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MySmileBuddy Partner(s): Dr. Burton Edelstein
College of Dental Medicine

Released: April 2011
Archived, no longer available.

MySmileBuddy is a mobile application to guide health workers assessing a child's risk for early childhood caries (ECC or severe tooth decay) and counseling that child's family on preventative lifestyle changes. CCNMTL is partnering with Dr. Burton Edelstein of the College of Dental Medicine to propose an improved risk assessment for ECC, and to develop and test the MySmileBuddy tool. Dr. Edelstein will conduct a pilot of MySmileBuddy funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) with at-risk families in Morningside Heights.

Health workers and families using MySmileBuddy will supplement their face-to-face interaction with the use of MySmileBuddy's mobile application on a tablet computer that calculates risk for ECC and assists health workers in providing educational and motivational activities about oral health. The mobile application features assessment questions, interactive day/diet planner, videos and animation, as well as researcher tools including an online equation weighting tool for developing appropriate risk scores and an administrative area for viewing family data.

MySmileBuddy represents a novel approach to improving dental health through emphasizing prevention rather than repair, exploring ways to move dental education and care into a community health worker context, and helping dentists learn to deliver counseling messages about behavior change.

Project Details

MySmileBuddy is funded by the NIH to address their Challenge Area on Health Disparities: "Trans-disciplinary Research to Integrate the Biological and Non-biological Determinants of Health to Address Health Disparities." MySmileBuddy aims to reduce Early Childhood Caries (ECC or severe tooth decay) in children under six. ECC affects minority, low-income families to a greater extent than it affects more affluent families. Low-income, and minority children are twice as likely to experience caries and have twice the extent of disease but only half as much dental care as more affluent peers.

The project seeks to reduce health disparities by investigating methods to close the gap between health information and health behaviors— specifically, the gap between instruction provided by clinicians to families of young children with chronic diseases and the capacity of economically stressed families to act on that instruction. ECC was selected as an exemplar chronic disease because it is highly prevalent in young children, because preventive and therapeutic bio- behavioral therapies are available but underused, and because significant cost savings may accrue to governmental programs, insurers, and families if the need for dental repair can be reduced.

In brainstorming and designing the mySmileBuddy tool, CCNMTL has built on experience and lessons learned from several other behavioral intervention projects: MultimediaConnect, WORTH and Masivukeni. MySmileBuddy extends the just-in-time support and instruction from these projects to a small mobile device, giving the health worker even more flexibility when working with a family and ensuring that the face-to-face encounter between the health worker and the family takes precedence over interactions with the device.

Faculty on the mySmileBuddy research team have been inspired by the unique challenge of developing risk assessment from complex nutritional, environmental, behavioral and biological data. In the coming semesters dental residents and doctoral candidates in the nutrition program at Teachers College will be using the assessment developed for mySmileBuddy as a jumping off point for developing their own risk assessments for ECC.

Related news:
Apr-2011: MySmileBuddy Testing Begins Today