Teaching families about oral health through app-based gaming
Around 40% of children in Australia experience some dental decay by their sixth birthday, 60% of which goes untreated1.
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 polled 2073 parents with 3992 children2 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 player learns to manage the tooth decay risk of a child by balancing the effects of cariogenic food/drinks in the diet against the usage of certain protective factors.
The project was able to conclude that game-based learning is as beneficial as conventional discussion-based learning in improving the oral health knowledge of adults.
This app is available only on the App Store for iPhone and iPad.
1. de Silva-Sanigorski AM, Calache H, Gussy M, Dashper S, Gibson J, Waters E. The VicGeneration study-a birth cohort to examine the environmental, behavioural and biological predictors of early childhood caries: background, aims and methods. BMC public health. 2010 Dec;10(1):97.
2. Rhodes A. Child oral health: Habits in Australian homes [Internet]. Rchpoll.org.au. 2018 [cited 15 May 2019]. Available from: https://www.rchpoll.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/NCHP10_Poll-report_Child-oral-health.pdf