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Dentist develops app to promote toothbrushing

The Brush DJ app can be downloaded free of charge from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. (Images courtesy of Ben Underwood)
Dental Tribune International

Dental Tribune International

Thu. 7 March 2013


YORK, UK: A British dentist has developed an app that encourages toothbrushing. Brush DJ features a timer that plays two minutes of music picked at random from the user’s device, as well as evidence-based oral health advice and several reminders. The app recently won the Dental Hygiene and Therapy Award for Best Dental Innovation, established to honour the work of hygienists and therapists in the UK.

A recent survey by the British Dental Health Foundation found that nearly 59 per cent of British women and 35 per cent of men regularly skip brushing their teeth before going to bed. The government’s latest dental health survey found that only 21 per cent of people use dental floss. A US study reported that the average time spent brushing is 45 seconds, which is considerably shorter than the generally recommended two minutes. These statistics demonstrate that a significant number of people are unaware of and do not perform the daily oral hygiene steps that will reduce their risk of dental diseases.

The app was developed by Ben Underwood, a general dental practitioner from York. In 2007, the UK Department of Health published the evidence-based Delivering Better Oral Health toolkit for prevention. According to Underwood, the document did not fulfil its objective because it was sent to dentists, who first had to read the toolkit, then communicate the information to their patients and hope that they remembered what they were told and carried it out—every day, twice a day.

The dentist thought that something was needed to convey the information directly to people in a cost-effective manner—something that would be looked at and encourage effective twice-daily toothbrushing. He came up with the idea of an app that would reach a high number of people. “Research by the World Bank in 2012 reported that 75 per cent of the world’s inhabitants have access to a mobile phone, with one billion having a smartphone and this figure is expected to double by 2015,” Underwood told Dental Tribune ONLINE. “In March 2012, Apple announced that 25 billion apps had been downloaded from its App Store by users of more than 315 million iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices worldwide. The Android equivalent to the App Store, the Google Play Store, has had over 20 billion apps downloaded so far.”

The app plays two minutes of music. “This makes the mundane task of brushing for the correct length of time more fun and therefore more likely to happen,” said Underwood. The program also contains the evidence-based oral health advice given in the Department of Health document Delivering Better Oral Health. Furthermore, reminders can be set for brushing twice a day, changing toothbrushes, and visiting the dentist and hygienist.

Launched in early 2012, Brush DJ has already been downloaded in 151 countries onto more than 36,000 devices. The next version of the app will have a link to YouTube videos that demonstrate a basic oral hygiene routine.

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