Here we look at ways in which hygienists sabotage the success of their oral health instructions and 7 products that can improve patients' home care routines.
These are exciting times for oral physiotherapy aids. Not only are there many outstanding products available, but online shopping and drop-shipping have made more of them available to more people than ever before. In addition to reviewing some of the latest and greatest, we will discuss how to educate patients about oral hygiene.
Has anyone ever told you, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”? Me too. But, alas, I’ve had to learn it the hard way as a hygienist. Let’s look at 6 ways in which RDHs sabotage the success of their oral health instructions. I’m guilty of making all these mistakes, so I humbly present them, with a solution for each.
Giving too much information. Because we are qualified to address patients’ caries risk, periodontal disease risk, and overall health with a variety of tools and practices, I have too often given patients too much information and too many things to work on. That’s when their eyes glaze over, and I start hearing “yes ma’am.” At the next appointment, the patient has implemented nothing.
The Solution: Focus on one thing at a time. Give them one simple, attainable goal to work on. At their next recare, you will see they have succeeded and be able to build upon that foundation.
Wagging your finger. Even if patients may have “had a lecture coming,” this is a complete turnoff that evokes neither compliance nor loyalty.
The Solution: Try celebrating that they showed up to their appointment and ask them what they want to work on in between visits.
Sweeping it under the rug. This is a surefire way to remove the patients’ ability to realize that a disease is affecting their entire body and they need to do something about it. There is no such thing as a little bit of bleeding. Either infection is present or it’s not. Sweeping facts under the rug may feel comfortable in the moment, but disease progression will destroy that peace in the long term.
The Solution: Nonthreatening full disclosure will allow patients to recognize, prevent, and treat dental disease. Teach them to evaluate their own x-rays and periodontal chart, then watch them take charge of their health.
Thinking you’re the only one with good ideas. Our RDH brains are brimming with ideas for good oral home care. Sadly, if we don’t let patients choose what they want to do, they won’t do it.
The Solution: Finish the assessment and ask the patient what they think would be most helpful. If they don’t know, ask them if they would like to hear one of your ideas. When I get this opportunity, I always pick something that reduces total body inflammation. Eating veggies or walking for 10 minutes a day are excellent, attainable goals. Spoiler alert: more people will buy power brushes if you suggest they go on a walk than if you suggest they purchase a power brush. Why? People already know that brushing and flossing improves oral health. We need to show them that their body is connected to their mouth. When we do, their motivation for better oral health goes through the roof.
Doing the same thing over and over. If you’ve suggested a power toothbrush 6 times, don’t do it again and expect a different result.
The Solution: Recommend an anti-inflammatory strategy (more sleep, better diet and exercise, stress-reduction practices), and they’ll stop at the store on their way home for that toothbrush you mentioned last time. Connecting oral disease to the rest of their health is the best motivator I’ve yet to find.
Recommending something you don’t believe in. Dental professionals all over the world halfheartedly recommend care and products they don’t believe in. The result? Patients often choose to pass. This happens all the time with suggestions about scaling, root planing, and recare intervals.
The Solution: You must believe in your recommendations. If you’re certain that something will work, that energy will be transferred to your patients, and they will also get excited and commit to the care you recommend.
I recently worked with a dentist who was not convinced that 3-month intervals between visits were necessary and asked whether 4-month recares would be sufficient for perio maintenance after scaling and root planing. We read the research, and he noticed that the dental bacterial biofilm matures at 12 weeks and that leaving it alone for an additional month was detrimental not only to the success of scaling and root planning but also to long-term overall health. This dentist is passionate about providing quality care and believes that his care can change lives. I agree. After discussing what was holding him back, he let it go, and his confidence about presenting a comprehensive care plan skyrocketed—and so did patient acceptance.
Do you sabotage your oral health instructions? By now, you may have guessed that too much information is my specialty. But I am guilty of all 6. Although I struggle with the solutions, I know it’s worth the effort.
