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[whitespace] Dr. R.W. Hutson, inventor of Oral-B toothbrush, dies

Willow Glen--Longtime Willow Glen resident Robert William Hutson died May 20 at age 81. Hutson was the inventor of the Oral-B toothbrush and established the first periodontics practice in the San Jose area.

Hutson was born in San Luis Obispo on June 20, 1919, the only child of Josephine and William Hutson. He studied dentistry at the University of California at San Francisco, and returned there in the 1960s for a degree in periodontics, the study of gum disease.

In World War II, Hutson was an ensign in the U.S. Navy and as a dentist, his job was to identify casualties from their dental records. It was through the Navy that Hutson met his wife, Veronica, who was a Navy Nurse also stationed in Guam. He asked her to marry him on their very first date. Veronica Hutson died in 1998.

After the war, Hutson practiced dentistry in San Jose. Hutson designed and helped build the family's home in the foothills of San Jose. He moved his family to Willow Glen in 1954.

After seeing his patients irritating or bruising their gums with stiff-bristled brushes, Hutson set about to create a toothbrush that would be gentle on the gums but strong enough to clean teeth properly. His idea to use a larger number of soft nylon bristles with more tufts made Oral-B one of the world's most well-known and widely used toothbrushes, selling 5 million brushes a year within the first 10 years of their creation. The business that started as a simple idea in his basement in the early 1950s became bigger than Hutson ever imagined.

Hutson eventually retired from his dental practice and divided his time between his toothbrush company and teaching at the UC-SF.

Hutson remained active and energetic for most of his life, learning to fly and purchasing his own Cessna. He also built a mahogany speedboat which the family took on many trips to Lake Tahoe.

Hutson was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease several years ago and was recovering in a nursing home from a broken hip when he fell ill with pneumonia a week before his death.

Hutson is survived by his sons William and John Hutson, daughter Mary Anne Hutson, grandchildren Joanne Reber, Joe and Jeff Hutson of Santa Cruz and Margaret and Robert Hutson of San Francisco. Donations may be made to Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, 2625 Zanker Rd, San Jose, Calif. 95134.
Melissa Matchak

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