You may not think of brushing your teeth as being a part of your beauty routine, but it’s one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your health.
Brothers Cody and Julian Levine are the co-founders of Twice, the toothpaste company that's aiming to change the ways in which we view oral care. Alongside their business partner Lenny Kravitz (maybe you've heard of him?), the brand has launched two innovative flavors of toothpaste, one for the morning and one for the night. And yes, they do contain fluoride—more on that later.
We spoke to Cody about his family's background in dentistry (their father Dr. Jonathan Levine has been a dentist for nearly 30 years and is the creator of GLO Science at-home LED teeth whitening devices), their dedication to bringing smiles to underserved communities through their non-profit GLO Good Foundation, and all the misinformation that exists in the toothpaste industry (you'd be surprised how much there is to unpack here).
Keep reading and watch Cody's review of Twice below.
On how the brand started:
I'm in business with my older brother, Julian, who's in L.A. right now, and Lenny Kravitz, who’s our third business partner. We all came together four years ago alongside our family. Our dad is a dentist here in New York, or more like an oral health expert scientist turned entrepreneur and philanthropist. He with my mom, launched a company called GLO Science. It’s a professional at home teeth whitening device, it’s a pretty innovative brand. They kind of led the trend of those LED devices. They launch about six years ago, my dad built it in his office and used it on his patients and had all these amazing clinical studies and then went to market with it.
On how they started their non-profit GLO Good Foundation, and how Lenny Kravitz got involved:
When they launched GLO science, they launched a non profit at the same time, called GLO Good, which brings full service dentistry to underserved communities. The non profit was just starting back in 2012, and Lenny, who's a patient of our dad’s, had heard a story of some of the work we were doing, and he says he was really inspired. So he said to our dad, he was like “doc, can you come down to the Bahamas and help my people?”
He lived in a community in Northern Eleuthera in the Bahamas that is beautiful, but it's like off the beaten path where it’s raw and underdeveloped. There’s a pretty poor community of locals who live there and you know, Lenny's family with everyone down there, and they don't have access to care for the most part. Most people down there have never been to a dentist. We take having access to a dentist for granted and Lenny was kind of awaken to it when one of the guys who was working on his house was filling a hole in his tooth with ground cracked pepper to numb the pain in his mouth and he couldn’t get to a dentist.
We like to say that my dad's a dentist who wanted to be a rockstar and Lenny’s a rockstar who wanted to be a dentist. And it’s pretty spot on because he's fascinated by oral care and the smile and my dad is quite a bundle of energy, he’s not your traditional dentist.
On how their non-profit triggered the idea of a toothpaste brand:
We were down in the Bahamas four years ago, and we set up a dental clinic pretty much overnight in a converted preschool. In the first year we treated about one hundred fifty people for cleaning and routine stuff. My brother and I were a part of the mission, and after a few days of working on them, they were coming up to us and breaking down and telling us how life changing this dental work was. One guy, his name is Pete, he's probably late fifties, he’s a fisherman in the town. He had this huge moustache and a huge beard, and it covered his mouth. He told us that he grew it out for so long because he was embarrassed for his wife to see his teeth when he smiled. He had a ton of decay and he was missing teeth on the bottom, so we gave him a whole new smile and he went home and he shaved his beard.
We have another story of a woman who, eight years ago, was in a situation of domestic abuse. Her ex-husband knocked out all of her teeth. She told us that she hadn't been on a date in eight years, because she was embarrassed. She covered her mouth when she talked and when she smiled, and we gave her a whole new smile. The energy and confidence that exuded from her was so life changing for us that it inspired my brother and I to think "how do we do more of this? How do we help Mom and Dad’s foundation become more of a household name?"
That was the original idea; let's start a company that could be around the smile. You know, we grew up around oral care, we know it, we’ve been exposed to it. And what we saw in the Bahamas was this emotional side to dentistry that’s really powerful. And we started looking into oral care and toothpaste and with the help of our dad, we were thinking through ingredients and how to make a healthier product.
On the changing ways in which we view oral care:
Without a doubt, it's party of your morning and night routine, you do it twice a day, but people don't really think of it as being a part of their beauty routine yet. So what's really cool about Twice, and we're seeing a lot of feedback from customers and beauty creators, is that they're genuinely excited to brush their teeth now. And because they have two different toothpastes, when they reach for their evening moisturizer, Twice becomes part of that routine. The trends are changing towards people caring about more than just eyeshadow or whatever the typical beauty routine is when it comes to skincare and wellness.
