Girl brushing her teeth

There’s an app for that!

Date: May 2021

Author: Louise Sinclair

Smartphone apps can be used to enhance many of our day-to-day activities, and oral health is no exception. As “smart” connected toothbrushes become more widely available, we discuss how dental students can help their patients reap the benefits.

What is a smart toothbrush?

A smart toothbrush is a powered toothbrush that connects to a dedicated smartphone app. The brush collects information from the user and then displays it in the app, giving them real-time feedback on their brushing habits.

Are smart toothbrushes effective?

Yes. One study found that, when paired with an app, powered toothbrushes reduced:

  • Whole mouth biofilm by 60% (compared to 44.9% without an app).
  • Biofilm at the gingival line by 49.5% (compared to 34.7% without an app).
  • Interproximal biofilm by 56.9% (compared to 40.2% without an app).
  • Gingivitis by 38.9% at 6 weeks (compared to 28.9% without an app).

How connected toothbrushes help

Connected power toothbrushes, like the Colgate hum and the Colgate Smart Electronic Toothbrush E1, come with a variety of helpful features to help your patients improve their oral health.

Duration and frequency. We encourage our patients to brush for two minutes, twice a day, but we know that patients can fall short of the two-minute mark. Apps like Colgate hum and the Colgate Smart Electronic Toothbrush use timers to help your patients brush for the right length of time, and the Colgate hum sends you reminders when it's time to brush.

Coverage. Most people miss up to 40% of their teeth during brushing. Using advanced sensor technology, Colgate’s connected brushes can detect how much of the mouth was covered and highlight neglected areas in their respective apps. The user can then pay extra attention to these areas and get feedback on their effectiveness.   

Intensity. Brushing too hard can damage gingival tissue, as well as the tooth surface over time. Powered toothbrushes often have a sensor feature to let you know if you are not brushing with the correct intensity, and connected apps can be used to reinforce the message and show improvements.

Motivation. Many people are motivated by “gamification”, where toothbrushing is turned into a game with rewards. For example, the Colgate Smart Electronic Toothbrush E1 app comes with free games that turn the toothbrush into a game controller. Colgate Hum gives points to the user for brushing properly and consistently, which they can then exchange for rewards.

Patient-practitioner communication. As a student or practitioner, you can use apps to improve patient communication and compliance. If your patient is happy to show you their app data, you can spot any areas of concern and offer tailored advice, e.g., coaching on brushing technique. On their next visit, you can review the app data to see if the patient’s brushing has improved.

Connected toothbrushes for kids

We know that dental caries, gingivitis and periodontitis are preventable. That’s why it’s never too early to start instilling good oral care habits and routines in children. Luckily, there’s an app for that too!

Some of our younger patients can be reluctant brushers, but app-connected toothbrushes like the Colgate hum kids turn brushing into an exciting, immersive experience. The hum kids app turns brushing into a two-minute game, using augmented reality to conjure up weird and wonderful monsters that can only be defeated by thorough brushing. Kids can level up with each successful session, unleashing new monsters and earning points, badges and rewards.

Like its grown-up counterpart, the hum kids app tracks frequency, duration and coverage to promote effective brushing. Parents can monitor everything from their own app dashboard and offer guidance when necessary, helping their kids develop good oral health habits that will last a lifetime.

The Colgate Gum Health Physical

You can also help your patients to achieve even better oral health outcomes by pairing connected toothbrushes with technology like the Colgate Gum Health Physical. This in-office tool gives patients a visual representation of their gingival health, shows them any areas of concern, and provides them with a personalized take-home report. Using their smart toothbrush and app, they can make sure they’re brushing effectively and paying enough attention to the areas that need it most.