J’aime les dents
This week, our man from Anfield asks, ‘how involved are you?’
With the best will in the world, certain people struggle to look after their teeth. For some, it is lack of motivation. Others consider brushing their teeth to be at the bottom of a very long list of priorities, below walking the dog and watching the grass grow. However, most people are victims of being misinformed. I defy any dental student to claim they haven't changed their own oral hygiene regime even slightly while at dental school, even if it's just the direction in which they move their toothbrush or switching to alcohol-free mouthwash. Equally, it seems that the public are fed a lot of lies, as far as we tooth enthusiasts are concerned.
Having a clean mouth is boss. Do you know why that is? No plaque equals no decay. No plaque equals no gum disease. No volatile sulphur compounds equals no bad breath; hence a higher chance of a bit of club necking in Guy's Bar after clinics on a Friday.
It is our job, as dental professionals, to ensure that our patients are exposed to best practice when training them to look after their own oral and dental health. The number of times I've faced raised eyebrows when advising patients not to use mouthwash after brushing, for example, really does make you think. Even when people set out with the best intentions, they sometimes are doing the exact opposite of what we'd like them to do! Of course this isn't too much of a problem, as we are educators and we shall set all of our patients on the path to oral health perfection!
The main topic of conversation is therefore a question of how 'involved' my fellow students become when educating people about oral hygiene practices.
For me, it's an absolute necessity for the patient to bring whatever accoutrements they use to keep their mouth clean so that we can inspect their technique and then modify it appropriately. Nor am I averse to throwing a pulp tray under the patient's chin, getting them to hold a mirror in front of their face, and giving their toothy pegs a good clean with their own brush and toothpaste, there and then!
Even more important, as far as I'm concerned, is the matter of flossing. I find it pointless to use those models we find on clinic more than once; it almost seems like insulting the intelligence of the patient by pulling the model out at every visit. Instead, what I would suggest is that you throw on a pair of gloves, snap off a good length of floss, give the patient the trusty mirror once again, and you (yes, YOU) floss their teeth, before their very eyes. Why? It's certainly going to be memorable for the patient; they'll know how it feels when it's done 'correctly’; and they've then got the perfect opportunity to mimic exactly what you've just shown them.
For me, this makes the oral health education a much more enjoyable and immersive experience, with a positive effect on patient compliance.
'Only floss the ones you want to keep'