Tooth Brushing Apps All Suck

Tooth Brushing Apps All Suck

Brushing your teeth is a tiny but meaningful thing you can do for your health. If an app can make that job easier to remember and more pleasant to do, wouldn’t that be handy? Unfortunately, all the tooth brushing apps I can find are terrible.

To give you an example of a tooth brushing app that is almost good, look at Disney Magic Timer (iOS/Android), which is made for kids. When you start brushing, you see a screen full of suds.

A cartoon toothbrush works on each quadrant of the screen for 30 seconds and slowly reveals a picture of Monsters, Inc. characters. At the end, you get half a gold star on your calendar for the day.

So first, the good: you look forward to the picture reveal (if you like Monsters, Inc. and are easily amused). That makes tooth brushing more enjoyable, so you’re less likely to skip it. Second, the gold star on the calendar helps in habit forming.

But the app is a commercial for cartoon-branded Oral-B products. It asks you to scan a product every time you start brushing. The adult version of the app shows news articles — better than cartoons, I guess — and it likewise starts with a product pitch: buy a Bluetooth-enabled brush to unlock premium features. Um, no thanks?

I wouldn’t complain about these apps if they were a good start. If I could pick a different app that understands that I use my own damn plain old toothbrush, that would be great. It would need to either give me some interesting stuff to look at, or pull from my own preferences — maybe grab my latest unread stories from Pocket? Show me funny two-minute videos? It takes zero imagination to think of ways to make this app into something I would look forward to using every morning.

But what have app developers done? They either write plain old timers, which work exactly like the timer built into your phone except hey you just installed a separate app, or else they write kids’ apps that are extremely literal: you brush your teeth while watching the cartoon character brush their teeth.

It’s 2016, folks. We can do better than this.

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