“I was in my first year of university when I had trouble with my wisdom tooth,” says James Russ. “The treatment ended up costing over £100 of my limited student budget, which really hit a nerve. Especially when I found out it could have been prevented through better dental care at home.” He discovered he wasn’t alone. Oral disease affects around 3.5 billion people worldwide and the cost, inconvenience and high demand for appointments prompted James to come up with a solution.
“I thought it would be great to have an app that focuses on the preventative side of dentistry,” he says. Feeling inspired after a placement in Dyson’s design and development team, James decided to work on his idea: “I wanted to get as much software exposure as possible, so I chose every computer vision module on my course. The practical, hands-on work really set me up with the skills I needed to take this forward as my final-year project.”
Using AI, Testmyteeth performs a plaque scan from photos of your pearly whites. “It will tell you where you missed when brushing and highlight where you’ve got low, medium or high build-up,” James explains. “More than that, we’ll also provide educational videos on how to improve your brushing technique; what the early signs of tooth decay and gum disease look like; and when you should see your dentist.”
While his studies helped with the practical side of building an app, James developed his business acumen through opportunities such as Dragons’ Den. This is where Bath students pitch their start-up to a panel of alumni donors for investment – but unlike the television show, there are no equity or stakes taken. James says the experience gave him the confidence and the means to turn Testmyteeth into a reality.
“Since graduating, I was granted an alumni Innovation Award and that’s been a game-changer,” he adds. “It’s enabled me to work on the business full-time. I’ve taught myself full stack app development, built the AI and now I’m ready to start beta trials. The support has made such a huge difference to what I’ve been able to achieve in a year. I can’t thank alumni enough.”
James continues, “In future, I’d love to give back so that future generations can benefit from the same opportunities that I’ve had at Bath.”