Apps for dental health care

Although it’s easier to reach out to patients as digital tools have become more available, it’s also sometimes more frustrating.

BY LORI LAUGHTER, RDH, BS

Although it’s easier to reach out to patients as digital tools have become more available, it’s also sometimes more frustrating. No longer is it enough to demonstrate brushing or to flip through a chart of proper home care steps. People want more style in their education and more reminders throughout their day. Lucky for everyone, there’s usually an app for that.

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While demonstrating flossing to a new patient recently, I was shocked when he grabbed my hand, moved it out of his way, and sat straight up. Reaching in his pocket, he removed his iPhone and tapped on the screen, calling up a bright purple screen with the heading “Dental Care.” During my discussion, I mentioned the patient could choose the floss he prefers as there is no real difference in effectiveness. The Dental Care HD app he brought up said the exact same thing, and he remarked, “My phone already told me that.”

Dental Care HD is available on both the iPhone and iPad. Easily downloaded from the Apple Store, it not only provides flossing information, but also includes several tutorials on home dental care. It offers sections on dental problems, nutrition for oral health, and a guide for when to visit the dentist. I was not particularly impressed with the section on whitening products, but it did open a discussion with this particular patient about whitening guidelines in the practice.

Google Play for droids offers over 70 free apps dedicated to oral care. Unfortunately, most have a low customer rating unless the program is aimed at children. One app, called How to Floss Your Teeth, is full of information on flossing, and even suggests alternatives for those who simply cannot master string floss.

Available on both Apple and Google is Brush DJ, developed by Dr. Ben Underwood of England. Brush DJ is a brushing timer that uses a person’s own music library to help brush for a full two minutes. The website (brushdj.com) provides a video tutorial on the app’s features, along with information for patients and dental professionals. There is even a list of favorite brushing songs.

Since hearing about this app on DentistryIQ.com, many of my patients have downloaded it while sitting in the dental chair, and most reported they would use it to encourage adequate brushing time. There is also a function on Brush DJ to send two daily reminders to brush, floss, and use mouth rinse, as well as when schedule you next visit to the dental office.

For those interested in whitening, Philips has a fun app that allows users to see potential results right on their iPhone. Simply use a photo and the app will detect the smile and whiten the teeth. The photos can then be shared via email, Twitter, or Facebook. Philips Zoom is free to download from iTunes, and a coupon for $100 is available off a Philips Zoom procedure. The program adjusts the shade, and realistic expectations can be viewed based on the VITA shade guide. The app is fun to share with friends to see how smiles can be enhanced, and it’s a great chair side tool for professionals.

Smartphone apps related to dental health are not just for patients — there are apps to help students study for board exams, flashcard apps on dental anatomy, and even apps to help overcome language barriers. Dental Spanish Guide not only helps communicate with patients who prefer Spanish, but can be a teaching aid for dental professionals hoping to improve their Spanish skills. Now instead of sticking out my tongue to demonstrate what the patient needs to do during an oral cancer screening, I can tap my phone and it will state, “Puede sacar la lengua, por favor?”

Dental professionals can stay informed on topics from office design to dental hygiene products with the DentistryIQ News and Resource app available on iTunes. The app offers easy-to-access news and videos from DentistryIQ.com right to your smartphone. Items can be sorted by latest news or most viewed, and news items can be saved for later reference. The only thing missing for me is access to my community page and blogs. Luckily I’m never too far from a computer for that content.

Most of these tools are available online, as almost every app has a website — but why give up the convenience of tapping into a resource that’s in a patient’s possession at all times? Providing our patients with education and tools they can bring up with a click on their phone can go a long way to increasing information retention, and can even lead to habits necessary for good oral health. Remember, if you want to teach it, reinforce it, or make it fun, there is probably an app for that. RDH

LORY LAUGHTER, RDH, BS, practices clinically in Napa, Calif. She is owner of Dental IQ, a business responsible for the Annual Napa Dental Experience. Lory combines her love for travel with speaking nationally on a variety of topics. She can be contacted at
lorylaughter@aol.com.

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