The clean between: championing interdental cleaning

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  Posted by: The Probe      17th June 2020

Dental professionals are well aware of how important it is to perform interdental cleaning as part of a good oral hygiene routine. Indeed, whether this is achieved by string floss, water flossers, interdental brushes or other means, it’s universally agreed that cleaning the area between teeth makes a big difference to oral health.

So, why are patients failing to clean interdentally and how can dental hygienists and dental therapists help patients introduce interdental cleaning into their daily routines?

British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT) Ambassador for 2020 and dental hygienist Robiha Nazir discusses interdental cleaning and how certain approaches can help patients see the light…

More than brushing

“One thing I’ve noticed during my time as a dental hygienist is that interdental cleaning is still a topic that we need to discuss more thoroughly with patients. From my experience, although patients have an awareness of the importance of flossing, a lot of them still don’t do it. This makes it clear that we need to change our approach to how we educate patients on the topic.

“There have been many times where I’ve spoken to patients and they’ve been shocked about the potential impact that not interdentally cleaning can have. What this reveals to me is that these people aren’t receiving the proper information about interdental hygiene and this is something that dental therapists and dental hygienists are really well placed to change.”

Habit formation

“Just like brushing teeth, interdental cleaning should become a habit. I once read somewhere that forming a habit takes 66 days, and this is really the primary goal we want to achieve with our patients. Past this mark, the muscle memory of the body kicks in, and if they choose not to floss or interdentally cleaning once this has occurred it has become a conscious choice.

“I’d say around 80% of my patients do interdentally clean, but not always on a daily basis. This makes a habit hard to form as there is no consistency to their approach. That’s why I always make sure that I work together with my patients to foster understanding and help them form a better attitude towards interdental cleaning by giving them the relevant information.

“Tell patients about periodontitis and the associated risks that this disease brings. Tell them that brushing the gums is just as important as brushing their teeth – it’s amazing how many people incorrectly believe that brushing gums can damage them. One trick I like to use is to compare interdental cleaning with other hygiene routines – would you shower and not wash every part of your body? This helps patients to think about interdental cleaning as a routine necessity instead of something that can be avoided.”

Give them options

“The most important part of introducing interdental cleaning into a patient’s routine is finding a method that works for them. We need to be honest and say that different choices are suitable for some people and not for others, but there is always a winning method for everyone.

“What I like to do is to see how their current interdental cleaning method is working and try to make it perfect. If someone is using string floss, show them how to use this properly and how to get the best results. If this patient returns and they are still showing signs of not cleaning interdentally properly, suggest another method such as using a water flosser or interdental brushes and show them how to use these properly too – every patient will have a preference and the results will vary, so find the solution that works best for them. This will also encourage them to adopt this part of the oral health routine properly, as finding a solution that fits with their lifestyle and which doesn’t feel like a huge chore is essential.”

Support and guidance

“I joined the BSDHT because I wanted to be part of a Society where my love for my job could be celebrated. Working as a dental hygienist is not always easy, so when the chance to become an Ambassador for the BSDHT presented itself I knew I wanted to apply.

“Using my position as a BSDHT Ambassador I want to put extra energy into encouraging interdental cleaning and making sure that patients are getting accurate information on the topic. I also want to promote the benefits of being part of a Society to other dental hygienists and dental therapists – the BSDHT has always been very supportive and they understand and help everyone who needs assistance. This is a resource that should be treasured.”

 

For more information about the BSDHT, please visit www.bsdht.org.uk

call 01788 575050 or email enquiries@bsdht.org.uk


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