7 Technologies to Boost Oral Health Care
Now let’s discuss 7 terrific technologies that can improve your patients’ oral health. Giving patients the opportunity to ask us what we think, rather than simply telling them what to do, allows us to share our favorite products and increases the chances that patients will purchase and use them.
1. We can all enthusiastically endorse the items we use every day, thus proving that we believe in them. In my case, that item is the Oral-B iO electric toothbrush, which produces oscillation rotations with micro-vibrations. Research shows that it is an excellent plaque removal device and doesn’t contribute to gum recession.
2. For the patient who wants to elevate oral care and keep all tools together, there is Waterpik Complete Care 9.0, which combines a sonic power toothbrush and a water flosser. Plaque, stains, and hard-to-reach areas are conquered with this space-saving tool, which is an excellent option for those on a moderate budget.
3. Have you tried BURST floss yet? It is excellent at grabbing plaque, comes in cute cases, and refills arrive every 12 weeks. It’s no coincidence that 3 months is the amount of time bacteria takes to repopulate our mouths. The floss is black to show the plaque being removed, and it expands when exposed to saliva to increase the surface of the area being covered. At $12.99 for the initial purchase and $6.99 for refills, this floss is a great option for most budgets.
Are you open to a 3.2? If so, I suggest checking out the Best of BURST package: an all-in-one option your patient can get excited about. It includes a sonic power toothbrush, a refillable floss set, a pack of white strips, and fluoride toothpaste.
4. Another terrific toothbrush for tech-loving patients is the Philips Sonicare 9900 Prestige, which boasts SenseIQ technology that evaluates pressure, motion, and coverage to improve brushing technique. Sonicare brushes are a longtime favorite of many dental professionals and consumers alike. Although it’s not a bargain at $379.96, it is a slam dunk for the bougie dental gadget seeker.
5. Something fun for everyone—those who underbrush and overbrush—is the Bäz gumline cleaner. Great for patients who want whiter teeth and are missing the apical third with the bristles, this ergonomically designed, soft-tipped product is also fantastic for those who scrub too hard and too often. The Bäz gumline cleaner is gentle on the cementum of root surfaces and will give overzealous folks a way to maintain that fresh, clean feeling without causing further recession. The startup kit is $18 on bazdental.com
6. Crest Pro-Health Densify is technology in a toothpaste that rocks. Densify uses stabilized stannous fluoride to reduce erosion up to 83% more than its competitors. Dental professionals have been battling intrinsic and extrinsic erosion forever. The more we learn about lifestyle and acid, the more important helping our patients combat the problem becomes. Available at most grocery stores for around $7, Densify is a fantastic option for any budget.
7. For patients who are hoping to go all-natural, there is the Get Mouthy oral health kit. For $45.99 at getmouthybox.com, the customer can receive a toothbrush, a travel tube, a toothbrush holder, dental floss with a refillable glass container, and tooth soap in a bamboo box. Get Mouthy boasts all-natural, eco-friendly, vegan, and remineralizing properties. A word of caution: there is not sufficient evidence to suggest that this is a good choice for cavity-prone individuals. But it can be an option for those who have plaque under control, don’t consume acidic food or drinks, and want to try a sustainable and natural system.If patients battle cavities, I suggest they continue using products with fluoride, for which we have decades of efficacy data.1
Using the best techniques and technologies ensures our patients’ oral and whole-body health. Evidence shows that they are not different. Numerous studies have recently explored the relationship between oral health, inflammation, and systemic disease. Oral bacteria can cause inflammation in the mouth and contribute to systemic inflammation if toxins or microbes leak into the bloodstream. The association between oral inflammation and systemic inflammation is fundamental to understanding the detrimental effects the former may have on a variety of organ systems and its ability to increase the risk of developing a non-oral disease.2 Dental hygienists are ideally situated to connect the dots for patients. So don’t be afraid to recommend the products you believe in. And don’t be surprised when patients come to their recare appointment singing the praises of their new power toothbrush. Cheers to whole-body health by way of a dental hygiene appointment!