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Sparkly watches the kids: App for Sonicare For Kids guides children to better oral health

Feb. 17, 2016
By Cathy Seckman: App for Sonicare For Kids guides children to better oral health.  

By Cathy Hester Seckman, RDH

Even the tiniest toddler can be connected these days, and it's becoming easier for us to take advantage of that. Look around at the kids in your dental office. What are they doing? The teen is certainly texting friends; the studious 10-year-old is doing homework on a tablet. The kindergartener is exploring a reading app on Daddy's phone; and the three-year-old is playing a hand-held game. We can use that tech fascination to improve the oral health of every child in our practice. Quality brushing habits? It's a cinch. Good eating habits? It's all in the tech.

Philips Sonicare has updated its Sonicare For Kids power brush with built-in Bluetooth technology. Meant for ages 3 and older, the new brush features a fuzzy little interactive helper named Sparkly. Like the original Philips Sonicare For Kids, there are two power modes for younger and older children. The brushes come with a charging unit, travel cap, two different-size brush heads backed by rubber for safety, plus interchangeable stickers to customize each brush handle.

Parents download the coaching app to a phone or tablet to bring Sparkly to life. He or she arrives when the child hatches the egg on the opening screen. Sparkly gets a gift-a shiny new Sonicare For Kids power brush-when he or she is given a new name that each child chooses.

When the child is ready to brush, Sparkly's mouth appears on the app screen as a brushing guide, and a virtual brush head moves through each quadrant of the mouth, scattering germs and leaving dazzling teeth behind. Sparkly uses fun sounds, chatty dialogue, and action to encourage thorough brushing, and allows timeouts for spitting. I especially appreciate that Sparkly sometimes backs up to do a better job in tough places like lower posteriors, and he never neglects the occlusals. Brushing time starts at one minute, and increases with each use until children are happily brushing for two minutes.

With each successful brushing, children can give their own personal Sparkly rewards like good snacks and achievement badges to keep motivation high. (So far, my Sparkly has a slice of pizza, bacon and eggs, a head of cabbage, and an award certificate. He also likes cupcakes, and he purrs a lot.)

Once children are comfortable with the power brush and the interactive app, busy parents can leave the coaching and motivation to Sparkly. Thanks to a separate dashboard, parents can also monitor performance and progress, and design custom incentives to keep motivation high; 98% of parents using the app like the ease of letting Sparkly encourage their children to brush better and longer.

I ran the app several times before my brush charged completely. When it was fully charged the next day, I opened the app again to find a stern note on the parent dashboard: "Cathy has missed a brushing."

Well, I guess I need to do better! RDH

Cathy Hester Seckman, RDH, has worked in pediatric dentistry for 12 years. She is a frequent contributor to dental magazines, works part-time as an indexer, and is the author of two novels and more than a dozen short stories.