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    Does oral rinse REALLY matter?

    Hygienists weigh in on rinse use—and what you should tell your patients.

    Chances are, your patients don’t think much about oral rinses and the many benefits they provide. Sure, they might swish with their go-to rinse for a few seconds after they brush, but if they’re not using the right rinse for their oral condition for the proper amount of time, it isn’t doing them much good. 

    While popular over-the-counter options might be enough for some of your patients, others need rinses that address specific health conditions such as rampant caries and dry mouth. That’s where you come in. Asking the right questions and assessing your patients’ health will help you determine the best rinse to recommend, and educating them about why they need that rinse will make them much more likely to comply.

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    “It’s all based on the patient’s needs,” says Tina Clarke, RDH. “Look at health history, do a risk assessment and talk with patients to find out what they’re experiencing. Find out what their issues are and talk to them about why they’re having those issues, whether it’s because of medication they’re taking, their diet, their genetic makeup or a systemic disease. Then, let them know there’s a rinse that can help them relieve that issue.”

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    Of course, it’s important to make sure patients understand that rinses, while they offer many benefits including plaque reduction and fresher breath, aren’t all they need to keep their mouth healthy. Oral rinses are part of a wellness package kit that also includes brushing, flossing/interdental brushing and chewing gum, notes Anastasia Turchetta, RDH. When they understand the role these products play and the importance of including the right rinse in their home care routine, your patients’ oral health will start to improve.  

    Finding the right rinse

    Oral rinses aren’t one size fits all, Turchetta says. They come in many varieties and offer different benefits, which is important for everyone on the dental team to understand. To determine the best rinse for patients, address their current state of oral health. Understand what the ultimate goal is and how the rinse will help them get there. Think about their caries risk, find out if they’re dealing with hyper sensitivity, ask if halitosis is a concern, determine their risk for gum disease and ask them what medications they’re taking.

    Once you determine the rinse that’s best for their condition, educate patients on the benefits they can expect when they use that rinse. Sarah Thiel, RDH, CEO and co-founder of CE Zoom, likes to recommend a general rinse and tells patients about its ability to kill the bacteria that causes plaque buildup. There are also fluoride rinses, both over-the-counter and prescription, for patients who are cavity prone, have a lot of decay or have an acidic diet.

    When treating patients with periodontal disease, Thiel often reaches for an antiseptic oral rinse, which, when used in conjunction with scaling and root planing, helps kill bad bacteria.

    There are also antimicrobial rinses that fight infection and reduce inflammation, Clarke notes. These come in over-the-counter options and prescription versions such as chlorhexidine gluconate. They also work well as pre-procedural mouth rinses to reduce patient bacterial load and infectious aerosol particles in the dental operatory.

    Finally, there are rinses for patients experiencing dry mouth caused by health conditions or medications they’re taking. Ethel Hagans, RDH, recommends this type of rinse to some of her patients. There are many options out there, Clarke says, and all of them work to relieve the symptoms of dry mouth and prevent the problems the condition causes, including decay.

    “I need to get the patient fit, so it’s like I’m the coach at the gym,” Turchetta notes about choosing the right rinse for her patients. “They want to get from point A to point B. I need to get them into an oral fitness regimen with the right kit. They might want to use a whitening mouth wash as an adjunct, and that’s great, but I might tell them they need to use chlorhexidine gluconate first and here’s why.”

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