Smile Agents


Alyssa was a summer student working with the Institution for Innovation and Improvement and ARDS (Auckland Regional Dental Service) to design a set of resources. Smile Agents aims to improve engagement between Dental clinics and families. The resources focus on providing education and encouraging children to take control of their dental health whilst also being fun and engaging.

ARDS struggles to be recognised as a service and lacks the support and resources to build engagement with children when they visit the dentist. Good oral health behaviour relies heavily on establishing habits and routine, and parents’ behaviour and self-efficacy often dictates this. Unfortunately, some parents are not able to dedicate the time required to support their children and their oral health or may not have the resources or wealth to do this. The project had to consider the absence of parents and ensuring that privilege wasn’t a barrier for children to participate in activities.

Children are given a ‘mission’ that encourages good oral health behaviours. Missions enable dental therapists to target specific behaviour that the patient might need to improve (e.g.flossing) or provide a narrative of an experience (e.g. getting a crown). Mission control helps establish routine by using short-term incentive - colouring or joining a dot-to-dot) to contribute to a long-term goal – completing a picture. Reward envelopes (with non-monetary suggestions) encourage parents to get involved in their childrens’ oral health without applying too much pressure. The collection of small figures aims to encourage children to return to the dentist to complete their set whilst also creating a physical presence of the service in the home.

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