Tooth Samurai

Teaching families about oral health through app-based gaming.

Around 40 per cent of children in Australia experience some dental decay by their sixth birthday, 60 per cent of which goes untreated. Parents are primarily responsible for maintaining the oral health of young children. However, they often show a lack of oral health knowledge when managing their children’s diet and oral hygiene. In 2018, the Royal Children’s Hospital surveyed 2073 parents and found that:

  • Half the parents don’t know that tap water (containing fluoride) is better for teeth than bottled water
  • A third of the children don’t have their teeth brushed twice a day
  • A quarter of the pre-schoolers consume and/or fall asleep with sugar-sweetened drinks most days of the week (e.g. juice, cordial or soft drink).

Melbourne Dental School (MDS) research piloted a study to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of game-based learning to address this gap in knowledge. MDS collaborated with app developers to create Tooth Samurai, an iOS mobile game, aimed at parents of young children to improve their oral health knowledge.

Tooth Samurai pits players against a swarm of drifting bacteria that must be eliminated via a physical swipe (simulating a toothbrush) to keep teeth free from decay. As the game progresses different items that advantage or disadvantage the player also appear, including tap water, toothpaste, chocolate, soft drinks, juice, milk and cheese.

The project concluded that game-based learning is as beneficial as conventional discussion-based learning in improving the oral health knowledge of adults. Head to the App Store to download Tooth Samurai: