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ISTOCK

Toothbrush Sounds Can Make Us Better Brushers

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ISTOCK

Oral hygiene is important. Unfortunately, both talking about it and doing it can also be boring. So how can you convince people to brush their teeth more often? For starters, you can make it more rewarding. Two Japanese researchers have found that certain types of toothbrush noises make brushing more satisfying, which may make people more likely to do it.

The root of the problem, according to Taku Hachisu and Hiroyuki Kajimoto from Japan’s University of Electro-Communications, is that brushing provides no immediate payoff. In behavioral science terms, it’s a negative reward: when you brush your teeth, you don’t get cavities. But negative rewards are not great motivators. People (and animals) are more likely to do something if there’s a positive reward on the line—that is, if they get something for doing it.

The mental side of oral hygiene is pretty easy to hack. Toothpaste companies have been doing it for ages. Pepsodent was America’s first popular toothpaste. When competitors tried to figure out why, they realized that Pepsodent’s formula included ingredients that happened to create a tingling sensation. Pepsodent users said that tingle was a sure sign that their teeth were clean, and that toothpaste without it was probably just not doing the job. In reality, the tingling sensation was just a side effect, but customers didn’t care. The perception stuck, and today it’s hard to find a toothpaste that doesn’t leave your mouth tingling.

There are a few reward-focused toothbrush technologies already in development or on the market. Hasbro’s “Tooth Tunes” brush plays music when the bristles come in contact with teeth. Scientists also have suggested linking a toothbrush to a virtual aquarium and rewarding good brushers with happy, healthy, reproducing virtual fish. But the rewards offered by these and similar products are pretty abstract; that is, they don’t actually have much to do with brushing.

Hachisu and Kajimoto wondered if they could hack the experience of brushing itself. They set out to determine if they could make the feel and sounds of brushing more satisfying, and to find out if that satisfaction would be enough to motivate people to brush more.

The researchers gave volunteers a special toothbrush outfitted with a microphone that captured the unique sounds of each person brushing their teeth. Then they digitally manipulated the noises to change their volume, pitch, and frequency. The next time they brushed their teeth, the volunteers wore headphones that played the modified brushing noises back to them. The scientists found that simply making small adjustments to the brushing noises made people feel more comfortable and accomplished after brushing. The data also suggested that gradually increasing the frequency of the noises convinced people that their teeth were cleaner.

Hachisu and Kajimoto described their experiments in a special issue of the International Journal of Arts and Technology.

The next step will be to remove the headphones from the equation. The researchers plan to incorporate bone-conduction speakers like those used in the Tooth Tunes brushes.

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'Lime Disease' Could Give You a Nasty Rash This Summer
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iStock

A cold Corona or virgin margarita is best enjoyed by the pool, but watch where you’re squeezing those limes. As Slate illustrates in a new video, there’s a lesser-known “lime disease,” and it can give you a nasty skin rash if you’re not careful.

When lime juice comes into contact with your skin and is then exposed to UV rays, it can cause a chemical reaction that results in phytophotodermatitis. It looks a little like a poison ivy reaction or sun poisoning, and some of the symptoms include redness, blistering, and inflammation. It’s the same reaction caused by a corrosive sap on the giant hogweed, an invasive weed that’s spreading throughout the U.S.

"Lime disease" may sound random, but it’s a lot more common than you might think. Dermatologist Barry D. Goldman tells Slate he sees cases of the skin condition almost daily in the summer. Some people have even reported receiving second-degree burns as a result of the citric acid from lime juice. According to the Mayo Clinic, the chemical that causes phytophotodermatitis can also be found in wild parsnip, wild dill, wild parsley, buttercups, and other citrus fruits.

To play it safe, keep your limes confined to the great indoors or wash your hands with soap after handling the fruit. You can learn more about phytophotodermatitis by checking out Slate’s video below.

[h/t Slate]

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Lia
Lia Is a Disposable Pregnancy Test You Can Flush Down the Toilet
Lia
Lia

It’s a common Hollywood plot point: A character spots a discarded pregnancy test in a bathroom trash can. Surprise! Someone’s pregnancy is revealed, though they weren’t yet ready to tell anyone (and perhaps never planned on telling them at all). Lia is a new type of disposable pregnancy test designed to be flushed down the toilet to make sure no one ever experiences that kind of privacy violation, according to Glamour.

Lia hasn’t hit the market yet, but when it does, it will be the first major redesign of the home pregnancy test in decades. The first at-home pregnancy test in the U.S. debuted in 1977, and while it took two hours to show a result, it gave women the option to learn their pregnancy status with relative accuracy (it was 97 percent accurate for positive results, but only 80 percent accurate for negative results) for the first time without going to the doctor. In 1988, Unilever came out with the first wand-style pregnancy test—the plastic kind you pee on to reveal the blue stripe indicators. Since then, not much has changed about the basic design of the at-home pregnancy test except the graphics that companies use to convey the test’s results. (The science undergirding the tests has advanced over the years, though.)

Unlike the plastic sticks, Lia is disposable and can be flushed down the toilet or composted. With the shape reminiscent of a sanitary pad, it works similar to the traditional pee-stick test: You urinate on it, then wait for the stripes to appear. While it’s water-resistant enough to withstand the two minutes of pee-soaking required to get a result, the test strip is made of the type of plant fibers that go into toilet paper and will eventually disintegrate in water. It can also be composted: In one experiment, it took 10 weeks to completely degrade in soil.

A diagram of Lia's features
Lia

Like other pregnancy tests available at the drug store, Lia’s results are based on the concentration of human chorionic gonadotropin (a pregnancy hormone) in your pee. It’s FDA approved, and the company reports that it’s more than 99 percent accurate, comparable to other tests on the market.

No matter what the circumstances surrounding a pregnancy are, most people don’t want to share the fact that they could be pregnant with everyone they might share a bathroom with—most people wait several months into their pregnancy to announce the news—and even if they want to tell the world immediately, they probably don’t want to do so via trash can. Lia’s paper design makes it easy to dispose of the test without worrying about who might stumble upon your wastebasket. It’s also more sustainable and won’t clog up landfills like plastic tests. While people don’t use as many pregnancy tests as, say, plastic straws, the over-the-counter plastic pregnancy test market is still a huge one, and a contributor to environmental pollution. As a bonus, the lack of plastic makes Lia cheaper to produce, too.

Lia will eventually be available in stores and online. It’s scheduled to be released sometime in 2018.

[h/t Glamour]

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