To date, the Lion Group has worked to establish tooth brushing habits to maintain and improve overall oral health, including the prevention of cavities and gum disease. With the theme of “realizing healthy minds and bodies,” we will strive to evolve the idea of preventive dental habits through self-care that can be done at home as well as professional care through the guidance of dentists and dentistry experts. We will make use of AI and IoT to promote enjoyable preventive dentistry* habits, while also broadening our solutions in other ways to benefit the lives of people. Furthermore, we will work with local governments to promote preventive dentistry habits with people whom we previously have not been able to focus on. By providing people with opportunities to engage in proper oral care, we will realize “Creatinghealthy living habits.”
* The idea is that preventive dentistry focuses not on waiting to treat cavities until after they form, but preventing them before they can occur.
Even if you take care to brush your teeth carefully, without the proper knowledge and techniques, you can still end up leaving plaque behind. Establishing daily self-care habits in line with the principles of preventive dentistry is key to effectively managing and maintaining oral health.
The Lion Group is implementing a range of initiatives to promote brushing techniques that effectively remove plaque along with new habits that help foster awareness of preventive dentistry based on an understanding of one’s own oral conditions.
In order to help elementary school-aged children acquire correct and thorough tooth brushing habits in a fun way, Lion has created a tooth brushing song with lyrics about the steps of tooth brushing, videos featuring the song as well as posters with the brushing steps. One of the videos is instructional and teaches children the proper brushing method and steps, and another is a fun animated version for children to watch once they have learned how to brush.
A dental hygienist teaches key points and demonstrates the brushing steps while following along with the song.
*Recommended for children who are still learning how to brush.
This animated video is designed to help children enjoy forming tooth brushing habits.
*Recommended for children who have already learned how to brush.
Art: Yoshitaka Yamada (Yoshida Yamada)
Children can check the steps and key points of tooth brushing with the lyrics on the poster.
Character design: Yoshitaka Yamada (Yoshida Yamada)
Lion is advancing initiatives to promote after-lunch tooth brushing, aiming to help establish the habit of brushing three times a day.
With more women entering the workforce, the employed population in Japan has been steadily rising. Today, approximately 60% of those over the age of 15 are employed (Fiscal 2018 Labour Force Survey, Japan Statistics Bureau). While many consumers spend their afternoons in the workplace, only 40% of workers in offices and similar environments report regularly brushing their teeth after lunch, while another 22% report wanting to but not actually doing so (Lion survey).
To address the needs of working people, Lion launched MIGACOT, an oral care set designed for tooth brushing at the office that includes a cup. Lion is promoting this product along with educational activities to spread the mindset that brushing one’s teeth after lunch is a normal part of the workday among as many people as possible.
Under the theme "Taking preventive dentistry a step forward," we promote initiatives to communicate the necessity and benefits of preventive dentistry.
One of the key points of effective oral self-care is to completely remove all dental plaque. Only about 60% of the plaque that forms between the teeth can be removed using a toothbrush alone. The combination of toothbrush and dental floss, however, improves plaque removal by 50%.
In addition to providing products for children old enough to floss (those in elementary school and above) and other consumers who may not be used to using dental floss, Lion carries out activities to promote the necessity of using dental floss and correct flossing techniques.*
* Lion holds the Oral Health Event of Tooth Brushing for Children every year to provide a fun opportunity for elementary school students to learn how to use dental floss and brushing techniques suited to the arrangement of their own teeth.
Since its founding, Lion has worked to promote healthy oral care habits among consumers. In recent years, marine plastics have become a major social issue. As a leader in oral care and a manufacturer, Lion recognizes that it has a duty to address the issue of plastic recycling. By focusing on toothbrushes, which account for more plastic use than any other Lion product, we are working to contribute to the formation of healthy consumer living habits while helping to reduce environmental impact.
Over time, regular use of a toothbrush causes the bristles to splay apart, reducing the brushing efficacy. According to a Lion survey, only about 40% of consumers replace their toothbrushes every month.* Those that do not give such reasons as “It’s wasteful to throw it out,” and “I wasn’t aware that the brushing effectiveness diminishes.”
* Although the exact timing may vary by individual, we generally recommend replacing your toothbrush every month.
In February 2018, we designated the 8th of every month Toothbrush Replacement Day* and started calling for monthly toothbrush replacement.
To expand this program, we are collaborating with business partners by developing in-store point-of-purchase displays to remind consumers to replace their toothbrushes on the 8th of every month and creating posters promoting periodic toothbrush replacement for use in dental clinics.
Lion will continue these activities to promote toothbrush replacement with our business partners and dental clinics so that monthly toothbrush replacement becomes a regular habit.
