You Imagine: Dental Apps That Kick – Part 1

Written by on February 28, 2013 in Research & Technology - No comments
Finding an app for that

Dental apps offer a promise for both dentists and patients. They can inform and educate, hold medical records, and they can change dental habits for the young and the old alike. They serve as a bridge between the dentist and the patient. What is being done to enhance this bridge? I have reviewed dozens of dental apps, spoken with dentists and developers about their plans, and I offer the insights of that exploration here. I want to be clear that I am in no way paid or compensated by any of the app developers I will be reviewing.

While iTunes doesn’t offer subcategories in Medical, dental apps came in four varieties. There are (1) apps that motivate kids to brush or visit the dentist. There are (2) apps dentists can use to to communicate with and educate patients about dental health and procedures. There are (3) apps that dentists use to hold medical records or reference data. And there are (4) apps patients can use to learn more on their own.

 1. A healthy tooth begins at home

As my daughter was having her braces adjusted, one day recently, I asked her orthodontist what the biggest obstacle to good outcomes with braces would be, and she said the issue is kids brushing their teeth, that they don’t often do it long enough or thoroughly enough. Before making my suggestions to her for possible app development, I made a list for her of what’s already available.

I noticed that one of the toothpaste companies have been working on this idea. Aquafresh offers Time2Brush with a two minute timer. When kids brush they earn points. What makes the app fun is kids they earn accessories to dress their virtual pet “Nerdle”. My 8 and 10 year oldes were both addicted to this app because they wanted to fill Nerdle’s closet.

Getting kids excited about teeth is more than just a good story.. Kids Dental Health is a story for toddlers and young children. Children choose one from among four characters to lead the story. Children learn what happens when they don’t brush their teeth, what foods are health, and how often they should brush. The Lite version offers only the simple story, which would be fun except that there are an annoying number of prompts to purchase the full version ($3.99). The full version offers games to enhance the story.

StarTeeth is a free app and my kids loved it. It is simple with an appealing interface. It allows children to choose one of 12 characters which will then display a timer and brush their own teeth to music, as the child brushes, too. The characters are cute. There are even holiday characters like Santa Claus, and a place to vote for future characters to be added.

One little app called A Little Mouse: Brush Teeth Lite, by Wang Hongting, will make your kids laugh with its funny drawings, large teeth, and high-pitched child’s voice. The story begins, “Dear, we are gong to brush teeth.”, “No, I hate to brush teeth. Help. Please help me. I want to brush my teeth.” But it draws kids in, and my kids enjoyed it.

Of all the kids apps, my kids preferred StarTeeth because they loved the character selection. And they also liked Time2Brush, for the chance to earn points and collect clothes for their character.

Before I move from the topic of motivation, there is a brushing app that appeals to teens and adults. It is called Brush DJ, by y Benjamin Underwood (http://www.brushdj.com). It is a free app and what makes it great is that it takes songs from your iTunes music collection and plays them for 2 minutes while you brush. It also offers healthy teeth reminders targeted for your particular age group.

These motivation apps surprised me. I didn’t realize that such a simple device, one step up from an hour-glass, could give my kids the patience and pleasure to brush for the whole recommended 2 minutes, twice every day. I only hope this becomes a habit.

2. In-office instruction

Even with faithful brushing, a dentist might need to speak with the patient about improvements in technique. And procedures will be necessary at times to keep teeth healthy. There are two types of these in-office patient instruction apps. There are free or inexpensive apps. And then there are professional grade apps that cost a great deal more.

Virtual Dentist Free, Premium, and Professional

Exploring the patient-ed apps, I found two that stood out from the others. The first is Virtual Dentist by ModiFace. The free version allows dentists to demonstrate cavities and individualized drilling, filling, and tooth reshaping approaches by drawing on pre-installed sample mouth photos, or by shooting or importing photo directly into the app. This free version also offers a tooth whitening feature to lighten and darken a set of teeth. There is a Premium version includes veneers, gum bleaching, and braces, for $2.99, and a professional version that includes personalization to the clinic among other additional features costs $99.99. I suggest experimenting with the free app to see if it suits your needs. If it is typical for you to draw examples of the procedures to be performed, he results here are more sophisticated than a line drawing, but if patients expect the images to look exactly the way their teeth will look when the procedures are completed, the app may be misleading.

DCStory

DCStory by Happy Space (http://www.dcsipad.com) is a $699 robust app full of films revealing various procedures for iPad. There is a lite version which shows a few seconds of each video, but perhaps the only value in this lite version would be to decide if the design is right for your needs.

Also in the series of DCStory is the DCStoryM app, which offers movies of implants, bridge implants, splinting, gingival grafts, and tooth loss. And DCStoryM Special for $499.99.

There are other apps in the DC series. Dental RC, for example, allows users to take photos and communicate orthodontic knowledge to the dentist. And DCStory X-ray Plan Special offers x-rays for $199.99,  And then DCStoryO Special offers 200 orthodontic animations with patient photo uploading to personalize the instruction. It also offers hand drawing on the photos to personalize the patient understanding. It also offers a record keeping feature so that records can be emailed or reviewed at home. Images from the DCStoryO orthodontic, follow:

The extensive collection of videos these apps offer explains the high prices. But it may be a worthwhile investment to a dentist, as the videos are well prepared and may save time in the long run.

Next month, in Part 2, I’ll report on apps for dentists and apps for patient self-exploration.

By Laura Maaske

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