The Challenges of Helping Patients Find the Best Homecare Products

Dental Products ReportDental Products Report November/December 2023
Volume 57
Issue 10

[SPONSORED] Our goal, obviously, is to be talking prevention. But one of the things I think might be more helpful is if we start talking about protection as well.

Dental Products Report Editorial Director Noah Levine recently spoke with dental hygiene speaker and educator Judy Bendit, RDH, about trends in home care products and how dental professionals should be helping each patient find the best products and routine for their individual situation.

Here are some of the highlights of that discussion.

Noah Levine (NL): What trends do you see in dental home care? Is the public’s perception of what they can and should be doing for their oral shifting one way or another?

Judy Bendit, RDH (JB): We want to hope that it’s changing. Unfortunately, one of the things that concerns me is that we, as a dental profession, should be driving the change. Unfortunately, social media sometimes drives the change, and that has become very difficult for many clinicians. It’s forcing us to respond differently in the operatory. So, for instance, I’m asking clinicians to ask questions differently. Don’t just say, “Are you brushing your teeth?” Ask what toothbrush they’re using. Ask exactly what toothpaste they’re using. You know, ask them, “Are you flossing all your teeth, or are you just flossing the teeth that have steak or corn in them?” Our goal, obviously, is to be talking prevention. But one of the things I think might be more helpful is if we start talking about protection as well. Instead of just screaming brush and floss, brush and floss, we need to give them the tools to be able to protect their teeth.

NL: How do new home care products change things for clinicians and patients?

JB: Now that we’ve got gums and candies, and mouthwashes, and toothpastes, and all these amazing therapeutic products it makes it more fun for us in the in the office to [help patients find the best products]. I think it’s exciting. We now have CDT codes so you can actually charge for [dispensing home care products], but we have to find the time during the day to focus on this.

NL: How can clinicians get patients to take home care recommendations seriously?

JB: So that’s a great question. And unfortunately, there’s no real answer to that. It’s about getting them motivated. It’s about identifying their risk. It’s about coming up with age-appropriate modalities for them. And then the most important thing, is making these products accessible for the patient; being able to either dispense it to them and send them home with it.

I always tease that if you don’t put a toothbrush in their mouth and get their spit on it, you’re not doing homecare instruction. We need to physically put things in their mouth, show them how it works, watch them do it. It can no longer be that we just give them something and they go home and we you know, magically, it’s just going to happen. We’ve got to take the time to help them, to show them, and say, “Wait, maybe this isn’t going to work for you, maybe you need something else.” The biggest thing is to make sure that the things we want them to do are accessible. If it’s impossible to get a product, they’re not going to use it. I’m a big proponent on actually dispensing products to our patients to make sure they get exactly what [we want them to use].

NL: How does a clinician decide what home care products make the most sense for a patient?

JB: When it comes to oral hygiene, the clinician has to decide what it is they’re trying to accomplish. Is it a plaque issue? Is it a bad breath issue? Is it caries? Is it soft tissue management, or gingival inflammation, a fungal issue, cancer, xerostomia, or tooth tissue sensitivity? These are the things that every clinician needs to consider, which 1 of these 7 things, or how many of these things, am I trying to address. Then find the right tools, or the right preventive aids to make that happen.

NL: Where does a clinician begin when building a custom homecare plan for a patient?

JB: I always say start small, take baby steps. Start with basic brushing, make sure they can master that first, then if they need something—based on all the different criteria we talked about—then you might want to add a mouthwash, you might need a more therapeutic toothbrush, or toothpaste. Then we have to look at the interproximal products. Some people can’t floss, they don’t have the dexterity. So, let’s look at interproximal brushes. Let’s look at floss threaders, and floss holders. There’s so many cool little products that we have, that we can give our patients and recommend to our patients so that they can be successful.

Then I just always tell everybody, make copious notes of everything on the computer, so that when [patients] come back, you can say, “Did you like that?” I always say there is never one product for everybody. We need to keep searching until we find that right product that works for them and then move on to the next issue they have. That’s why I say baby steps.

NL: How do you help patients stay with a new product or routine?

JB: I think every time they come back, we have to give them positive reinforcement. We need to motivate them and keep trying. Don’t let them get frustrated if they say they didn’t like it or they didn’t do it. Instead say, “Let’s try something else. We will find something that you like, that works for you, that will give you the results you need.” Because as I said, we don’t just have one product. Now we have lots of them. So there’s these are the kinds of things that we can work with to help [patients] understand and then make the right suggestions for [them].

NL: How do clinicians determine which products they want to recommend to patients?

JB: I always tell people to try everything. Either try it on themselves, or do their own little clinical trials in their office. [Oral care product manufacturers] want us to try samples of everything so that we can determine if we like it.

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