothbrushes, and uses them to do great big important things like helping children and adults in developing communities to have better lives.


The idea that eventually grew into big little brush, started a few years ago when I had an issue with a dodgy wisdom tooth. More about the idea later on.

The tooth had developed a hairline crack and the longer I left it untreated, the bigger the crack got and the worse I started to feel. First it was just a little bit of pain when I ate cold things like ice cream, or ate/drank anything really sweet like my daily Red Bull (that might be another story for another day).

It was pretty amazing how quickly that small, barely noticeable pain developed into the full-blown agony of a toothache, and eventually a big hole in that pesky wisdom tooth. Once the infection took hold, I knew it was time to go to my dentist. He took one look at my x-ray and immediately extracted the tooth. Sounds awful right? Yep, it was pretty average. I’m sure I’m not alone in having an experience like this.

The whole extraction was over in around an hour. I’ve got pretty lame teeth and have spent heaps of time (and money) at the dentist in the 10 years since, despite brushing my teeth twice daily, flossing and using a fluoridated mouth wash. Thankfully, I’ve kicked my Red Bull habit too.


I consider myself incredibly lucky. I live in Australia, a developed nation with a stable economy which is able to provide and sustain dental care for those who need some help affording it. Even better than that, Australia teaches kids the importance and benefits of brushing their teeth from a really young age.

That experience (plus the ongoing challenge of having total jerks for teeth) got me thinking. Why didn’t I get it treated earlier?

It wasn’t access, money or lack of education that stopped me from getting treatment. It was apathy. Such an obvious expression my of western privilege.

I’d let my health and quality of life deteriorate, because I knew that I had a safety net. I knew I’d get the treatment I needed before I had any life threatening issues.

I had a preventable issue that I was arrogant enough to ignore for as long as it suited me.


The problem.

The outcome of my story might have been very different if I lived in a developing nation, or even an underprivileged community here in Australia.

I might have developed sepsis, Noma (brace yourself, Noma is pretty awful) and without treatment it’s not uncommon for these diseases to be fatal. If you’ve ever had a toothache, you know, like I do, the pain can be overwhelming and even debilitating. Aside from the pain, there are there are other issues too. Severe facial swelling (which happens a lot with untreated dental caries) can stop you eating, speaking, participating in things like work or schooling, and generally has a huge impact on your self esteem and overall wellbeing. Accessing dental care in developing communities is incredibly difficult and very costly, which unfortunately means, it’s often not even considered as a viable option.

Thankfully there is research that suggests fixing the oral health of the poorest communities in the world could have a significant positive impact on the overall economies of their nations.

The idea.

Maybe people will want to swap?

We all already buy toothbrushes, that pretty much always end up in landfill. Instead of funding the big businesses who mostly the market now, maybe we can help the less fortunate whilst also getting a beautiful toothbrush?

How much do you really love your plastic toothbrush from the supermarket anyway?

So, big little brush is now a thing.

big little brush will sell sustainable bamboo toothbrushes, and use 100% of the profits to help fund health and hygiene education and projects in developing communities.

We reckon that with a bit of education and some resources, those developing communities can hopefully prevent dental issues before they ever occur.

As well as working to make sure our products help people, we also promise to make sure that all our products are sustainable and that’s why we chose bamboo. We’ll tell you more about the positive impact of bamboo as an alternative to plastic soon.

📷 Andrew and I overlooking fish farms just outside Ningbo, China (where our brushes will be manufactured).

Over the past few months, we’ve managed to build a small but passionate team of people who are excited by the prospect of bringing big little brush into the world.

We’re so stoked and overwhelmed with the support we’ve received so far, and thank you for being a part of it. We promise to keep you updated as soon as it’s time to buy your first big little brush, so that you can help someone less fortunate than you.

Little brushes doing big things!