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Why taking a selfie while brushing your teeth could be good for you


By: Lance Vernon,

Teeth have been big news lately. First, there was the issue of whether flossing really helps lower the risk for tooth decay and gingivitis.

And now, questions about how often we really need to get dental X-rays have made the news.

The bottom line is that, clinically, these are complex issues that can’t easily be reduced to a simple soundbite.

Maybe it’s time to take a step back and talk about something we can all agree on – tooth brushing.

A very small study, conducted in India, examined whether taking a smart phone video selfie might help people learn to brush their teeth in a more effective manner.

Well, can it help? Short answer: Maybe. Longer answer: It’s complicated, too.

A little selfie-consciousness may be good

The recent study was conducted by three dentists from India, another researcher from the United States and me. We examined the feasibility of using smart phone video “selfies” to help improve tooth brushing technique.

They conducted a small proof-of-concept study, to determine whether tooth brushing with selfie-taking is worth studying further. As part of the study, Indian dental students were given a one-time tooth brushing training session. Then over two weeks, they recorded – on their phones in the privacy of their own home – five tooth brushing selfies.

Later, the dentist researchers from India reviewed and characterized the selfies. With further analyses from my US colleague, we found some changes and variation over time in the quality and accuracy of tooth brushing.

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