Optimising oral hygiene and infection preventionUncategorised
Posted by: The Probe 9th October 2020
Good oral hygiene is essential for all patients, regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, job or physical health. However, it is even more important for those people undergoing dental treatment, especially when it comes to surgical procedures. Managing the oral bacteria and minimising the risk of infection contributes to their treatment experience, the quality of clinical outcomes achieved and the long-term maintenance of results. To optimise all of these aspects, a collaborative approach between patient and practitioner is key.
How many times have you recommended that a patient start cleaning interdentally, only for them to return 3, 6 or 12 months later to admit that they ‘didn’t get round to it’? It is usually not a conscious choice to ignore your advice, but failing to introduce something new into their daily oral healthcare routine will do that patient’s oral health no favours.
The problem is often that improvement of their oral hygiene routine requires behaviour changes. There is an array of personal, social and environmental factors that can influence how a person behaves, which in turn can facilitate or inhibit changes. For a new or modified oral hygiene routine to be established, providing information and advice alone is not enough – there is an entire process that the patient needs to move through if they are to successfully make a change.[i] For these changes to become habitual, they need to be simple and sustainable, they need a trigger and they need to be repeated. Patients may also benefit from information or guidance from their dental team on habit formation, educating them on how they might implement change, rather than just telling them to do it.[ii]
Communication between practitioner and patient will be key for encouraging compliance and boosting a patient’s oral hygiene at home. Patients need to be educated on the importance of oral health in any situation, as well as how it might be affected by factors like diet, exercise, general health conditions and corresponding medications. Professional advice should be tailored to the individual and delivered through a two-way conversation – not a one-way stream of information. In working together, this encourages patient engagement and emphasises their shared obligation in looking after their mouths.
This interaction with patients should focus on their responsibility to maintain their dental health after treatment. By highlighting this early on in the process, patients are more likely to appreciate their role in looking after their teeth and gums. Where they need surgical treatment like dental implant placement, keeping the site clean from infection and reducing plaque build-up post-operatively will ensure stability of the implant and protect their (likely fairly substantial) investment of time and money. Where they are proceeding with restorative or cosmetic dentistry, the patient needs to understand that their oral hygiene will influence the aesthetics of their smile for years to come.
In some instances, there may be opportunity to focus on oral hygiene improvement before the treatment procedure even commences. This can motivate the patient to better care for their teeth and gums, plus they will be more likely to have established good habits to maintain the results for longer.
It is just as crucial to optimise infection control immediately prior to a procedure. Reducing the risk of pathogens in the oral cavity before performing treatment – particularly if providing oral surgery or another more invasive therapy – is paramount. In addition to the patient upholding effective regimes at home, it is also important to bolster in-practice protocols to encourage the best possible results. For example, if you haven’t already, why not introduce a proven pre-procedural mouth rinse for your patient treatments? For example, J&S Davis recently launched the new Curasept H2O2 Mouthwash, which contains 1% hydrogen peroxide to minimise the risk of infection. When combined with the Curasept ADS 220 Mouthwash (available in 200ml or 900ml bottles), it offers superior protection for patients and practitioners alike.
Protecting patient health
Much of what dental professionals do today is about protecting the health and safety of their patients. However, the onus isn’t entirely on them and them alone. Patients must be helped to recognise their own responsibility for maintaining their oral hygiene and minimising the risk of infection both before and after dental treatment. Effective home-care routines, combined with a healthy, balanced lifestyle and reinforced protocols in the practice will ensure infection risks are minimised for everyone.
Author bio: Steve Brown Director of Sales and Marketing J&S Davis Ltd
[i] The European Food Information Council. Behaviour change models and strategies. July 2014. https://www.eufic.org/en/healthy-living/article/motivating-behaviour-change [Accessed August 2020]
[ii] Gardner B, Lally P, Wardle J. Making health habitual: the psychology of ‘habit-formation’ and general practice. Br J Gen Pract. 2012;62(605):664-666. doi:10.3399/bjgp12X659466
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