Oral health: the mission to level-up


  Posted by: Dental Design      23rd August 2023

Few areas lay open the stark realities of societal inequality in the UK more than health – and oral health is a particularly revealing window.[i] Untreated oral disease can have far-reaching consequences on all aspects of an individual’s life, including physical well-being, ability to work and social participation.[ii]

Research links area deprivation and people’s socio-economic positions with inequalities in oral health.[iii]Evidence shows a connection between social gradients and dental conditions such as dental decay, edentulism and oral cancer.[iv] Vulnerable groups including disabled people, homeless people, prisoners, travellers and looked-after children can suffer disproportionately poorer oral health in general as well.[v]

Being able to access NHS dental care plays a key role in determining levels of oral health. Access to transport and services can be prohibitive, particularly for those with impaired mobility.[vi] Bus and train services can be limited. Private transport – car or taxi – can be unaffordable. Time off work, too, can be an obstacle if it means loss of income for the time spent attending an appointment. Combine this with a significant decline in availability of local NHS services[vii] and the barriers to visiting a practice for check-ups and treatment become ever wider. 

How to help?

Awareness and education can be powerful tools in breaking down barriers, both perceived and legitimate. Chats with patients about any physical problems they or their friends and family might be facing could open up possible solutions not previously considered. Building knowledge and raising awareness about oral health can also be done in many ways: posters within the practice, recommendations for websites, social media accounts, apps, or leaflets to take home for people who prefer traditional media or don’t have access to the internet.[viii]

As a dental professional, your encouragement, reassurance and practical suggestions can have a huge impact on someone’s attitude and their approach to oral health. Research has found that raising the oral health literacy of patients may help them follow medical guidance and self-care, improving their overall treatment outcomes.[ix]

Quick wins

Some practical problems are easier to tackle at ground level than others. Combined with raised awareness and knowledge, small-scale, achievable solutions are much more likely to be accepted by a patient and incorporated into their day-to-day routines. For people facing their own physical limitations, there are products designed to make their oral care routine much easier and stress-relieving. Patients who struggle to keep up with their interdental cleaning routine because of limited dexterity, for instance, may find significant benefits in investing in a water flosser. Where traditional string floss requires angling and contorting that simply may not be possible for some, a water flosser does all the fiddly work without the fiddling.

The Waterpik® Water Flosser is designed to be an easy and swift way to clean interdentally. Its combination of water pressure and pulsations dislodges debris and bacteria from between the teeth and gumline all with minimal manual handling. It reaches areas that a toothbrush can’t, making it ideal for cleaning crowns, bridges and braces. What’s more, it’s proven to remove up to 99% of plaque when used for 3 seconds[x] and is up to 50% more effective for improving gum health compared to string floss.[xi]

Small changes, big impacts

Practical problems maintaining oral care – and their possible solutions – can be useful revelations from chairside chats with patients. Suggesting alternative methods or devices could make a huge difference to a patient’s oral health, particularly for those already finding dental care a challenge to access. As their clinician, you are especially well-placed to make recommendations tailored to your patients’ needs. Greater knowledge enables your patients to make informed decisions which can very quickly lead to better dental care habits – and ultimately plays a critical role in helping to level up equality within patient demographics.

For more information on Waterpik® Water Flosser products visit www.waterpik.co.uk. Waterpik® products are available from Amazon, Costco UK, Argos, Boots, Superdrug and Tesco online and in stores across the UK and Ireland.

Susan joined Waterpik as a Professional Educator over 4 years ago. She is passionate about the work she carries out for the company delivering Lunch & Learn educational sessions to dental professionals. Susan graduated from Eastman Dental Institute School of Dental Hygiene in 1988 and now has over 30 years clinical experience working in Harley Street, specialist and orthodontic practices. Susan has a particular interest in treating periodontal patients and regularly encourages her patients to use the Waterpik water flosser to help maintain their periodontal health. Susan lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband and 9 year old son. She is a fitness fanatic and keen runner, having completed many marathons and half marathons.

Join the 3,000+ dental teams who have already benefitted from a professional Waterpik® Lunch & Learn. Book your free session for 1 hour of verifiable CPD and a free Waterpik®Water Flosser – available either face to face or as a webinar – at https://pe.waterpik.co.uk/en-GB/OfficeRegistration

[i] Jing Shen, John Wildman and Jimmy Steele, (2013) Measuring and decomposing oral health inequalities in an UK population, Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. p488

[ii] WHO (2022) Global oral health status report: towards universal health coverage for oral health by 2030. Introduction, p1

[iii] Public Health England (2021): Inequalities in oral health in England. GOV.UK, [online] pp.3/7. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/inequalities-in-oral-health-in-england/inequalities-in-oral-health-in-england-summaryAccessed 2 Mar 23.

[iv] Public Health England (2021): Inequalities in oral health in England. GOV.UK, [online] pp.4/7. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/inequalities-in-oral-health-in-england/inequalities-in-oral-health-in-england-summaryAccessed 2 Mar 23.

[v] Public Health England (2021): Inequalities in oral health in England. GOV.UK, [online] pp.3/7. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/inequalities-in-oral-health-in-england/inequalities-in-oral-health-in-england-summaryAccessed 2 Mar 23.

[vi] Nature.com (2006) Accessible to all: removing barriers to good oral health. Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/vital518#:~:text=in%20primary%20care.-,Access,have%20low%20expectations%20of%20services. Accessed 2 Mar 23.

[vii] ​Dentists: Tweaking broken system will not end NHS access crisis (2022) Available at: https://bda.org/news-centre/press-releases/Pages/Dentists-Tweaking-broken-system-will-not-end-NHS-access-crisis.aspx Accessed 2 Mar 23.

[viii] GOV.UK: Delivering better oral health: an evidence-based toolkit for prevention (2021) Delivering successful behaviour change. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/delivering-better-oral-health-an-evidence-based-toolkit-for-prevention/chapter-3-behaviour-change#what-can-dental-professionals-do 9/12 Accessed 2 Mar 23.

[ix] Jagan Kumar Baskaradoss (2018) Relationship between oral health literacy and oral health status, BMC Oral Health, Summary conclusion. Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s12903-018-0640-1 Accessed 2 Mar 23.

[x] The Waterpik Water Flosser Removes 99.9% of Plaque Biofilm After 3-Second Treatment, Gorur A, Lyle DM, Schaudinn C, Costerton JW. Compend Contin Ed Dent 2009; 30 (Suppl 1):1 – 6. Available at: https://www.waterpik.co.uk/professional-clinical-research/water-flosser-removes-plaque-gorur-2009 Accessed 3 Mar 23.

[xi] Waterpik UK. Waterpik Water Flosser: Twice as effective as string floss. Available at: https://www.waterpik.co.uk/professional/clinical-research/dental-floss-vs-water-flossing-reduce-gingival-bleeding-rosema-2011/. Accessed 2 Mar 23.

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