Living for the moment – motivating patients who are in good health

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  Posted by: The Probe      19th July 2021

One of the best things about being a dental professional is working with patients. For “best” also read, “most challenging” or “most inspiring” with any number of alternatives that could be used, and which could change by the week, day or hour.

Every patient presents with their own, unique oral health situation, as well as a combination of other factors that could be creating a barrier to them improving it. These might be socio-economic factors, such as their income, or there may be health-related circumstances – their smoking or nutritional status, for example. Subjective factors that compromise oral health status include being fearful of the dentist, not liking their clinician, or struggling to fit a visit to the practice into a busy schedule if it’s hard to secure a convenient appointment time.

To support compliance, guidance and care must be tailored. The dental professional must consider each patient as an individual, tweaking and adapting treatment plans, collaborating with them to find the right fit and something they’ll stick to. We can learn so much when we ask the right question and listen to them talk, not only about their concerns and circumstances, but to enable the identification of gaps in their knowledge, as not every patient will know how deeply oral infection can impact on other sites in the body.[i] Preventive-maintenance appointments should cover key terms (do they know what periodontal disease is, and how it differs from gingivitis?), correct cleaning technique and the link between poor hygiene and other systemic conditions – and everything else in between.[ii]

One of the key factors that determines how a dental professional will proceed with care is the patient’s age. There is perhaps a tendency to focus on the most vulnerable age groups; the very old and very young. Infants and children lack the fine motor skills to clean their own teeth, and older patients may also have problems with dexterity. Effective support for infants and children requires working with parents and carers to establish a good brushing routine, and understand the importance of regular dental visits and why they should limit sugary food and drinks. Effective support for the elderly is more complex and, with a growing aging population in the UK, all healthcare providers, including dental professionals, must be ready for the challenge ahead.

Engaging with the well

But what of those adults who aren’t considered “vulnerable”, who feel they are in very good general health? Spending money and time on dental preventive-maintenance appointments might be of low priority if they don’t have any pain, or symptoms that indicate there could be a problem. These are adults who are making their own lifestyle choices, but who often have other financial commitments, from a mortgage to a family. How do dental professionals keep the momentum going, to motivate people into behaviours that will mean they will retain their teeth for longer, when old age seems a long way off? Particularly now, with COVID restrictions lifting, a choice to live in the present and enjoy each day without worrying too much about what tomorrow may bring could lead to behavioural or messaging fatigue.

Appealing to these patients, so they continue to attend the dentist regularly and are willing to make changes to elevate their hygiene routine, is imperative for improving standards of oral and general health. These patients may pursue treatments like tooth whitening, or other elective aesthetic work, but not appreciate the value of a clean, hygienic mouth to keep the results stable and looking beautiful for as long as possible.

Communication and positive patient-practitioner relationships will motivate those who consider themselves to be in good oral health to continue to prioritise and invest in it, in order to prevent poor future outcomes. Be practical about routines – review brushing technique and recommend the adjuncts that are effective and fit seamlessly into busy lifestyles. Ingredients are also important for people who acknowledge the importance of using natural products. The ‘Perio plus’ range of mouth rinses are alcohol-free and contain Citrox® – a natural bioflavonoid extracted from bitter oranges – for a powerful formula that is optimised to protect the oral cavity from plaque. Patients will be impressed by these innovative products, which are easy to assimilate into daily self-care and will engage them with the essence of prevention – small changes lead to big rewards.

Tailored care is essential for great dentistry, and this means looking at the range of factors, in various combinations, that could impact on a patient’s oral health. We must also not forget patients who, because they consider themselves well and healthy, are tempted to push their oral health down the list of priorities. Good communication, practical advice and recommendations to only use the highest quality products is how you can keep these patients invested and engaged for a lifetime.

 

For more information please call 01480 862084, email info@curaprox.co.uk or visit www.perioplus.com/uk

 

Author Dawn Woodward National Sales manager Curaprox UK

 

[i] Li X, Kolltveit KM, Tronstad L, Olsen I. Systemic diseases caused by oral infection. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2000 Oct;13(4):547-58. doi: 10.1128/cmr.13.4.547-558.2000. PMID: 11023956; PMCID: PMC88948.

[ii] Li X, Kolltveit KM, Tronstad L, Olsen I.


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