Recording ‘selfies’ while brushing teeth can improve technique

A new study has used  selfies to reveal toothbrushing behavior
A new study has used selfies to reveal toothbrushing behaviour

New research has found that recording yourself brushing your teeth can help improve your oral hygiene technique.

The study, which had participants film ‘selfies’ of their brushing at home using smart phones propped on stands, revealed an increase in the accuracy of brush strokes, an increase in number of strokes and an overall 8% improvement in toothbrushing skill. The length of time a person brushed did not change, however.

‘Often, toothbrushing is learned and practised without proper supervision,’ said Lance Vernon, co-author of the study and a senior instructor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine. ‘Changing toothbrushing behaviours, which are ingrained habits tied to muscle memory, can take a lot of time and guidance.

‘Our study suggests that, in the future, recording these selfies can help shift some of this time investment in improving brushing to technology. Patients can then receive feedback from dental professionals.’

The very act of recording a selfie may disrupt ingrained habits, making participants conscious of their brushing and reinforced staples of behaviour change, including the process of memory formation, association and creating new muscle memory.

Despite being a small pilot study, published in the Indian Journal of Dental Research, showed promising results.

Selfies being used more and more in medical fields to assess, monitor and determine the progression of diseases and effectiveness of treatment, and the researchers believe these findings are of more importance in proving the selfie concept is useful in a dental setting.

This new way of gathering data is known as mobile health, or ‘mHealth’, according to Vernon.

‘To our knowledge, this is the first report using selfies to study toothbrushing behavior,’ he said. ‘It’s a start at an mHealth strategy to create new habits, helping dentists and patients focus more on prevention, rather than on fixing problems once they occur, which can too often be the focus in dentistry.’

Looking ahead

The researchers hope to create a video-based monitoring app that records videos of patients brushing at home, which are later reviewed by oral health professionals.

‘The cost of an app could be minor, while potentially there could be major long-term benefits to a user’s oral health and quality of life,’ explained Vernon. ‘Dental care can be inaccessible because of cost and access. It’s possible dental selfies and other “mHealth” strategies on phones can become an important part of oral health prevention and diagnosis in the future.


Kumar PDM, Aruncahalam MA, Thavarajah R, Walls T, Vernon LT (2016) Using smartphone video ‘selfies’ to monitor change in toothbrushing behavior after a brief intervention: a pilot study. Indian J Dent Res 27(3): 268-77

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