How does a famous inventor invent?

Open-heart surgery motivates one inventor to build a better dental mousetrap.

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Byron Donzis "was told that he could not have surgery until his dentist certified that he had no oral disease. His after-care instructions emphasized the importance of maintaining his oral health to prevent further heart problems. While consolidating all this information, it became obvious...that the first line of defense to heart disease was maintaining oral health. He began to define the solution."
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Byron Donzis, a famous inventor and candidate for the M.I.T. Lemienson Lifetime Achievement Award, holds more than 200 patents. His inventions include the first movable X-ray machine, the famous Flak Jacket worn by professional football quarterbacks, special plastic inserts for spinal surgery, and a long series of technical patents related to stimulation and activation of the immune system.

He is a popular lecturer and has been featured on radio and television programs including “60 Minutes,” “Good Morning America,” “20-20,” “The Today Show,” “NFL Today,” “The Tonight Show,” and “Business Journal.” Articles recognizing his inventive genius have appeared in numerous magazines, including Newsweek and Playboy.

Donzis has lectured at the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Texas Sports Medicine Symposium, and Arizona Medical Association Sports Medicine Symposium. He is an expert witness for the court concerning the effects of shock in accidents. He has given numerous lectures and presentations to inventors and entrepreneurs.

When asked how he became a famous and wealthy inventor, Donzis says, “I see a need and I fill it. I observe the obvious.”

That may sound simple but, for many of us, the answer may not fully answer the question. Perhaps it is because we don’t have an “off the scale” IQ; do not daily scan dozens of magazines and technical journals; talk to researchers, entrepreneurs, friends, and business associates; or scan the Internet every day. Perhaps most of us don’t see the relationship between needs and ways to fill them, nor do we have the dedication to explore new ideas and persist until the solution is found.

The connection with his heart

Donzis recently had an experience that brought a dramatic need to his attention. He had massive open-heart surgery, a new heart valve, double bypass, and a procedure to correct cardiac arrhythmia. After that experience, he identified a major need for something to protect people from heart disease. Preventing heart disease from happening to others and decreasing the danger of further damage to his heart became his paramount interest. In his usual all-out manner, Donzis began his research.

He noted that technical journals as well as the Surgeon General stressed the relationship between oral health and heart disease. They noted that the same bacteria that causes gum disease infects the heart. Any bleeding in the mouth caused from bacterial infection or trauma from aggressive brushing, flossing, or hard food meant that there was an open path from the bleeding blood vessel to the entire cardiovascular system. Bacteria could enter the blood stream and potentially infect any body organ. While this is a serious problem for everyone, it is especially serious for people over 40 and people with diabetes, all of whom have less than optimum immune systems and body defenses.

When Donzis entered Cleveland Clinic, the most prestigious cardiac center in the world, he was told that he could not have surgery until his dentist certified that he had no oral disease. His after-care instructions emphasized the importance of maintaining his oral health to prevent further heart problems. While consolidating all this information, it became obvious to post-surgery patient Donzis that the first line of defense to heart disease was maintaining oral health. He began to define the solution.

Developing a dental product for consumers

What was needed was a product exclusively designed to maintain oral health. He believed it should be easily used and accepted by users with minimum changes to their routine. This meant designing a dentifrice or mouthwash. Its requirements included the ability to heal tissue, kill harmful bacteria, serve as a dentifrice and mouthwash, appeal to all ages, and be usable by diabetics.

Years earlier Donzis purchased original patents from the Bayer Pharmaceutical Company concerning products for enhancing the immune system. He subsequently sponsored research at Tulane, Stanford Research Institute, Baylor, and other centers to identify the exceptional protective and healing power of the enhanced innate immune system. The patented compound - beta 1, 3, /1,6 and glucan from the cell wall of bakers yeast - had a specific receptor site on the key cell, the macrophage, to initiate protective activities to maintain health. The key to initiating the body’s natural defense mechanism was discovered.

Initial manufacturing costs were thousands of dollars per gram, but after a few years of persistence, investment, and development of new manufacturing procedures, a cost effective method of producing a highly purified compound was patented. Beta glucan is the most powerful and safe stimulator and activator of the macrophage cell, the innate immune system, known. It is available as SurviveRx™ in capsule form.

The next problem for Donzis was to find something to kill the bad bacteria in the mouth. It must be safe for long-term use and available without a prescription. Antibiotics were reviewed and ruled out because they are too expensive, not safe for long-term use because of adverse side effects and resistance problems, and available only by prescription. The various antiseptics studied were less than satisfactory because they stain teeth, have a bad taste, or cause excessive drying and irritation to oral tissue.