On their ingredients and what makes Twice different:
When you look at the Toothpaste aisle, on one side you've got Crest, Colgate, Aquafresh, Tom’s of Maine and other mass marketed brands, and they are effective. They have ingredients that your dentists recommend, but they have a ton of stuff that modern wellness experts and studies will tell you should stay away from like sulfates and SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate). And sulfates are in all toothpastes yet the ingredient is banned in every product in Scandinavia. And then on the flip side, you've got all natural organic toothpaste, which is a huge proliferation led by Tom’s of Maine, which is amazing. In the last three years or so there's been a ton of new organic toothpastes, which sound great because everyone loves organic, we want to eat clean and we want to live healthier, but it doesn't necessarily work. You're missing the science, you're missing the actives, you're missing the formulations that dentists will say we need to prevent cavities, sensitivity or help with whitening.
So we said "why don’t we build a product that is the best of both worlds, it’s healthy and clean, but effective and scientifically driven and proven?" So, eighteen months of formulation later, we created what we think is the best toothpaste in the world, to say it bluntly. It’s got vitamins and antioxidants for overall mouth health, it’s got every ingredient that the dentist would recommend from cavity-prevention, to anti-sensitivity, great ingredients for whitening, it’s kind of this power packed swiss army knife.
Earlybird is our morning toothpaste, it’s got wintergreen and peppermint, so it’s more of an awakening blast of mint. Our evening toothpaste is Twilight, which is peppermint, vanilla and lavender. It’s a soother, smoother, more relaxing toothpaste so you don’t have to go to bed with this cold blast of wintergreen or mint.
Cody, Lenny, and Julian
On the misconceptions about fluoride:
Fluoride is a safe and effective product in preventing cavities and strengthening enamel. I think of it through this analogy; overexposure to the sun could be toxic, right? Like there are certain things that exposure at a certain level is good for you, but overexposure at a certain level is not good. So basically, fluoride consumption is about exposure and consumption of sodium fluoride.
Ninety nine percent of the fluoride in your body comes from everything but toothpaste. So, from your water or your food. But only one percent is actually from your toothpaste because you're spitting it out. If there's one place you need fluoride, it's in your toothpaste.
On the lack of knowledge around oral health in America:
A hundred million Americans don't brush their teeth twice a day. I think it's a few things, education is a big issue, people aren’t informed as to why you need to brush your teeth at night and wash away all the acid and erosion that happened throughout the day. Also, I think Americans, and I’m speaking for myself as an American, people get home and maybe they’re lazy or tired or intoxicated, and they skip out.
People say to us "I’m genuinely excited to brush my teeth every night now." And I've been brushing twice a day every day and before I had Twice I would totally skip out. Some people think like “whatever I'll just have morning breath” and I'm like, no, the pH levels your mouth are getting out of balance and then your bad bacteria is growing and next thing you know, you could have an infection in the mouth which could lead to cardiovascular disease eventually. There’s a whole strong, deep connection between oral health and overall health. It’s kind of like that photo of the iceberg where you see the top of it above the water, and below is this holy shit kind of iceberg underneath the water. Oral care is a silent epidemic in the United States, no one really talks about it. Mary Otto wrote this amazing book called Teeth where she talks about access to dental care and people foregoing dental insurance or never going to the dentist because it's not a priority.
On his personal skincare routine:
I would say, like in the past, I've been pretty primitive in my in my routine, but since dating an amazing woman, I've been using Nécessaire The Body Wash. Peter Thomas Roth Water French Hyaluronic Cloud Serum, this stuff is gold. I put it on in the morning and then I love Supergoop, I'm down with the whole SPF every day because obviously, you've got to brush your teeth every day so you should be putting on SPF every day. Their Unseen Sunscreen, it's like heaven. People always say 'Oh my God, your hair is so amazing like what do you do it?' I barely even wash it. I know that sounds gross but I guess I just got this hair from my mom. I don't go anywhere without Chapstick, I'm just a huge fan of the blue color. I also lose Chapstick like it’s no one’s business. Obviously brushing my teeth with Twice toothpaste. Oh and the Malin + Goetz leather roll on scent, they have a really great product. I love their ethos of science and performance meets skincare, it's not just like hocus pocus.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.