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Posted by: The Probe 21st May 2021
While there are few positives to come from the pandemic, a heightened awareness of health among the general public might be counted as one. The spotlight on personal hygiene, general health and mental wellbeing has done much to promote the importance of self-care and encourage more people to look after themselves better. As the UK looks towards a brighter future with freedoms returning and ‘normal’ life resuming slowly, it’s crucial that people don’t forget to protect and maintain their health. For dental professionals, keeping patients engaged with their oral hygiene beyond the pandemic will be a priority.
Oral health in the limelight
Aside from the main messages communicated by Government and scientific advisors, oral health has been a topic of media interest. Firstly, the impact on oral health has been and continues to be a concern given the imposed practice closures in 2020 and the on-going restrictions on services available ever since. Limited access to dental care for a prolonged period means that recovery will take some time.[i]
The second angle grabbing the headlines is the link between COVID-19 and oral health. It has been suggested that improving oral hygiene could reduce the severity of COVID-19 symptoms experienced by individuals.[ii] A case-control study in the EFP’s Journal of Clinical Periodontology demonstrated that the presence of periodontitis was associated with a higher risk of admission to the ICU and the need for ventilation.[iii] This provides yet another very valid motivation for people to enhance and maintain their oral health.
As and when the world starts getting back to the normal daily grind, it is inevitable that some of the healthy habits many of us picked up during our time at home will be compromised once again. It is often suggested that a lack of time is the reason many people don’t follow the recommended oral hygiene routine. As everyone gradually returns to the workplace, the daily school-runs resume and meeting with friends and family is allowed once again, some people might be tempted to deprioritise their dental health regime. To prevent this from happening, it’s important for dental practices to remind patients why their oral health is so important.
This means continued communication, spreading the message through the right channels for your patient-base. For instance, you will likely already use a combination of your website, social media platforms and direct communications to talk to your patients. These are all great ways of reminding them to maintain their oral hygiene and delivering advice to help them achieve this.
It is also beneficial to consider how you interact with patients in the practice. Communication is difficult while in full PPE as it prevents the personal touch and can make it difficult to convey empathy. Is there some other way you could safely share a smile with patients to help maintain the rapport you have built with them over the time they have been visiting you? Perhaps you could create some short videos with different team members to send to patients by email following their visit. Alternatively, you could offer virtual consultations between assessment check-ups to develop your patient-practitioner relationships.
The key is to keep talking and keep the messages simple. Helping people tailor routine for their new lifestyles will be important and will encourage them to retain responsibility for their health status. Regularly reaching out to patients will also help to further educate them and empower them, keeping them engaged with the practice as well.
National Smile Month
Getting involved with this year’s National Smile Month is another fantastic way of interacting with patients and the local community. The Oral Health Foundation’s annual campaign once again aims to raise awareness of important oral health issues. Among the activities taking place between May and June 2021 is the Great British Brushathon on 3rd June, as well as the Smiley singalong. Other ways the practice and team can do their part in raising awareness including getting involved on social media by sharing a selfie or a poem about dental health. There will also be a focus on diet with the Sugar Swap Challenge – another topic that many dental professionals could expand upon during patient appointments and in general marketing.
The British Dental Conference and Dentistry Show remains an avid supporter of the charity and National Smile Month and encourage you all to get involved in any way that you can. Various resources are available through the website to assist your efforts, which you can find at https://www.dentalhealth.org/national-smile-month.
We have all been reminded of the importance of connecting with others since the pandemic began. As we begin to see light at the end of the tunnel and we all look forward to enjoying face-to-face time with friends and family again, it is vital that people don’t forget the health lessons learnt.
The next British Dental Conference and Dentistry Show will be held on Friday 13th and Saturday 14th May 2022, Birmingham NEC, co-located with DTS.
[i] The impacts of COVID-19 on oral health and dentistry. GDC. https://www.gdc-uk.org/information-standards-guidance/covid-19/the-impacts-of-covid-19 [Accessed March 2021]
[ii] Botros N, Iyer P, Ojcius DM. Is there an association between oral health and severity of COVID-19 complications? Biomedical Journal. 43(4); 2020, 325-327. ISSN 2319-4170,
[iii] Marouf N, Cai W, Said HN, Daas H, Diab H, Rao Chinta V, Hssain AA, Nicolau B, Sanz M, Tamimi F. Asscoaition between periodontitis and severity of COVID-19 infection: A case-control study. Journal of Clinical Periodontology. January 2021. DOI: 10.1111/jcpe.13435
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