Donzis noted that a recent medical report on the problems of resistance to antibiotics and the danger of new resistant infections referred to another “new class” of compounds, the bacteriocins, as a possible source of anti-infective agents to fill the gap when antibiotics were no longer effective. Bacteriocins kill harmful bacteria and have been used as food preservatives for years. Their long-term use in food establishes safety, and their continued use indicates effectiveness. The group of bacteriocins was reviewed and one, Nisin, was identified as having safe long-term use and effectiveness, as well as a broad spectrum of control of gram-positive bacteria. With the dual action of the beta glucan activated macrophage and Nisin, the bad oral bacteria can be controlled.

The product must taste good, feel pleasant, be easy to use, prevent caries, and be usable by diabetics. Gel gives the mouth a good feeling, and the mint flavor is refreshing. Xylitol became another key ingredient because it is sweet and can be used by diabetics. It helps close existing cavities and prevents new ones from forming, prevents bacteria from adhering to oral tissue, tastes good, and has a long record of safety and customer acceptance.

While the inventor has recognized the need and the product has been invented, this is only the beginning. A vital step is finding a manufacturer who can make and package a pharmaceutical quality product at an acceptable consumer price. How to package, sell, and get the product to the user are the next major steps.

Donzis invented a product based on the relationship between oral disease and heart disease. It is specifically designed to support oral health and promote general health, especially cardiovascular health. Certainly dentists and cardiologists should be interested in getting these benefits to their patients.

Donzis observed that oral hygiene was becoming more important as a separate and distinct discipline. Besides the traditional dental office, the oral hygiene profession is becoming more recognized as a distinct technology and discipline.

In addition to traditional locations, there are new private practices in oral hygiene, oral hygienists on staff in nursing homes, and cardiologists are adding oral hygienists to their heart patient care. Oral health screening by hygienists in schools is also common. Clearly the oral hygienist is an important professional link between oral health and general health, and specifically in support of the Donzis invention, OralHealthRx™.

So, after the invention is invented and the product is developed, the hard work of educating the public about product benefits begins. Donzis notes that the saying “Build a better mousetrap and they will beat a path to your door” is very idealistic. The truth is that one would simply have a large inventory of mousetraps. Donzis noted that many inventors have excellent inventions that never reach the public. Success depends on hard work and persistence and requires a team effort by dedicated people.

Informing the public of a product’s benefits is the next step to achieving success. Several types of presentations can be used, from television to journal ads, and seminars to direct sales. Donzis said that because of their unique training and position, dental hygienists can be key professionals in communicating the benefits of improving oral health, and therefore general health.

For more information, visit the product Web site at www.psaoralhealth.com

James D. Wood has an extensive background in sales, marketing, and general management in the health care industry. He was introduced to Mr. Donzis by Dr. Austin Smith, former editor of JAMA, president of Parke Davis, and co-chairman of Warner Lambert Company. Dr. Smith had become interested in the immune technology developments of Mr. Donzis and recommended Mr. Wood as an executive to assist in developing and commercializing products based on the technology. When Dr. Smith was co-chairman of Warner Lambert, Mr. Wood was vice president of Professional Products International and later an international regional president based in Barcelona, Spain. Wood left Warner Lambert to become president international of CooperVision Inc. Mr. Wood joined Mr. Donzis in 1987 and they have worked together to develops products utilizing immune technology, or “the body defense mechanism” in numerous applications including general health, skin care, and oral health.


Dr. John Matthews is a fourth-generation family dentist with a practice in Johnstown and Murrysville, Pa. He is an honor graduate from West Virginia University and graduate from the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine. A dedicated family dentist with more than 25 years practical experience, Dr. Matthews is an active member of the Pennsylvania and American Dental Associations.

He studiously maintains his continuing education in orthodontic and periodontic therapy, as well as general dentistry and the latest developments in oral health and general health. The clinic staff is strongly focused on complete oral health and education of patients on the relationship between oral health and general health, especially cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Matthews states, “We as health professionals should not only be aware of the latest safe and effective technologies, but we should use them and make them known to others in our profession.”

He has used OralHealthRx™ and SurviveRx™ in his practice for more than one year. His clinical experience has been very positive in eliminating gingival inflammation, stopping bleeding, and reducing depth of periodontal pockets.

He notes that patients who use OralHealthRx™ often comment, “My mouth has never felt so good.” Nearly all patients have indicated their intention to continue use of the product.

He concludes, “From this limited study, no comment can be made concerning general health or cardiovascular health. However, after observing the obvious - that oral health is improved and numerous studies relate oral health to general health and cardiovascular health - improvement in those conditions would be a reasonable expectation.”

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