Are you smarter than smart toothbrushes?

Toothbrush technology greatly enhances the patient education experience

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Toothbrush technology greatly enhances the patient education experience

By Pamela Maragliano-Muniz, DMD

Smart toothbrushes can encourage optimal oral hygiene habits for dental patients, and dental professionals are responsible for learning about smart toothbrush technology so they can best educate their patients. Four smart toothbrushes are reviewed in this article: the Oral-B Pro 5000/7000 SmartSeries, the Kolibree, the Beam Brush, and the Philips Sonicare for Kids.

If each of us received a penny for every time we explained proper brushing techniques and suggested "spending a little more time in this area" while pointing out a patient's trouble spots in the mirror, we would all be zillionaires.

The literature strongly suggests that improved plaque removal occurs when one brushes with an electric toothbrush when compared to a manual toothbrush. It also seems that toothbrushes with automatic timers tend to facilitate longer brushing times and improved plaque control. Although the research supports these statements, we still see many patients who, despite having access to electric toothbrushes, have inadequate oral hygiene practices.

Smart toothbrushes encourage optimal oral hygiene habits by providing patients with accurate reports of their brushing times and habits and by providing professionals with reports of exactly how long patients are brushing. A few brushes on the market offer this technology, and it is important for us as dental professionals to understand the technology so we can educate our patients. In addition, it is especially important to understand this technology if we are going to use it to our advantage and recommend it to our patients.

Oral-B Pro 5000 / 7000 SmartSeries

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The former hygienist in me has become enamored with this smart toothbrush for many reasons. This toothbrush offers a multitude of brush-head options for daily brushing and for specific dental considerations (for example, sensitivity, orth1604RDHodontics, implants). The rotating-oscillating motion of the brush head is excellent for plaque removal, while being safe on all tooth surfaces.

Additionally, if too much pressure is applied to the toothbrush, a red light illuminates the backside of the toothbrush. This red light is visible while brushing to remind the brusher to adjust the pressure applied to the tooth.

This toothbrush is Bluetooth-connected with an interactive app, which has many features:

• Timer: The timer monitors brushing time, coaches the user to brush for an appropriate time in each quadrant, and reminds the user to brush longer if a longer brushing time is set. It also monitors whether too much pressure is applied to the brush and includes instructional videos about proper usage of the brush head. While brushing, the user can focus on the diagram of the section of the mouth to be brushed or read a newsfeed, weather reports, oral care tips, or look at photos. These features encourage longer brushing times.

• Dental Care Journeys: This section of the app guides the user to a desired outcome with proper brushing, flossing, rinsing, and tongue-brushing habits, as well as product recommendations. With the Dental Care Journeys feature, the user can select a regimen, which includes recommendations for brushing time and products.

• Activity: This portion of the app is a report of the user's history of brushing times and frequency.

• Achievements: This portion of the app encourages the user to develop optimal brushing habits by recording the user's personal bests. Trophies can be achieved by using the various aspects of the app and by brushing properly over multiple consecutive days.

• Shop: The shop section of the app describes some of the features of the available products. The user's dental professional can recommend products.

• Professional Guidance: The user's dental professional can set up "Focused Care." Focused Care reminds the user to focus on a specific area in the mouth. The user may be reminded to spend more time brushing in a specific area. The dental professional can add notes to further educate the patient about a specific recommendation, such as cleaning around crowns, orthodontics, or implants. Product recommendations and appointment reminders can be set here.

• My Dental Office: This feature enables the user to enter contact information for his or her dental office. Appointments can be added and will sync with the user's smartphone.

Kolibree

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The Kolibree toothbrush was developed in France and recently hit the U.S. market. It is the lightest toothbrush on the market at 2.5 ounces, and it has 3-D motion sensors as well as Bluetooth connectivity. Its app features interactive games for kids and coaching for adults.

The timer and motion sensor within the toothbrush encourage brushing at the ideal angle and for the proper amount of time in each area of the mouth.

The app coaches the brusher to hold the toothbrush in a specific area of the mouth for approximately eight seconds per area. The app encourages the brusher to move the toothbrush systematically around the mouth until the goal of a two-minute brushing session has been achieved. The Kolibree brush also keeps a score based on how efficiently the brusher achieves the brushing positions and brushing time recommended by the app. This encourages the person to follow the app's directions to improve his or her score.

When I first started using the brush, I was not used to holding my brush at the recommended angle for the recommended time. It is important to follow the sequence recommended by the app and pay attention to the recommended brushing angle to achieve a positive score.

Each brush handle will accommodate brush heads for up to four different users, so it may be an economical option for families. During the spring 2016, four new games (for both iOS and Android) will become available for kids ages 3-6, 3-12, 6-12, and 12 or older. An "offline" feature will also be introduced for those who do not wish to connect to the app every time they brush.

New hardware features will include:

• Additional colors, as well as stickers, to customize the toothbrush

• A travel protector for the brush head

• A mirror for phone cases

• Three-vibration modes for sensitive gums, stubborn plaque, and average needs

• An orthodontic brush head

• Improved firmware for faster connectivity for games

• Elongated battery life

Beam Brush

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The Beam Brush is a smart toothbrush that connects to a smartphone and automatically tracks and rewards good brushing habits. Beam Technologies, the maker of the brush, offers a subscription service through which floss, toothpaste, and replacement brush heads can be delivered every three months. Beam also offers a discount program that customers can subscribe to in order to get discounted dental services for a year.

Beam affiliates with a dental insurance company that tracks and offers benefits for good brushing habits. Beam uses the data gathered from usage of the toothbrush to compare the usage of the brush to corresponding dental claims. For example, one would assume that if a person has excellent brushing habits, they would most likely visit the dentist for routine care, as opposed to needing significant restorative or periodontal procedures. The goal for this toothbrush is to encourage better dental-care habits.

Philips Sonicare for Kids

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Philips Sonicare has developed a kid-friendly smart toothbrush to encourage better tooth-brushing habits. This colorful toothbrush can be customized with eight stickers and features an interactive app to encourage tooth brushing. The child (or parent) can create a profile for the app, and the app will reward the child for proper brushing habits. Parents can monitor the child's brushing habits via the app.

In addition, the child can adopt a "Sparkly" character, name it, and help it to brush its teeth for an adequate period of time so that the animated character can be "happy." A Sparkly has a sad face before brushing to indicate that the child needs to help it brush.

During brushing, the child is encouraged to follow along as the Sparkly's teeth are brushed in each quadrant.

These smart toothbrushes can help us to improve the oral health of our patients. It is our responsibility as dental professionals to determine which technology is appropriate to recommend to specific patients. RDH


Pamela Maragliano-Muniz, DMD, is an editorial director for Pearls for Your Practice: The Product Navigator, an e-newsletter from DentistryIQ.com and Dental Economics. She was a dental hygienist before earning her DMD from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and her certificate in advanced prosthodontics from the UCLA School of Dentistry. She teaches and also maintains a private practice in Salem, Massachusetts. Her passion for prevention has stayed with her throughout her career, and in 2010 her practice was named the Adult Preventive Care Practice of the Year by the American Dental Association.

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