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Toothbrush Sounds Can Make Us Better Brushers

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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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Beyond the Label: How to Pick the Right Medicines For Your Cold and Flu Symptoms
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The average household spends an annual total of $338 on various over-the-counter medicines, with consumers making around 26 pharmacy runs each year, according to 2015 data from the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. To save cash and minimize effort (here's why you'd rather be sleeping), the Cleveland Clinic recommends avoiding certain cold and flu products, and selecting products containing specific active ingredients.

Since medicine labels can be confusing (lots of people likely can’t remember—let alone spell—words like cetirizine, benzocaine, or dextromethorphan), the famous hospital created an interactive infographic to help patients select the right product for them. Click on your symptom, and you’ll see ingredients that have been clinically proven to relieve runny or stuffy noses, fevers, aches, and coughs. Since every medicine is different, you’ll also receive safety tips regarding dosage levels, side effects, and the average duration of effectiveness.

Next time you get sick, keep an eye out for these suggested elements while comparing products at the pharmacy. In the meantime, a few pro tips: To avoid annoying side effects, steer clear of multi-symptom products if you think just one ingredient will do it for you. And while you’re at it, avoid nasal sprays with phenylephrine and cough syrups with guaifenesin, as experts say they may not actually work. Cold and flu season is always annoying—but it shouldn’t be expensive to boot.

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Why You Might Not Want to Order Tea or Coffee On Your Next Flight
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A cup of tea or coffee at 40,000 feet may sound like a great way to give yourself an extra energy boost during a tiring trip, but it might be healthier to nap away your fatigue—or at least wait until hitting ground to indulge in a caffeine fix. Because, in addition to being tepid and watery, plane brew could be teeming with germs and other harmful life forms, according to Business Insider.

Multiple studies and investigations have taken a closer look at airplane tap water, and the results aren’t pretty—or appetizing. In 2002, The Wall Street Journal conducted a study that looked at water samples taken from 14 different flights from 10 different airlines. Reporters discovered “a long list of microscopic life you don’t want to drink, from Salmonella and Staphylococcus to tiny insect eggs," they wrote.

And they added, "Worse, contamination was the rule, not the exception: Almost all of the bacteria levels were tens, sometimes hundreds, of times above U.S. government limits."

A 2004 study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that water supplies on 15 percent of 327 national and international commercial aircrafts were contaminated to varying degrees [PDF]. This all led up to the 2011 Aircraft Drinking Water Rule, an EPA initiative to make airlines clean up. But in 2013, an NBC investigation found that at least one out of every 10 commercial U.S. airplanes still had issues with water contamination.

Find out how airplane water gets so gross, and why turning water into coffee or tea isn’t enough to kill residual germs by watching Business Insider’s video below.

[h/t Business Insider]

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