New campaign uses cognitive method to get kids to brush at night

By Melissa Busch, DrBicuspid.com assistant editor

March 20, 2020 -- Do you want to get more children brushing their teeth every night before they go to bed? Encourage your young patients and their parents to pair nightly oral hygiene with book reading for at least three weeks, according to new research.

The research was conducted by Smile, an organization comprised of the oral care brands Pepsodent, Mentadent, P/S, Aim, Prodent, and Signal. Smile unveiled its new Brush, Story, Sleep campaign in recognition of World Oral Health Day on March 20.

Instead of taking the old route of giving kids new toothbrushes or new flavored toothpaste, the campaign uses behavioral science to help caregivers create a nighttime routine that combines brushing, reading a story, and then heading off to dreamland. The goal is to complete the routine for 21 days, so it turns into a habit.

"We must continue to bring new expertise, like behavior science, into our business, to help us spread outstanding oral health through our products and educational programs around the world," said Mariano Sampietro, Smile's global brand vice president.

Too many don't do it

Its efforts to improve nighttime brushing was triggered by Smile's latest study that showed a startling number of children don't clean their teeth before bed.

About 40% of children in Ghana, 35% of children in Egypt, and about 1 in 5 children across France, Vietnam, and Indonesia go to bed without brushing their teeth. Many parents even reward their children by allowing them to skip the bedtime brush despite knowing they are making their children more vulnerable to caries, according to the findings.

Changing the behavior

A main focus of this new endeavor is Smile's new bedtime storybook, The Adventures of Little Brush Big Brush, which is a collection of 21 stories that stars two characters who travel the world and pick up toothbrushing tips from an array of animal friends.

The story having 21 tales is no accident. There is one story, each night for three weeks. That length of time is how long it takes to establish a routine and turn it into, hopefully, a lifelong habit, said Tom Newton, a behavioral scientist who is a professor of psychology as applied to dentistry at King's College of London in the U.K. Newton helped guide Smile's campaign.

Smile has 21-night toothbrushing calendars, which allows children to track their progress, a bookmark, and the book, which can be downloaded for free.

Smile brands have offered school brushing programs, free dental checks, and campaigns to promote good oral hygiene for more than 25 years. Their efforts have reached about 100 million people worldwide, according to the organization.


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