Orajel Inventor Dies: David Morris Kern Passes At 103

Orajel inventor David Morris Kern died on Friday at the age of 103, according to his son Allan Kern. Orajel was originally a medicine aimed at fighting toothaches, though it is now also used for mouth sores.

Kern was born in 1909 in Manhattan and was raised by his parents in Brooklyn. He graduated from the Brooklyn College of Pharmacy where he worked as a pharmacist until he became a salesman for a pharmaceutical company.

He purchased a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility with his brother and two partners and then invented Orajel with the help of a chemistry professor. Allan Kern recalled of the product, “It was the No. 1 product for toothaches for years. He was really proud of it.”

David Morris Kern later told family members that he developed the gel because he wanted to make something that would provide relief to teething babies. While the product was not used for that purpose, it has helped provide relief for toothaches and mouth sores to millions of Americans.

The Orajel inventor sold the company to Del Laboratories in 1961. He moved to the Phoenix-area with his wife, Rose Ziedenweber Kern, in the 1990s. The couple was married for 65 years until Rose passed away in 2001.

Kern retired from the pharmaceutical industry at the age of 62. He then turned to managing family finances. Carol Kern, the inventor’s daughter-in-law, recalled that Kern always bragged his good genes were responsible for letting him live past 100. Carol added, “I said during a toast on his 100th birthday that he’d say his secret to a long life was having a martini every day and not eating green vegetables.”

Kern once explained in an interview, “If you are optimistic, and feel young, you will always look and remain young. Take advantage of every day.” The Orajel inventor died at a group home in Paradise Valley, Arizona. Private funeral services will be held on Monday in New York.

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