Inspiration comes at strange times. Anybody in the creative space knows this, as does anyone in the research or science space. Sometimes the planets align, show you something you were meant to see and put you on course to make history or a lot of money. In the case of Eddy Goldfarb and his chattering teeth, it was both.
Back in the 1940s, a product called the Tooth Garage – bedside denture case – hit the market. The idea was that false teeth could remain strong teeth if you kept them protected. Millions of people across America saw the ad, including Eddy Goldfarb, then a young inventor in Chicago. When he read the ad, he immediately imagined a giant set of teeth driving a car home after a long day at work, pulling into the garage and going inside for dinner.
For some people, the story would’ve ended there, but young Eddy turned his vision into reality. That ridiculous image he had in his head became “Yakkity-Yak Teeth,” or what you probably know as “those wind-up hop-along chattering teeth.”
Chattering Teeth Take a Big Bite (of the toy business)
Goldfarb had a knack for knowing if something was going to be a hit. And he knew Yakkity-Yak was a winner. He brought it to toy kingpin Marvin Glass – the creator of Lite-Brite and Rock’em Sock’em Robots, who in turn brought it to Irving Fishlove, the actual creator of fake vomit. They saw it. They loved it. They optioned it. And they blew it up.
Before long, Yakkity-Yak teeth were a staple among television variety show comedians like Ernie Kovacs, Red Skelton, Jimmy Durante and Milton Berle. And because (a) television was so new and (b) there weren’t many channel or show options, they caught on.
For the next 17 years, while Goldfarb held the patent on the Yakkity-Yak teeth and Fishlove held the patent on the motor inside it, the two made a mouthful of money together and Eddy used his proceeds to pursue his inventing. When it was all said and done, these strong teeth gave Eddy Goldfarb the juice to invent so many other toys, including Kerplunk, probably his most famous.
When the patent did run out, toymakers from across the globe jumped on the dental bandwagon and came to market with all sorts of Yakkity-Yak iterations, almost all of which you can buy on Amazon today. And it’s pretty much a guarantee that every practising dentist received at least one from someone in their family when they graduated dental school.
But Eddy made his money. And it 2003, for his 800+ plus patents and all his remarkable achievements, not the least of which was Yakkity-Yak chattering teeth, he was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame.
As dentists, we like to think that means there’s a bit of us in that Hall of Fame. And even if that’s not true, we’re going to continue thinking it anyway.