Recording smartphone video selfies of brushing teeth may help people learn techniques on how to improve their oral health, a new study suggests.

While most people have the ability, motivation and desire to brush their teeth properly, they often do not because of improper techniques. Opportunities to improve such skills can also be few, researchers said.

Using smart phones propped on stands, study participants filmed their brushing using their own toothbrush at home. Researchers saw an increase in the accuracy of brush strokes, an increase in number of strokes and an overall 8 percent improvement in tooth-brushing skill—but the length of time a person brushed did not change.

Our study suggests that, in the future, recording these selfies can help shift some of this time investment in improving brushing to technology,” added Vernon. “Patients can then receive feedback from dental professionals.”

Recording themselves as they brush makes people more conscious of their technique and can help get rid of ingrained habits that may be harmful for dental hygiene.

Vernon explained that medical fields are already using the selfie concept to monitor and assess a number of conditions under a method called mobile health or “mHealth.” However, this report is the first to use the technology to study tooth-brushing behavior, according to the authors. They also hope to see a video-based monitoring app that can help oral health professionals review people’s dental hygiene.

“The cost of an app could be minor, while potentially there could be major long-term benefits to a user’s oral health and quality of life,” Vernon said.

Oral diseases like tooth decay and periodontal disease can be prevented by proper brushing. However, there exists no standard brushing technique that is recommended universally by oral health experts or dental organizations, Vernon explained.

Before the study, participants' brushing habits were assessed and corrected until each were able to demonstrate proper technique. During the study, they were scored on time spent brushing and skill mastery, including brushing in a circular motion, obtaining a 45-degree angle while brushing facial surfaces of teeth and correct positioning of the arm.

Tooth-brushing helps avert preventable oral diseases, such as tooth decay and periodontal disease, although its effectiveness depends on brushing technique; currently, there is no standard brushing technique consistently recommended by dental organizations or even by oral health experts, Vernon said.