One important aspect of your experience as a new practitioner is the patient - dentist relationship. Honesty and sensitivity both aid in developing this bond. As a new dentist, it’s crucial to gain an understanding of the patients’ oral health habits and provide proper instruction when any deficiencies are noted. Certainly, poor oral hygiene and lack of proper care can lead to plaque buildup as well as periodontal disease. According to the World Health Organization, 60% to 90% of school children and nearly 100% of adults worldwide have dental caries (1). These data may seem daunting but, as you know, these issues can be overcome. Ask a patient these three questions to learn about his or her oral care maintenance and determine how you can provide guidance toward optimal oral health.
Do You Brush Your Teeth Twice Daily?
According to an article on the Dimensions of Dental Hygiene website, less than half of children brush their teeth twice a day. (2) The most common step towards improving oral health is brushing regularly. However, there are a few particulars your patients should keep in mind. Be sure to stress the importance of brushing twice each day, and spending about two minutes doing so. Advocate the use of a timer if necessary. Patients should also be reminded to replace their toothbrush every three to four months. Here are a few proper brushing techniques to advocate with your patients:
- Place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gingiva
- Gently move the brush back and forth in short strokes
- Brush the outer, inner, and chewing surfaces
Are You Flossing After Every Meal?
As you know, brushing and flossing go hand-in-hand. According to the ADA, only 40% of Americans floss daily and 20% of Americans do not floss at all. (3) Many people brush twice daily but forget to remove debris interproximally. Inform the patient that once the outer surfaces of the teeth are clean, it’s pertinent to clean between them as bacteria still linger between teeth where the bristles can’t reach. Share these flossing technique with every patient. (4)
- Hold the floss tightly between the index fingers and thumbs, slide it gently up-and-down between the teeth
- Curve the floss gently around the base of each tooth, making sure to go subgingivally
- Make sure to use the clean sections of floss while moving from tooth to tooth
- To remove the floss, use the same back-and-forth motion to bring the floss up and away from the teeth
What Does Your Daily Diet Consist Of?
Express the importance of healthy dietary options. Your patient may not know how the food he or she consumes can largely affect their oral health. (5) Advise the patient to reduce the number of snacks eaten during the day. However, if an individual chooses to eat between meals, it’s wise to make healthier snack choices like fruits and vegetables rather than sugar-based options that can contribute to caries. Tell your patients to keep these tips in mind when choosing meals and snacks:
- Drink six to eight glasses of water daily.
- Eat a variety of foods from each of the five major food groups, including:
- Unsweetened grains
- Low-fat and fat-free dairy foods
- Lean sources of protein such as dry beans, peas, lean beef, fish, and skinless poultry
These three considerations should be embedded in the minds of all patients looking to improve their oral health. Building rapport with your patients begins with congeniality and honesty. Let each know how to properly care for their teeth. A few extra minutes out of the day and smarter food choices, along with proper professional intervention, can ensure that the oral cavity is preserved and protected. This will surely establish to a cohesive bond with your patients as they achieve that fresh, healthy, and clean smile.
- World Health Organization. “Oral Health.” http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs318/en/. Published April 2012. Accessed August 25, 2017.
- Dimensions of Dental Hygiene, 1ADAD, www.dimensionsofdentalhygiene.com/ddhright.aspx?id=18172. Accessed 23 Aug. 2017
- ADA News. “Survey finds shortcomings in oral health habits” http://www.ada.org/en/publications/ada-news/2014-archive/october/survey-finds-shortcomings-in-oral-health-habitsPublished October 20, 2014. Accessed August 22, 2017
- Brushing Your Teeth. Mouth Healthy TM. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/brushing-your-teeth. Accessed August 22, 2017
- Desiree, Yazdan, DDS, MS http://www.dentistrytoday.com/news/todays-dental-news/item/1591-how-diet-affects-your-patients-teeth. Published January 2017. Accessed August 24, 2017