Teaching families about oral health through app-based gaming

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app-based gaming oral health

Melbourne researchers earlier this year piloted a study to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of game-based learning to boost oral health knowledge. 

Around 40 per cent of children in Australia experience some dental decay by their sixth birthday, 60 percent 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 polled 2073 parents with 3992 children and found that half the parents didn’t know that tap water (containing fluoride) is better for teeth than bottled water. A third of the children didn’t brush their twice a day, and a quarter of the pre-schoolers consumed and/or fell asleep with sugar-sweetened drinks most days of the week (e.g. juice, cordial or soft drink).

To address this gap in knowledge, a team from Melbourne Dental School (MDS) collaborated with app developers to create Tooth Samurai, an iOS mobile game, aimed at parents of young children.

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 from the App Store for iPhone and iPad.

This article first appeared as a news story on the University of Melbourne website.

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