Properly caring for your teeth is an important lifetime commitment, whether or not you go through orthodontic treatment.

One company is using technology creatively to encourage a strong oral care foundation in children. Welcome to the world of dental gaming!

The Grush toothbrush is a smart brush featuring tooth-to-tooth navigation based on intel technology and wireless communication. This toothbrush has caught my attention because it looks like an exciting, engaging instrument that could start kids on the path to a lifetime of healthy brushing habits.

The benefits of orthodontic treatment easily can be negated by a poor home care regime. Creating good brushing habits prior to treatment increases treatment success and effectiveness of down the road.

How the Grush Works

Harvard-trained pediatric dentist Dr. Anubha Sacheti developed the technology, according to a recent Boston Globe article. She partnered with a game developer to create a Bluetooth-enabled electric toothbrush capable of tracking how well users brush their teeth.

The game operates on smart devices such as phones and tablets, and the toothbrush is the gaming console. It interacts with Grush games and allows kids to see how effectively they’re brushing. The product comes with a smart phone hanger for the bathroom mirror to make it easy for kids to play as they brush.

grush-gameTooth brushing becomes part of a two-minute game. There are several games to choose from, including:

  • Monster Chase challenges children to “brush away baddies” that hide among their teeth, and includes holiday add-ons to enhance the fun throughout the year.
  • Toothy Orchestra turns the toothbrush into a conductor’s baton so children can conduct beautiful music.
  • Brush-a-Pet enlists children to help raise a group of animal friends, including a giraffe named Gavin.

As children brush their teeth, the exact tooth number is on the smart device’s screen. The gaming system understands the direction of the brush strokes, and where on the tooth is being brushed. It displays that information on the smart device.

In addition to being an entertaining game for children, it’s a reliable monitor for parents to make sure their children are brushing properly and for the recommended length of time. It’s even a provider of valuable data to dental professionals.

Oral Care as a Foundation for Orthodontic Treatment

This tooth brushing system is interesting to me as an orthodontic professional whose goal is to provide healthy smiles that last my patients their entire lifetime. Oral care during orthodontic treatment is integral to success. Treatment can be trickier when a patient lacks good home care habits, so having tools for oral care success available to children at a young age helps reduce the chances that oral care will be a setback once they enter orthodontic treatment.

There are several reasons why good oral care is such an important element of orthodontic treatment.

  • Clean teeth move faster. Achieving a proper bite and ideal tooth alignment requires me to move teeth into better positions. Poor oral hygiene can lead to infection and swollen gum tissue, which slows tooth movement and results in longer treatment time. I’ve learned something about patients and oral hygiene over the years: poor oral hygiene habits often signal poor compliance overall. Patients who don’t follow a normal brushing and flossing regimen also tend to not wear their elastics and other removable appliances as prescribed. All of these are necessary to move the teeth, so not wearing them drags out treatment.
  • Tooth decay interferes with treatment time. If your child requires a filling during treatment, it could set back treatment by weeks, not to mention interfere with your already busy schedule. Depending on where the decay is, I might need to remove a bracket or band prior to your child’s dental appointment to have the cavity filled. Each day without the orthodontic appliances activated is a lost treatment day. Once your child’s cavity is filled, you’ll need schedule another appointment so we can reapply the appliance and reactivate treatment.

Problems Caused by Poor Oral Care During Orthodontic Treatment

Establishing your child’s home care routine at a young age also may help prevent some treatment-related dental issues.

Plaque and tartar buildup may become more common during treatment because orthodontic appliances create additional nooks and crannies where food particles can collect and bacteria can accumulate. Brushing after meals, and flossing teeth with the help of a floss threader can help combat this.

Gingivitis is “the most common short-term effect of orthodontic treatments on the periodontal health,” according to a March article in the Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry. It usually is the result of failing to brush and floss properly.

Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums caused by plaque that forms on the teeth and gums. Plaque that isn’t removed daily emits toxins that irritate the gums. Gingivitis is the initial stage of gum disease, and luckily, it can be reversed. However, untreated gingivitis can progress into periodontitis and cause irreversible damage to teeth, gums and bone. Periodontitis cannot be cured; only managed.

For these reasons, orthodontists spend a great deal of time advising patients about oral hygiene for plaque control, in addition to monitoring their treatment.

Oral Health During Orthodontic Treatment Requires a Collaborative Approach

A common question I am asked by patients and parents is whether routine dental checkups and professional teeth cleaning appointments can be canceled during orthodontic treatment. The answer is no!

Ideal orthodontic treatment is a collaboration between your orthodontist, general dentist, dental hygienist, and sometimes even an oral surgeon if teeth must be removed prior to treatment. We routinely communicate with other dental professionals to ensure our patients receive the best treatment.

My assistants and I check patients’ oral hygiene at each orthodontic checkup and offer instruction and guidance on improving hygiene when necessary. Professional cleanings at your general dentist’s office are vital throughout treatment to remove hard-to-reach plaque and tartar from the surfaces of teeth and appliances. These cleanings may need to happen more frequently if your child’s home oral hygiene routine isn’t up to par.

Because of the importance of good oral hygiene habits, I think the Grush could be a valuable tool to get kids excited about brushing. I’m in favor of anything that lays the groundwork for strong oral hygiene habits by the time a child is ready for orthodontic treatment.

Kids may eventually outgrow the novelty of playing a video game with their toothbrush, but that just means they can graduate to a regular electric toothbrush. Electric toothbrushes are great at cleaning around brackets, bands and arch wires and removing food particles from tight spaces.