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Bluetooth Retainer May Improve Patient Compliance


A team from the University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry has developed a prototype retainer that uses Bluetooth technology to help determine patients’ real-time use of orthodontic appliances. Called the SmartByte, it is designed to help clinicians and parents/caregivers monitor compliance, with the ultimate goal of improving treatment outcomes.

When retainers are not worn — especially in the crucial months after braces are removed — the teeth may continue to move, possibly leading to the need for retreatment. As a result, retainer use is typically recommended for at least six months post-orthodontic treatment. The SmartByte works via a sensor that monitors temperature (body or room), which, in turn, determines how often the appliance is being worn. Data then ping to the chosen data-sharing platform — iOS-, Android- or Windows-based phones and tablets — and the corresponding app tracks progress, awards virtual prizes, and offers other incentives when goals are met.

The researchers note that while there have been other attempts to develop retainers that track patient usage, this is the first product that doesn’t require a practice-based docking station. The ability to track everyday use — with the opportunity to help noncompliant patients establish good habits — makes the SmartByte a promising development. Pilot trials are expected to begin early this year, with large-scale trials anticipated by 2018.

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