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Mobile phones might help improve oral health in children and adolescents

By Dental Tribune International
October 10, 2019

LONDON, UK: Nowadays, the majority of people, even at a young age, own a mobile phone, making them a wide-reaching tool for interventions. For some time now, sports apps for smartphones have been used to improve general health, measuring distances and speed, for example. Why not extend this use to enhance oral health? A recent systematic review investigated whether mobile phones can be employed to address the global challenge of dental caries and found positive, but not generalisable, results.

In their review study, researchers from UCL Eastman Dental Institute in London and the Faculty of Dentistry, Oral and Craniofacial Sciences at King’s College London assessed the effectiveness of interventions delivered by mobile phones in improving adherence to oral hygiene advice. They asserted that such devices may elicit behaviour change by the use of associated techniques to address capability, opportunity and motivation in an individual.

For the review, two randomised controlled trials involving a total of 130 patients met the inclusion criteria. The intervention in one study was by means of text messages and the other an app. Both studies involved patients undergoing orthodontic treatment and were conducted in a university setting.

The results showed that the plaque scores were statistically significantly lower in the intervention group compared with the control group in both studies, but these had different follow-up periods. One study reported significantly lower gingival bleeding scores and caries at the final follow-up in the intervention group.

“There is some evidence that mobile phones are effective in improving adherence to oral hygiene advice in orthodontic patients. The generalisability of this review is limited due to the small number of trials and the unclear risk of bias of included studies,” concluded the authors in their paper.

The study, titled “A systematic review to assess interventions delivered by mobile phones in improving adherence to oral hygiene advice for children and adolescents”, was published in the 13 September 2019 issue of the British Dental Journal.

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