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    5 surprising things your patients don’t know about their dental visit

    Reminding your patients how much they truly benefit from a visit is important.

    A lot happens at your patients’ preventive appointments, but because you see patients day in and day out, you may forget to remind them about the remarkable things happening when they come in to see you. In fact, the basics you provide patients at each visit may be lost on them. Why is fluoride a big deal? What’s being scraped off their teeth and why is that important?

    Preventive care really does prevent a lot of problems. Remind your patients what’s happening at their preventive appointment and you might be surprised by how much they respond.

    Here are five things to share with patients that might seem basic, but may just surprise them—and might also inspire them to thank you.

    Remind patients: They can scrub their gums away by brushing too hard.

    One thing that’s always surprising to patients is that brushing too hard can actually cause more damage than periodontal disease or cavities, says Sarah Thiel, RDH, CEO of CE Zoom, and a clinical practitioner in Farmington, New Mexico. Thiel says reminding patients that they can brush their gums off by brushing too hard works wonders, and she often shows them their X-rays so that they can see what’s happening with the bone that’s holding their teeth in place. That’s also Thiel’s reasoning for recommending an electric toothbrush, because it has a pressure protection sensor that lets you know you’re brushing too hard.

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    “I see brushing too hard all the time,” Thiel says. “I would bet that 70 percent of my patients have recession of some sort, and it’s accompanied by sensitivity, so they can’t eat ice cream or when they do, it hurts.”

    Most of the time recession and sensitivity is from the mechanical action of scrubbing their gums too hard, she says. It can also be from using a hard bristled toothbrush.

    If patients are going to use a manual toothbrush, a good trick to remind them is to only hold the brush with their thumb, index and middle finger instead of their fist, because that way they can’t push as hard.

    “Plus, it makes you focus; people will get in [auto] pilot mode anyway when they brush, but at least if you are just holding the toothbrush with three fingers you can’t push as hard,” Thiel notes, suggesting you also, of course, can still remind them to only use a soft toothbrush.

    Remind patients: Their mouth is connected to their body.

    This might seem obvious, but most patients don’t make the connection that their mouth is connected to the rest of their body.

    “If you have an infection in your mouth, it’s going through your whole blood stream and it can cause diabetes, heart disease and stroke,” Thiel says, noting that gum disease can lead to even bigger health problems. Research shows that diabetes and periodontal disease, for instance, have a direct link—something of which most patients are unaware.

    Thiel reminds her patients it’s all connected, so if they have diabetes or heart disease they should pay special attention to their mouth, and vice versa. Patients with infection and gum disease should not only get it under control with their dental professional but also see their doctor regularly about the rest of their health.

    “Oral health and the health of your body aren’t separate things anymore,” Thiel says. “Everything is connected.”  

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