People on benefits sent texts to remind them to brush their teeth

A ten-week trial to encourage better oral hygiene among young adults on benefits in New Zealand has ended.

A health-ministry funded project saw people from Christchurch receiving state support sent daily text messages reminding them to brush their teeth, and prompting them to reply if they had or not.

Belinda Smith, from the local district health board, said: "We wanted to remind people to brush their teeth.

"We know about the success smoking cessation services has had with text reminders, and knew young adults are always on their phones, so we thought we’d give it a go, too."

Rights groups said the motivational text messages were degrading and insulting.

Batch Hales from the NZ Council for Civil Liberties commented: "Badgering unemployed people in this way intrudes on their basic civil rights."

But Ms Smith said that after the ten weeks were up, brushing rates had improved from 53 per cent to 73 per cent.

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