NHS Innovation Accelerator Alumni and creator of the Brush DJ app, Ben Underwood, has been announced as a winner of a national Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) Healthcare competition to improve children’s oral health.

The competition was launched by NHS England in partnership with the Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) and aims to identify and support innovative new products and services which have the potential to improve patient outcomes. It is the first competition of this type to focus on oral health.

Despite tooth decay being preventable, the NHS spends £50.5 million extracting decayed teeth from children under general anaesthesia every year(1), with a total annual dentistry spend of £3.4 billion. This figure does not include the loss of productivity for parents/carers attending appointments during working hours. The direct and indirect global economic impact of oral conditions in children and adults has been estimated to be over US$442 billion(2).

The SBRI award, which in phase 1 includes funding of up to £100k, will be used to explore the scientific, technical feasibility and commercial viability of adding enhanced features to the existing Brush DJ app. All potential features will be co-designed with children at highest risk of tooth decay and their carers and developed in collaboration with key stakeholders. The team will then apply for phase 2 of the competition, and if successful will secure funding of up to £1 million.

Ben Underwood, CEO of Brush DJ Ltd said:

“It is amazing to have not only this financial support and recognition, but, critically, access to the expertise of SBRI and its partners. Having been part of the NHS Innovation Accelerator programme, I understand that in order to scale an innovation and gain widespread adoption, we will need champions from within all areas of healthcare. This award will allow us to take Brush DJ to the next level by recruiting a team of experts so that we can reach and help more children at risk of tooth decay.”

Karen Livingstone, National Director at SBRI Healthcare commented:

“The most common oral disease affecting young children in England is tooth decay, which has become a serious cause for concern for the NHS. We are excited to be supporting Brush DJ, an innovative toothbrush timer and dental care app, which helps to make brushing teeth a fun activity for children to build their offer and support improved oral hygiene. We look forward to helping to develop the technology further and to bring real benefits to young people’s oral health.”

(1) Health matters: Child Dental Health, 14 June 2017. https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2017/06/14/health-matters-child-dental-health/ (Accessed 12/08/18).

(2) Global, Regional, and National Prevalence, Incidence, and Disability-Adjusted Life Years for Oral Conditions for 195 Countries, 1990–2015: A Systematic Analysis for the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors N Kassebaum et al. Journal of Dental Research, 96 (4) 01 February 2017.