A smartphone app that scans dental plaque and can flag potential oral hygiene issues has been launched by a University of Bath Mechanical Engineering graduate.

The Testmyteeth app allows users to perform a scan of their teeth to measure the levels of plaque build-up, one of the primary causes of dental disease, and to highlight areas where users are failing to brush adequately.

The app was developed by Integrated Design Engineering graduate James Russ, who was supported by the University’s Enterprise and Entrepreneurship programme, which helps staff, students, graduates and local entrepreneurs with their enterprise ambitions.

The University has a strong track record in creating spin-out companies and sharing its research expertise with the business world. In March University of Bath entrepreneurs were shortlisted for 10 National StartUp Awards.

“I was in my first year of university when I had trouble with my wisdom tooth – the treatment ended up costing over £100 of my limited student budget. This was particularly frustrating as it could have been easily prevented had I taken better care of my oral hygiene. It inspired my vision for a dental app to assist patients at home,” Russ said.

He set to work on the Testmyteeth app after completing an industrial placement in the design and development team at innovative household appliances manufacturer Dyson, an experience he called “fast-paced and exciting”.

“Oral disease affects around 3.5 billion people worldwide and I thought it would be great to have an app that focuses on the preventative side of dentistry. Using AI, Testmyteeth will tell you areas where you have missed when brushing and highlight plaque accumulation,” Russ said.

“More than that, we’ll also provide educational guides on how to improve your brushing technique and what the early signs of tooth decay and gum disease look like,” he said.

While his studies helped with the practical side of building an app, Russ developed his business acumen through opportunities such as Dragons’ Den, part of the University’s Enterprise offering. 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. He said the experience gave him the confidence and the means to turn Testmyteeth into a reality.

“Additionally, since graduating, I was granted a University of Bath Alumni Innovation Award and that’s been a game-changer. It enabled me to work on the business full-time, teach myself full stack app development, and build the AI which drives the app. The support has made such a huge difference to what I’ve been able to achieve in a year,” he said.

Russ joined business leaders, academic experts and student entrepreneurs at the University’s second annual Enterprise Day event in March to share business and research expertise, and showcase their start-up successes.