Musical App Encourages Kids to Brush Better

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Do you have trouble getting your kids to brush their teeth? There’s an app for that—and it works, according to research published in the British Dental Journal.

Brush DJ is designed to encourage children ages 4 and up to adopt and maintain effective oral health care routines. It is available for free from Apple, Android, and the U.K.’s NHS Choices Health App Library for all mobile devices, and it includes no advertisements or in-app purchases.

The app plays music for 2 minutes, which is the optimum time for brushing teeth, taken from a playlist or randomly from the user’s own device or cloud. It also reminds users to spit out after brushing but not to rinse, sets reminders to brush twice a day, use a mouthwash at other non-brushing times of day, sets alerts for dental appointments, and reminds users to change toothbrushes once every 3 months.

The research was conducted by a team including a general dental practitioner and NHS Innovation Accelerator Fellow from York, a consultant orthodontist from the Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust, and a lead dental researcher, educator, and foundation dean of the Peninsula Dental School from the Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry (PU PSMD).

According to a questionnaire that polled 189 people, 70% of respondents reported their teeth felt cleaner since using the app, and 88% said Brush DJ motivated them to brush their teeth for longer. Also, 92% said they would recommend the app to their friends and family.

Version 3.1 of the app for Apple is 12.3 MB and requires iOS 6.0 or later. It’s compatible with the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch and is optimized for the iPhone 5. Version 3.0.2 for Android devices is 6.4 MB and requires Android 2.3 and up. Users can go to BrushDJ.com for additional instructional videos on brushing and flossing and to vote on their favorite songs for brushing as well.

The team concluded that Brush DJ contributed to greater motivation for young people to care for their teeth more effectively and has huge potential as a way to convey important oral health messages and information. The study also suggests that it would be reasonable to prescribe such an app in the same way that fluoride toothpastes are prescribed in the United Kingdom.

“Brush DJ showed positive effect across 4 main themes: motivation, education, compliance, and perceived benefits,” said Ben Underwood, dentist, app developer, NHS Innovation Fellow, honorary university fellow at PU PSMD, and leader of the study. “The results of our study indicate that apps such as Brush DJ are beneficial to users and open the way for further research to extend their use and effectiveness.”

“Caries and other dental health conditions are ultimately preventable, and the great thing about an app such as Brush DJ is that we can show that it has a positive effect for children,” said Elizabeth Kay, foundation dean of PU PSMD, and a co-author of the study.

“Bearing in mind that almost 26,000 children a year aged between 5 and 9 are admitted to the hospital for dental treatment in the U.K., for conditions what are on the whole preventable through better understanding and adoption of good oral health routines, the potential for Brush DJ and apps like it to reduce that number is huge,” she added. “More research based on the findings from this study will help us to develop the app and investigate methods for its more widespread use.”