Bluetooth Retainer Reports Usage to Orthodontists

14 Dec 2015
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Eric Castle is one of several UCSF dental and medical experts developing the Bluetooth-enabled SmartByte retainer, which is designed to improve patient usage. Eric Castle is one of several UCSF dental and medical experts developing the Bluetooth-enabled SmartByte retainer, which is designed to improve patient usage. Photo by Al Lipske.

Retainers can be effective in orthodontia—if patients use them properly, of course. And how many patients are honest about how consistently they wear their retainers? With some help from Bluetooth technology, orthodontists can expect accurate answers and better results.

The SmartByte retainer from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) School of Dentistry includes a sensor that differentiates between body temperature and room temperature, indicating if it is being worn. It then sends this data to the patient’s mobile phone, a cloud database, and, eventually, the orthodontist’s computer server.

“Unfortunately, one of the frustrating aspects of orthodontics is that patients do not always wear their retainers as much as they should after their braces are removed,” said Eric Castle, DMD, an orthodontic resident at the school. “This often leads to the teeth relapsing out of alignment, requiring retreatment with braces to correct.”

Generally, orthodontists say that patients should wear a retainer full-time for a minimum of 6 months after braces have been removed. Yet up to 70% of patients forget the necessity of wearing their retainer, while overestimating how long they wear it by a third of actual time.

Patients often skip using their retainer because they simply forget to put it in. Or, they cite its discomfort, the hassle of wearing it, and how it makes speech difficult. To improve compliance, the SmartByte comes with an app that provides prizes and other rewards when patients reach goals for retainer use.

The SmartByte retainer is currently in the design stage. The researchers expect to launch a small pilot trial in the coming months, with a larger trial expected to begin in the next 2 years.

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