8 July 2020
Poor oral hygiene is a great public health problem worldwide. Oral health care education is a public health priority as the maintenance of oral hygiene is integral to overall health. Maintaining optimal oral hygiene among children is challenging and can be supported by using relevant motivational approaches.
The primary aim of this study was to identify mobile smartphone apps that include gamification features focused on motivating children to learn, perform, and maintain optimal oral hygiene.
We searched six online app stores using four search terms (“oral hygiene game,” “oral hygiene gamification,” “oral hygiene brush game,” and “oral hygiene brush gamification”). We identified gamification features, identified whether apps were consistent with evidence-based dentistry, performed a quality appraisal with the Mobile App Rating Scale user version (uMARS), and quantified behavior scores (Behavior Change score, uMARS score, and Coventry, Aberdeen, and London-Refined [CALO-RE] score) using three different instruments that measure behavior change.
Of 612 potentially relevant apps included in the analysis, 17 met the inclusion criteria. On average, apps included 6.87 (SD 4.18) out of 31 possible gamification features. The most frequently used gamification features were time pressure (16/17, 94%), virtual characters (14/17, 82%), and fantasy (13/17, 76%). The most common oral hygiene evidence-based recommendation was brushing time (2-3 minutes), which was identified in 94% (16/17) of apps. The overall mean uMARS score for app quality was high (4.30, SD 0.36), with good mean subjective quality (3.79, SD 0.71) and perceived impact (3.58, SD 0.44). Sufficient behavior change techniques based on three taxonomies were detected in each app.
The majority of the analyzed oral hygiene apps included gamification features and behavior change techniques to perform and maintain oral hygiene in children. Overall, the apps contained some educational content consistent with evidence-based dentistry and high-quality background for oral self-care in children; however, there is scope for improvement.