* This day was registered and certified by the Japan Anniversary Association on December 27, 2017, and has been established as a new annual event.
There is a concern that an increase in the frequency of toothbrush replacement due to the promotion of toothbrush replacement could lead to a rise in waste.
Addressing this concern, and in light of problem of marine plastics in recent years, Lion initiated its Toothbrush Recycling Program,* a first in Asia, to collect and recycle used toothbrushes, which had previously just been thrown away, in cooperation with TerraCycle Japan. Furthermore, in 2020, we launched a toothbrush recycling initiative in coordination with municipal garbage collection operations, a first in Japan. Adopting the perspective that each consumer who participates in toothbrush recycling is an important partner, we are moving forward with the aim of realizing a resource-circulating society.
Lion developed CLINICA Kid’s Hamigaki no Okeiko, an IoT toothbrush linked to an app that helps children learn the importance of tooth brushing and correct brushing techniques in a fun way in order to form healthy tooth brushing habits from a young age. In developing this product, we put particular emphasis on offering an experience that would encourage children to take the initiative themselves in tooth brushing. Specifically, we ran trials in which children tried using prototypes for a day, a week or a month. This allowed us to identify increasing motivation to brush one’s teeth, learning tooth brushing techniques and getting better at tooth brushing as important areas in which we could provide value through experience. With guidance from pediatric dentistry experts, we developed a toothbrush attachment that contains an accelerometer to sense toothbrush motion as well as an app that uses a picture book format to make it easy for children to understand the importance of tooth brushing and feel a clear sense of satisfaction and progress. Through a development process prioritizing the consumer’s perspective, we are contributing to the formation of healthy tooth brushing habits in childhood and thus making a difference in everyday lives.
Aiming to increase awareness of preventive dentistry, in 2019, we launched HAGUKI CHECKER,*1 an online tool that checks the state of users’ teeth and gums. Users simply use a smartphone or other device to take photos of the inside of their mouths, including the teeth and gums, and upload them to HAGUKI CHECKER. The online service then uses AI to identify individual teeth and check the state of the gums around each tooth (receding, dullness, swelling). Since its launch, approximately 16,000 people*2 have used the service.
In February 2022, we have signed a comprehensive partnership agreement with Koshi City in Kumamoto Prefecture to provide citizens with opportunities to think about their own oral health by answering a simple questionnaire, either at home or on the go. We plan to use technologies that leverage machine learning to process data on gum conditions from the smart app HAGUKI CHECKER, as well as health checkup data, to visualize participants’ level of oral health.
By helping consumers see and understand their own oral environments, HAGUKI CHECKER sparks greater interest in the state of their gums. Periodic use over time can help consumers see the effects of changes in their oral care habits by for example, making changes to their gums more readily apparent.
*1 Developed based on Lion’s data and expertise, and created using the AI image analysis technology of Automagi Inc. and the service development technology of MTI Ltd.
*2 Figure for July 22, 2019 to December 26, 2019.
HAGUKI CHECKER provides an analysis of the state of the user’s gums around each tooth, evaluating the following three factors on a three-point scale.
The service also provides information about care methods, oral care products and other aspects of oral care in line with the analysis results.HAGUKI CHECKER
Daily oral care is an important habit that affects lifelong health. Forming healthy oral care habits from a young age is crucial. Lion believes that practicing self-care at all life stages is important. In order to firmly establish healthy oral care habits appropriate to the needs of specific life stages, Lion is advancing initiatives in cooperation with external organizations, including government bodies, schools, hospitals and dental clinics. In addition, Lion supports the oral care promotion activities of The Lion Foundation for Dental Health (LDH).
* Established in 1964, the Lion Foundation for Dental Health (LDH) changed its status to a public interest incorporated foundation in 2010. Lion fully supports LDH’s activities to promote oral care awareness and education. LDH coordinates with the Japan Dental Association, universities, governmental bodies and other partners to help maintain and improve the dental and oral health of consumers through its three projects. By doing so, LDH stays at the forefront of oral health, contributing to society by helping to improve the quality of life of all people.
Lion runs the dentistry information website ORALcom, where it offers answers to common questions about issues related to the oral health of expectant mothers and infants.
Lion aims to help establish preventive dentistry habits from as early in a child’s life as possible. To this end, Lion developed the Safety Handle Toothbrush, which enables preventive dentistry from age 0. We believe that time spent on parent-assisted brushing is a valuable opportunity for deepening parent-child bonds. To spread this idea, we are providing information through videos designed to spread empathy [Japanese] and the website “HA!HA!HA! Park,” which encourages preventive dentistry efforts for children. We also distribute a booklet titled “Preventive Dentistry from Age 0” to dental and obstetrics clinics across the country, aiming to help caregivers obtain the correct knowledge they need.
