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Toothbrushing Is Becoming Increasingly Gamified for Some Reason

Smart toothbrushes with apps that provide real-life rewards like gift cards are becoming a thing, but are they really necessary?

Brushing my teeth? What’s in it for me, besides maintaining a nice smile, preventing bad breath, promoting overall health, avoiding the dentist and generally not being gross? 

Apparently, those reasons might not be enough to convince some people to keep up their brushing habits. Various electric and “smart” toothbrushes have gamified oral hygiene over the last several years, admittedly mostly for kids to help them learn proper brushing technique and timing. But now, it’s been taken a step further with companies like Quip offering rewards and prizes just for doing the shit you’re required to do in order to be a functioning person in society, anyway. 

Quip has offered smart toothbrushes for some time now, with electric toothbrushes featuring sonic vibrations to help guide users in their brushing and how much time to spend in each region of their mouth. This summer, they released an iOS app that tracks your brushing data in order to provide personalized insights into your brushing habits. For parents, the app can also be used to monitor children’s brushing. Again, none of these ideas are too new — dental companies like Oral-B and Philips Sonicare have had their own data-driven apps for several years now. Colgate even has an “augmented reality” brush/app program that guides kids’ brushing with digital games. 

But while Colgate’s AR app provides “rewards” for good brushing habits in the form of digital badges, Quip’s program translates rewards into material benefits geared toward adults. According to the Quip website, the rewards are largely centered within Quip’s catalogue of products, with offerings like free brush-head refills and credits toward future purchases. But Quip also offers rewards from a selection of partners like Target in the form of $5 gift cards. 

It’s not clear exactly how easy it is to obtain these rewards. Points are accumulated by brushing twice a day for two minutes at a time, with extra points earned for streaks. Nevertheless, the Quip toothbrush is approved by the American Dental Association, meaning its efficacy isn’t bullshit. The rewards-based concept seems to be catching on, though: Just a week after Quip announced their app, Colgate revealed their A.I.-powered smart toothbrush for adults. Colgate’s brush, called “hum,” features an extremely similar app and rewards program, at a slightly lower price of $50 compared to Quip’s $65. The hum website doesn’t yet state whether it has been approved by the ADA. 

Do A.I.-driven toothbrushes with rewards seem necessary? 

Absolutely not. 

But it might be the push some people need to keep up their oral hygiene, and that’s fine. Particularly in a moment when going to the dentist isn’t exactly recommended, you’ve gotta do what you can to keep your mouth healthy. If the idea of earning a $5 Target gift card is what does it for you, well, more power to you.