The story behind the Kona Adapter
I’ve been asked many times over the years about how the Kona Adapter came to be, and I have shared some info here and there, but have never really shared the whole story. Here’s that story. For those who don’t know, the Kona Adapter is a dental product that I designed back in 2010. The product is a simple, metal connector that attaches Isolite mouthpieces (the disposable part of the system) directly to the standard HVE valve. It eliminates the need to use the much more expensive part of the Isolite system and allows you to use what I consider the heart of the system, the mouthpiece. The disposable Isolite mouthpiece provides a bite block, retraction, and evacuation all in one well designed silicone piece.
Back in 2005, I first discovered the Isolite System on the dentaltown.com forums and it looked pretty damn amazing, but unfortunately I was not in a position to even think about buying something like that at the time. In 2005, I was just starting hygiene school, which means I was a poor student with no money to purchase anything beyond the bare essentials. I put the Isolite system on my future wish list.
In 2008, I started working in a large, fast paced, mostly Medicaid, pedo environment. I jumped among ten chairs all day long and placed many sealants. For many months, I had the same recurring thought, “The Isolite system would be perfect for this environment!” I approached my corporate employer with a naive enthusiasm to see if they would purchase an Isolite system for one chair so we could test it out and then equip the remaining chairs after discovering how awesome the product was. Well, the chance of that happening, and I’m rounding up here, was 0%. After receiving the resounding no from my employer, I decided to still continue my naive plan and ended up purchasing the Isolite system myself, which at the time cost me $1395 (with a DentalTown discount it also included 4 free boxes of mouthpieces). As advertised, the system was great. All the hygienists and dentists loved it and thought it was an amazing product, but from my employer’s perspective, that feedback had zero effect. My employer still had no interest in equipping the whole clinic with Isolite systems. I continued to use the one Isolite system I had installed, but because I worked out of ten chairs, I only had the Isolite available to me 10% of the time, which was very frustrating. I eventually gave up on the whole idea and ended up just selling the one Isolite system I had to a local dentist.
On a slow clinical day in 2010, I was messing around with some of the Isolite mouthpieces I still had in storage. I was trying to figure out a way to just connect the mouthpieces to the HVE valve. I came up with a contraption made from saliva ejectors that was portable, and it worked pretty well, but it was bulky and a little awkward. I used that contraption for a few months. The DIY contraption wasn’t a good permanent solution, but it reignited my excitement for the idea of having access to the Isolite at every chair. I needed to come up with a better solution. I developed a design and created a 2-D drawing of an angled, metal connector that would insert into the Isolite mouthpiece on one end and then insert into the standard HVE valve on the other end. I turned to my friend Google to try to find a local machine shop or maybe a small manufacturer to create something for me. I then started emailing and calling the places that I found in the New England area, but I wasn’t having much luck. I either didn’t get a response (most cases) or they couldn’t do it for various reasons. One of the small manufacturers that I did find happened to be in the same city that I lived in, Taunton, MA. I initially tried to submit my 2-D drawing on their website to get a quote, but that feature of the website never worked. At this point, the whole process was starting to get a little frustrating. I decided to just take my 2-D drawing to that manufacturer in person. I walked in without an appointment and ended up speaking with the CEO within 5 minutes. I had a great conversation with him and that’s when the process really started to get rolling. I had the first prototype made for $450 and tested it for a few months and then ordered the first batch of 300, which sold very quickly. My initial intention was to only create something for myself, but quickly realized that this was something I could sell. And the product has been selling ever since. That’s the overall story minus many of the boring details. The only interesting part of the story that I left out is the product name.
Where did the name Kona come from? It’s the most common question I get asked. It’s often assumed that I’m from Hawaii or the name is at least based on Hawaii. That’s only partially true in a sense. I named the product after my Rottweiler named Kona (photo below) who passed away in 2009. I loved that dog. She was named after a Canadian bicycle company named Kona (http://www.konaworld.com). I’m very into cycling, so I wanted her name to be related to bicycles. The Kona bicycle company has an overall Hawaiian theme; from the company name to all the names of the bike models. So yes, in a very indirect way, the Kona Adapter is named after the Kona district on the Big Island, but not really : ).
That’s my story in a nutshell.
Mark Frias, RDH