The Oral Health Event of Tooth Brushing for Children, started in 1932, is held every year for elementary school students during Dental/Oral Health Week (June 4th to 10th). For the 79th event in 2022, participating schools choose a date to participate and took part by watching an approximately 40-minute long educational DVD. Approximately 250,000 elementary school students attending a total of 4,585 schools participated in 2022, including students in Japan and other Asian countries. The theme of the 2022 event was “Brush Up Your Teeth and Yourself.” Prepared with editorial supervision from Meikai University President Toshikazu Yasui, the program focuses on the gums, including learning about individual oral conditions and using dental floss. In addition to promoting understanding of preventive dentistry, the program taught students about the importance of consistency through oral care, a central part of healthy living habits.
Cumulative participants: 2,460,000
Lion has provided dental clinic-themed pavilions at KidZania Tokyo since 2006 and at KidZania Koshien since 2009. These pavilions have been popular with kids. At them, children can choose from two activities: the “Dentist” experience or the “Dental Hygienist” experience. These allow them to experience what it is like to work in these jobs.
At the pavilions, kids first undergo “training” as dentists or dental hygienists, learning about the importance of teeth taking care of their own oral health and hygiene. Then, they use tools that are nearly identical to the real things, including polishers and dental vacuums, to treat cavities and apply fluoride treatments to patients (training mannequins used in dentistry schools) in the dentist’s chair. For completing their work, they receive a salary paid in the official currency of KidZania, usable at other pavilions.
After their work experience, kids have commented that “treating cavities seemed really difficult,” and “adult teeth don’t grow back, so I definitely want to brush well and make sure I don’t get any cavities.” The dental clinic pavilions thus appear to be effective in communicating the importance of cavity prevention and oral health.
Lion seeks to promote preventive dentistry practices that consumers can perform themselves. To this end, in communities with which we have formed partnerships, we hold oral healthcare leader development lectures to empower local governments, as oral healthcare leaders, to provide residents with tooth brushing information and practical techniques that can be beneficial to overall health. We are currently carrying out these activities in the cities of Ishinomaki and Sakaide.
The alignment of the teeth and other oral conditions are unique to each individual. Receiving professional care from dentists or dental hygienists is crucial—not just to treat dental problems, but to prevent issues like cavities and gum disease before they arise. Such care includes fluoride treatments and instruction on brushing methods suited for one’s own oral conditions. In addition, it is best to get regular checkups at a dental clinic two to three times per year to check the state of your oral conditions, including the health of the teeth and gums. Lion promotes the habit of receiving regular professional care.
SMT is a five-minute testing system that can measure the levels of six analytes related to dental and gum health (cariogenic bacteria, acidity, buffer capacity, leucocytes, proteins and ammonia) in saliva collected by rinsing the mouth with 3 ml of distilled water. This allows dentists or dental hygienists to provide immediate feedback to their patients as part of a dental checkup. Knowing objectively their oral health conditions helps motivate patients to engage in preventive dentistry.
Furthermore, as part of Lion’s efforts to promote preventive dentistry, this test is incorporated into the Company’s internal dental checkups and utilized to establish good oral care habits among employees. Dental checkups with SMT are currently suspended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
To ensure that anyone can develop effective oral care habits, we are increasing opportunities for people to learn about oral care through the Inclusive Oral Care project as a way to tackle social issues. In Japan, the relative poverty rate among children (13.5%*1) is becoming a public concern. Children of economically disadvantaged families have inferior health habits and fewer beneficial experiences*2 than the children of more affluent households. There is also a correlation between poverty and cavities, with children of economically disadvantaged families more likely to have unhealthy teeth. Based on the “Dental and Oral Health” concept, we developed an experience-based program called the Okuchikarada Project. With employees acting as volunteers, we are working with NPOs and local governments at children’s cafeterias to promote preventive dentistry habits and boost children’s self-esteem.
*1 Percentage of children under 18 who live in relative poverty (FY2019 Comprehensive Survey of Living Conditions, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare)
*2 Receiving praise from others, communicating with adults, acquiring life skills, etc.
