Nearly Half of Adults Miss a Quarter of Their Teeth When They Brush

Dentistry Today


Oral hygiene is essential to oral health. But brushing twice a day as recommended may not be enough to maintain a healthy mouth when that brushing uses poor technique. A study commissioned by Brushlink, which manufacturers a tracker that can be applied to any toothbrush to monitor brushing efficiency, has found that 48% of adults in the United Kingdom consistently miss at least a quarter of their teeth when they brush.

Generationally speaking, only 29% of millennials (age 18 to 34 years) reach all of their teeth each time they brush. The numbers are better for baby boomers (age 55 years and older), with 55% reaching all their teeth each time they brush. However, 61% of those surveyed said they have never been shown how to brush correctly by a dentist or dental hygienist, perhaps explaining why 24% of adults have had treatment in the last two years that could have been prevented by better oral hygiene. 

“This survey has revealed some intriguing insights into our oral health regimes and patients’ relationships with the dental health professionals who care for them,” said Elizabeth Kay, MBE, Foundation Dean of the Plymouth University Peninsula School of Dentistry and a member of the Brushlink Scientific Committee. “There is no substitute for good tooth brushing practices when it comes to maintaining a healthy mouth, yet it would appear from the survey that there is a lot more that we can all do to achieve this effectively.”

The National Health Service (NHS) spends more than £3.4 billion on dental treatments each year, according to Brushlink. Also, more than 1 million patients in the United Kingdom use NHS dental services each week, with many of them seeking treatment for dental disease. The NHS delivered 39.9 million courses of treatment and saw 22.2 million adult patients, or 51.4% of the adult population, in 2016 and 2017. Plus, the NHS saw 6.8 million children in the 12 months prior to June 2017, with an increasing number of extractions due to decay.   

These continuing issues in oral health prompted Dev Patel, BDS, to invent the Brushlink dental coaching device and app. The device can be attached to any toothbrush, whether it’s manual or electric. The system tracks how well people brush, including frequency, duration, and angles as they move the brush around their mouth. The app provides a “brushing score” each time it is used and displays this figure via the app on a Bluetooth-connected smartphone. This data can be stored for three months and shared with a dentist as well. 

“As a practicing dentist, I have always been shocked by the lack of feedback between patient and dentist. We have always had to rely on what we see inside the mouth every six months rather than having any reliable data about how people are brushing,” said Patel, founder and CEO of Brushlink. “I invented Brushlink to plug this gap by providing coaching to patients but also accurate monitoring of everything they are doing with their toothbrush between dentist visits.”

“The fact that this survey is in association with the launch of a new dental care product, and one which I think is the most amazing oral health product that I have seen in a long time, should encourage people to take its findings seriously, as it has been commissioned by a group of dentists who are passionate about improving the oral health of the nation,” said Kay. 

To encourage usage, Brushlink also has teamed up with certified dentists to offer free devices when patients sign up with the company’s Reward Subscription Plan, which costs £5 a month. As patients use the device and app, the data that’s generated gets shared with the dentist, who then can provide a customized brushing routine that’s automatically updated to the app after each checkup. Patients accumulate points based on how well they brush, and these points can be redeemed for more than £100 in discounts at the dental office each year.

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