Why Dentists Should Know about Smart Toothbrushes
We’re living in a more connected age. Thanks to the internet, the appliances and devices which used to work fairly simply, are getting smarter and smarter. Think about the smoke detectors and appliances of Nest. In the past, smoke detectors were pretty straightforward devices. The downside was that most of the functions had to be set up manually, and it was harder to understand how well the device was actually doing its job. But that’s no longer necessarily the case.
The same principle applies to toothbrushes. For a long time, these were simply straightforward dental appliances that people had in their bathrooms. They applied toothpaste. They brushed their teeth, and then they were done. However, advances in connectivity, miniaturization and other technology are allowing our toothbrushes to become better and smarter. This is something that dentists should learn about, because this could have a profound effect on dentists’ practice.
Here’s one example. Dentists make it a point to teach their patients about proper oral care. Key to this is the need to develop good brushing habits. If a person has good brushing habits, then it’s less likely that she will develop plaque, cavities and other dental problems. But if she has poor brushing habits, the patient is more likely to have mouth problems, which could prevent the dentist from achieving a better mouth health situation.
The problem though is that, while the dentist can tell the patient to brush regularly, there has really been no way of following this up. Sure, the dentist can ask her patient whether she brushes regularly or not, how often, and for how long. But the answers to these will all depend on the patient. What if the patient hasn’t been taking note of this information, and so is unable to provide the dentist with accurate answers? Or what if the patient is too busy to brush, and hesitates to tell her dentist about this? This could lead the dentist to operate using incorrect assumptions. This type of information would be key.
Now, there are smart toothbrushes which are able to take note of information, relating to the patient’s brushing. Such a smart toothbrush could keep track of how long the patient brushes her teeth, and how often or when the brushing takes place. The toothbrush can then connect wirelessly to the person’s mobile phone or device. The data can then be transferred over, so that it’s easier for the patient as well as her dentist to take a look.
This is a big deal. No longer will a dentist have to depend on incomplete or hazy information on brushing, from her patients. Instead, the dentist can see for herself exactly how long the patient brushes her teeth, and how regularly this takes place. This data will be a lot more accurate. Based on this data, the dentist can then advise the patient regarding whether she needs to brush longer, or more regularly. Then, it will be possible to do a follow up visit later on, so that the dentist can know for sure if her advice is actually being followed. So this is one thing that dentists need to take note of, regarding smart toothbrushes.
Another important point is that the smart toothbrushes themselves can help to instill better brushing habits in the dentist’s patients. For example, some of these toothbrushes can use a light, a sound, or even music, to inform people whether they have already brushed for a long enough period. This makes it easier for the patient to develop good habits. There’s no need to estimate or figure out whether she has brushed for enough minutes. She just needs to take note of the light or the music. So if the music hasn’t stopped yet, she needs to keep on brushing.
This is particularly helpful when it comes to kids. It may not always be possible to supervise the kids’ brushing habits, so there’s the likelihood that they’re not brushing long enough. So in this case, kids can just basically be told that they need to continue brushing their teeth, until after the song is over. As long as they follow this advice, it becomes less likely that they will end their brushing prematurely. Dentists should be familiar with this, because it becomes very possible that patients will ask their dentists about how best to use these smart toothbrushes.
There are even more advanced smart toothbrushes, which contain more sensors. For instance, some toothbrushes have sensors similar to what mobile phones have. These include accelerometers, gravity sensors, and the like. This allows even more fine grained information. It will allow a dentist to analyze whether the brushing technique of the patient is good or could be improved upon. These various sensors paint a picture of the motion and movements that the person does, while brushing her teeth. Again, this will allow the dentist to advise the patient on whether she needs to make any changes to her brushing routine.
These are just some of the developments that smart toothbrushes are bringing. You can expect that, as the technology improves, the level of detailed information that these devices can provide will also increase. This is something that dentists need to be aware of, and keep an eye on. After all, these smart toothbrushes could potentially make it easier for dentists to do their jobs, and achieve an ideal outcome. But in order for a dentist to make good use of this potential, she has to understand how the smart toothbrush works, its capabilities as well as its limitations.
It’s also important for dentists to know about these devices, because they should expect that their patients will ask them about these. As smart toothbrushes become more popular and more common, it becomes more likely that patients will be using these, in place of a regular toothbrush. Patients will expect that their dentists will be able to provide them answers about these devices. If a dentist can provide the answers needed, then this will further raise her reputation and credibility, in the eyes of patients.