Our society and ways of living are changing rapidly as we face such increasingly serious social issues as low birth rates, an aging population, declining population and the depletion of resources on the one hand and dramatic technological progress in such areas as AI and IoT on the other. In order to keep up with these changes and continue supporting the public’s health, we are focusing on not just providing goods but offering new value to our customers. Open innovation through partnerships with external organizations, such as government agencies and other companies, is key to this endeavor. One example of open innovation is the joint research we are conducting under the auspices of the Center of Innovation Science and Technology based Radical Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program, known as COI STREAM.*
* The Center of Innovation Science and Technology based Radical Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program (COI STREAM) is a program launched in 2013 by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) to help revitalize Japan’s economy. Focusing on a vision of society a decade in the future, COI STREAM is aiming, through industry-academia collaboration, to realize radical innovation that is difficult for industry or academia to accomplish alone. To that end, COI STREAM has established innovation platforms—COI sites—at 18 locations across Japan to drive industry-academia collaborative research. Lion has been participating in such research with Hirosaki University, a COI site location since 2015.
The Hirosaki University COI project (2013-2021) was an innovative social platform for the creation of “sukoyaka-ryoku,” meaning the ability to maintain health. It focused on the research, development and commercialization of solutions that use health-related big data to detect early signs of conditions like dementia and lifestyle-related diseases as well as to prevent their onset. One of the primary motivators of this platform initiative was the fact that Aomori Prefecture, in which Hirosaki University is located, has the lowest life expectancy of any prefecture in Japan. Aomori Prefecture has an aging population and higher risks of age-related disease and lifestyle-related diseases than the norm. For many years, the average life expectancy in Aomori has been the lowest among all prefectures for both men and women.
Hirosaki University has set the goal of reversing Aomori’s reputation for short life expectancy and is currently running a large-scale health examination program for the residents of the Iwaki district in the city of Hirosaki. Each year, around 1,000 residents take part in the Iwaki health exam, which has accumulated big data comprising approximately 2,000 data points per patient on the health of more than 20,000 individuals. The Hirosaki University COI project used these health data sets as the basis of its research, development and commercialization of unique health innovations that can come only from big data insights from regions with short life expectancy. As a participant in this program, Lion engaged mainly in research into oral health and sleep. Our aim was to understand how these two factors influence lifestyle habits, physical constitution and whole body health and to develop and promote solutions that help extend healthy life expectancy.
Under the Hirosaki University COI project, a new health checkup system (quality of life system) that promotes health consciousness and lifestyle changes related to such conditions as metabolic syndrome, locomotive syndrome, dental/oral conditions, clinical depression and dementia was developed. Lion was responsible for the dental/oral part of the health checkup. We assessed changes in examinees’ awareness and behavior based on an oral health program that consisted of Lion’s proprietary Salivary Multi Test system (SMT), an intraoral camera that lets the examinees see the state of their own teeth and gums, and a medical questionnaire.
Currently, many companies and local authorities omit dental checkups from their health checkup programs due to time constraints, cost or the availability of dental clinicians. Lion aims to realize a reliable and easy to use dental checkup system and, in the future, systems that will make it easier and more convenient to get dental checkups.
Lion has established an ongoing new Oral Healthcare Studies collaborative research course from May 2016 to March 2022 at the Hirosaki University Graduate School of Medicine for research into the ways that oral health and sleep are related to the health of the whole body. In recent years, it has been suggested that an individual’s intraoral condition and quality of sleep may affect the health of their entire body and that good oral care may prevent lifestyle-related diseases. Offered in partnership with the Aomori Medical Association and the Aomori Dental Association, this course searches for scientific evidence of these links, and the results of this research may provide the basis for the creation of new products and services.
Research and Development Headquarters,
Business Coordination Department
(Formerly the LIFE SCIENCE RESEARCH LABORATORIES)
I started a two-year residency at Hirosaki University in April 2016. My job was to analyze health-related big data with the goals of identifying the lifestyle habits and physical constitutional factors that can cause sleep disorders and to elucidate the relationship between sleep and health. During my residency, I also visited Imabetsu, Mutsu and other areas in Aomori prefecture to take part in health awareness activities aimed at improving health literacy* in communities, workplaces and schools.
I have been inspired by the passion and commitment of the faculty, local residents, partner companies and local governments working together on this unprecedented open innovation. All these groups are driven by the belief that good health cannot be achieved without changing the way society works. I feel privileged to have been at the forefront of this endeavor through the Hirosaki University COI Program to chart a new direction for the healthcare industry. I hope that the data analysis work I have carried out will lead to the introduction of a new healthcare business that benefits society.
*Having correct health knowledge and understanding how to put it into practice
Lion established the Lion Award in 2001 to support the activities of academic associations and the development of young researchers. The prize is awarded via the International Association for Dental Research, the world’s largest dental research association, as well as, in Japan, the Japanese Society of Pediatric Dentistry, Japanese Society for Dental Health, Japanese Society of Gerodontology, Japanese Association for Oral Biology and Japanese Society of Periodontology. In the 20 years since its establishment, the prize has been awarded to 209 researchers.Lion Award