Made in WA

Broad Strokes

David Giuliani revolutionized more than just oral hygiene.

By Angela Cabotaje August 23, 2022 Published in the Fall 2022 issue of Seattle Met

Image: Jordan Kay

If it weren’t for David Giuliani’s bout with periodontal disease in the 1980s, we might still be stuck with only one way to scrub our pearly whites. Instead that buildup of plaque inspired Giuliani, an electrical engineer, to fashion a superior tool for oral hygiene used by millions of Americans today.

In 1992—along with UW researchers David Engel, Joseph Miller, and Roy Martin—he debuted Sonicare, an electric toothbrush with bristle tips that could move 100 times faster than a manual version. Giuliani had a better way to clean beneath his gumline—and a new calling. 

The entrepreneur served as the CEO of Optiva, which produced and marketed Sonicare products, until it was purchased by the multinational conglomerate Philips in 2000. As an encore, he cofounded Clarisonic, a brand of oscillating skincare brushes that could cleanse pores like Sonicare scrubbed enamel. L’Oreal bought that business in 2011. 

Later in life, Giuliani devoted his time to climate change causes. He founded the Low Carbon Prosperity Institute and worked behind the scenes to help craft Washington’s Climate Commitment Act, which passed in 2021 and obligates the state to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050.

Giuliani died in early March this year at the age of 75 after a five-year battle with cancer. His legacy lives on in the promise of clean air for future generations of Washingtonians—and countless sets of squeaky-clean teeth. 

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