Learning the new rules – Rachel PointerFeatured Products Promotional Features
Posted by: The Probe 6th July 2018
With children’s oral health grabbing the headlines – not only in the dental press, but also across general media platforms – shouldn’t we spare a thought for adult patients? Anyone who grew up in the 1970s, 80s or even early 90s, who might now be bringing their own children into your practice, will probably have different ideas about dentistry.
Ask these patients for their memories of childhood trips to the dentist and they may tell you they remember a strong antiseptic aroma, or the terrifying sound of the drill. Once in their teens, it was rare to leave without getting a filling or two (amalgam, of course), or perhaps a referral to an orthodontist. Before clear aligners were widely used, braces were often obtrusive and could be uncomfortable. ‘Train track’ braces – the old metal brackets with rubber band ties holding the wires in place – used to be the most common. Although the results would have hopefully been worth it, metallic braces blighted many a school photograph or social situation.
Depending on the decade they grew up in, your adult patients would have been told they should floss everyday, using traditional string floss. Many people believed the more friction between the toothbrush and the tooth surface equalled more bacteria being removed, so would have used a toothbrush marked ‘firm’. Talking of removal, dentures were the most popular solution for a missing tooth or teeth in decades past. With advances in implantology being tied to relatively recent developments in technology, materials and techniques, it was common to see your grandparents keep their teeth in a glass by the side of the bed every night.
Your adult patients would have fewer dental products to choose from when they were growing up, whereas now there are entire shelves filled with different varieties of toothpaste and mouthwash. Is there such a thing as too much choice? Many of these boast of whitening properties, which reflects the growing interest in oral aesthetics. The impact of American pop culture has been felt since the late 70s and in the 1980s the popular stars of blockbuster movies had big hair and even bigger gleaming, white smiles. This general aspiration for physical perfection (or at the very least, improvement) hasn’t waned, although 30 years ago, a society where everything can get immediately documented via photo-sharing apps was still a long way off. Modern dental practices are now often called things like ‘smile studios’ or have the word ‘design’ in their name, reflecting how far their image has come from the rather intimidating building where you went twice a year, usually to be given bad news.
The point is that we seem to have a clear agenda for children’s oral health, but not for adult patients, who grew up in different times. Are they aware of how good oral health supports good general health? Are they up-to-date with the best techniques for keeping the mouth clean? For example, patients should not be using a firm brush unless it is under the direction of their dentist, because gentle brushing is best for keeping the teeth clean while avoiding harm to the delicate gum area. Also, the NHS now advises interdental brushes should be used in addition to brushing, with flossing as an alternative.[i]Danish oral care expert TANDEX has a comprehensive product range to suit the changing needs of modern patients, including interdental and interspace brushes, plus gentle, ergonomically designed toothbrushes for a deep, yet kind twice-daily clean.
The shift towards preventive care is significant because it means changing the mind-set about whyyou should go to the dentist. In a survey conducted last year, it was found that one in five British adults only visits the dentist when they have a problem.[ii]Another important layer is that the cost of dental care and/or access to NHS dentistry is a thorn in the side of many of today’s adult patients, who don’t consider routine dental appointments a financial priority, and/or can’t find an NHS dentist who will take them on.[iii]The situation where a parent takes her child to the dentist for free treatment, then leaves without having a check-up is one that practices see all too often.
Keep communicating with patients of all ages. Don’t miss any opportunity to discuss the benefits of good dental health, which we now know is linked to reducing the likelihood of various systemic diseases. Discuss the latest developments in research and how they can apply these to daily home care. Make sure your practice is welcoming, positive and proactive. Preventive dentistry isn’t just for children! No matter what their age, patients can improve their oral health and their smile. They may have grown up with a different set of rules, but we must make this modern era of dental care accessible to all.
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[i]NHS Choices. Why should I use dental floss? Link: https://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/2379.aspx?CategoryID=74&SubCategoryID=741(accessed April 2018).
[ii]Mintel. Nothing to smile about: one in five Brits only visit the dentist when they have problems with their teeth. Report date: 11 October 2017. Link: http://www.mintel.com/press-centre/beauty-and-personal-care/one-in-five-brits-only-visits-the-dentist-when-they-have-problems-with-their-teeth(accessed April 2018).
[iii]BBC News site. ‘We couldn’t see an NHS dentist so we pulled out our own teeth’. Posted 6 September, 2017. Link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-41113507(accessed April 2018).
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