Tooth decay is the number one chronic childhood illness. It’s five times more common than asthma and four times more common than early childhood obesity. No one wants their kid’s teeth to rot and fall out, but it’s often not easy getting them to floss and brush.
Gooseling makes interactive games geared towards teaching social and life skills to kids aged 2 to 9. Its first game, Cavity Dragon emphasizes the importance of proper tooth brushing habits in an effort to combat tooth decay.
“Picture the morning struggle to get children ready for school — fed, clothed, and with teeth brushed,” cofounder Vicky Keston told VentureBeat. “When academic or social issues arise, the schedule goes out the window, and children wake the next morning tired and cranky. It’s no wonder that children’s dental health is in a crisis.”
Dental disease is responsible for 51 million lost school hours and 164 million lost work hours a year. Those are pretty serious numbers that represent lost productivity for both children and their parents.
Keston is a Stanford MBA who has spent the past 20 years working in business development for companies including Genentech and GE. She cofounded Gooseling with her sister, Lisa Danielpour, who spent her career as a marketing executive. They each have two children, and the inspiration for Gooseling arose out of their personal challenges as working moms.
“Gooseling provides a solution for the busy parent needing to convince their child to ‘do’ things, such as brush their teeth, or learn specific social skills,” Keston said. “You return home from a long day at work, tired, and then have to chase your toddlers with a toothbrush. With Gooseling, children can play the games while you heat up dinner, and parents can repeat the themes at bedtime.”
Gooseling’s “cavity dragons” spit out food and fires into a digital mouth of teeth, and children shoot toothpaste hoses to eliminate the food before it turns into a cavity or the tooth turns grey. They also have the aid of firemen, who help clean the teeth using floss and a toothbrush they ride like a skateboard.
The Pew Research Center found America’s working mothers are now the primary breadwinners in a record 40 percent of households with children. Pew also found that approximately 3 in 4 adults said the increasing number of women working for pay has made it harder for parents to raise children. Trying to make chores like tooth brushing and cleaning fun is an age-old parenting challenge, and the rise of academic and educational apps has provided parents with welcome new ways to keep their kids engaged.
Cavity Dragon does more than entertain — it aims to solve a widespread and preventable problem.
“When left untreated, childhood tooth decay can have devastating consequences that extend beyond the dental chair,” the National Children’s Oral Health Foundation said on its site. “Rampant decay can negatively impact a child’s overall quality of life, inhibit their cognitive and social development and compromise their growth, function and self esteem.”
Gooseling rewards kids with virtual gold coins, and there are other features like a slap jack card game, puzzles, and tools to decorate the fire station. In the more difficult levels, kids could lose the game if their teeth fall out.
Cavity Dragon isn’t the only tooth brushing game out there — it competes with Ultimate Dentist, Cleaning Your Teeth, Brush Your Teeth, and others. Ultimately the founders plan to release future games tackling different parent-child “battles.”
The games have no advertising, social media, or outside links. Cavity Dragon is free, and the Pro version costs $2.99 on iTunes. Gooseling also plans to release an Android app in the near future. The company is based in San Francisco.