Successful Promotion of Oral Hygiene Strategies in Your Office

Recommending and promoting home care products in the office can lead to happier, healthier patients, and, in turn, successful outcomes.

The mouth is the gateway to the body, which means dental professionals are the important first line of defense in conjunction with the patient. There is significant opportunity for targeted patient education that will drive home the message of prevention. A more holistic approach is well received by many dentists and dental hygienists today as medicine and dentistry come together to improve oral and systemic health. Successful outcomes start with office visits which include comprehensive treatment plans that outline proper at-home self-care.Here are some of the best ideas we’ve seen from visiting hundreds of dental offices.

Incorporate New and Proven Products into the Practice’s Hygiene Protocols

Utilization of a consultative approach can increase patient compliance and successful oral health outcomes.Recommend the appropriate, proven products, resources, and techniques as part of every dental visit. Explain to patients what these products are, how they work, and why using them at home will result in better oral health. Ask patients to track their at home self-care activities as this is another easy way to improve compliance. Involved patients are more likely to experience oral health improvements. Remind patients that the number of times they see a dental professional each year is limited which is typically to 2 – 4 visits. Oral hygiene self-care techniques and routines are therefore critical to improving and/or maintaining their oral health the remaining days of the year. Emphasize that research shows a connection between good oral hygiene and early detection of diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Be prevention-minded with a focus on all aspects of health, nutrition, and lifestyle.

Position the Entire Dental Team as Educators

A cohesive and informed dental team enhances patients’ confidence in your recommendations. Train and empower the entire staff, not just the hygienists, to be familiar with high value products and how they work. This is helpful should the patient have a question later when checking out or calling in. Have literature and website information available on the products which can best serve patients. Hygienists are well positioned to lead ‘in-service’ training for the entire dental team regarding best practices and protocols they typically recommend for patients. These include best brush and brushing techniques, preferred interdental cleaning devices, correct string flossing techniques, and indications for mouth rinses. The use of oral-care probiotics, as a daily routine, will help improve the oral microbiome by increasing healthy bacterial counts and can help to reduce the levels of pathogenic bacteria.

Make Oral Hygiene Self-Care Part of Treatment Protocols

When a patient comes in for any dental procedure or hygiene recall appointment, it is always important to not only collect data but to update the diagnosis and further develop the treatment plan as necessary. Dental hygienists routinely evaluate patients’ gingival health, plaque levels and pockets depths which gives them the opportunity to point out areas of improved health and areas that need more self-care attention. Complimenting the patient on oral hygiene successes allows them to see where their efforts have paid off. These conversations are the perfect opportunity to educate the patient as to how to further maintain a healthy mouth by using a daily oral-care probiotic. For example, oral-care probiotics are an excellent adjunct to anyone’s oral hygiene self-care. Discuss how they specifically overpopulate the mouth with good bacteria, crowding out bad or pathogenic bacteria that contribute to dental caries and gum diseases.Hand a product sample to the patient and have them use it in the chair so they understand not only the importance, but the correct way to use the product. Remember to include discussions around the importance of good nutrition, power toothbrushes, mouth rinses, gels, and other ways to improve oral health and overall health.

Encourage At-Home Product Use

As the patient is likely to leave the dental visit with a sample bag of a toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss, it’s easy to expand the scope of samples to include other products such as oral-care probiotics, rinses, and oral systemic informational brochures. Manufacturers will typically have a sample size you can provide to your patients. Get the patient in the habit of expecting to take them home and requesting access to additional products that promote oral health. Providing patients with oral self-care products and information they need to improve and/or maintain their oral health can result in an improvement in their overall health.

Cost Hesitancy

When responding to resistance because of product cost or no insurance coverage, prevention is the answer. The best communication starts with addressing this right from the start — emphasize that problems will only become more destructive and more costly over time. Patients want to minimize the time and unease of being in the dental chair. Staying healthy is the best way to save money and reduce the need for extensive dental procedures in the future. Healthy patients spend less time in the chair; share that information with patients who fall behind on care.

Expand Care to Patients’ Families

After a patient has experienced the ease or efficacy of using a recommended product, ask if they’d like to try it for a family member, especially those with whom they are sharing these communicable bacteria. Older patients in nursing homes, as well as orthodontic patients, may benefit from safe long-term use of products like oral-care probiotics or rinses/gels. With the popularity of clear aligners, the number of adult patients using them is growing, and growth of bacteria on oral appliances is an ongoing concern. Teaching care and cleaning of removable appliances is often overlooked. Sometimes a suggestion turns into an additional revenue stream simply by adding another way to keep the microbiome healthy.

Plaque! Plaque! Plaque! Educate Patients on the Oral-Systemic Connection and Plaque’s Role

Plaque on teeth. Plaque on the heart. Plaque on the brain. Nothing good comes from plaque buildup anywhere in the body. Remind patients of this again and again. Give examples. Desaturation of the mouth from sleep-disordered breathing causes a lack of oxygen, a reduction in saliva levels, and creates an overall acidic environment which can lead to demineralization of enamel. This acidic environment also allows pathogenic bacteria to become more tenacious and destructive. It’s easy to demonstrate the oral-systemic link by making the connection for patients:Plaque bacteria found in the mouth is identical to the plaque bacteria found in the arteries. Correlating their medical conditions, as outlined in their medical history, to their dental conditions, is another good way to drive home the impact on their overall health.

Start Slowly

Some dental product manufacturers offer online-sales programs. The patient can order either from the dental practice or a specific website. Alternatively, the office can stock and resell oral self-care products. Patients who purchase recommended products during their office visit are much more likely to adopt the behavior as a habit. Designate a patient care coordinator to maintain inventory and ordering, and watch for promotions to save money. Know which products require sales tax and which don’t. Keep an eye on expiration dates as some products may have a limited shelf-life.

Getting Started

Start with a few products that may be difficult for patients to find at a store. Make sure the team knows about the products, the benefits, and why they need to customize their product recommendation for each patient, every time. Make it easy for the team to find the code and fee to use if the patient decides to purchase the product during their appointment.

It’s a Win-Win

Mark Cannon, DDS, MS, a pediatric dentist, clinician, and researcher, believes more offices could help their patients and their practice revenues by making appropriate products available. Additionally, new, and successful treatment programs can help the practice with patient retention and patient referrals. It should be noted that “patient centric” practices outperform the typical dental practice in new patient acquisition and retention by as much as 35 percent.

Providing patients with the tools for better oral self-care at home is a ‘win-win’ situation for patients and dental practices. Patients gain a better understanding of the relationship between oral health and overall health, enabling them to stay ahead of potentially chronic diseases, while practices improve their patient retention, outcomes, and loyalty.

Supported by an Educational Grant from ProBiora Health, LLC.