Transforming the Perception of Oral Hygiene in Practice

In the ever-evolving landscape of dental care, prioritizing prevention has become paramount. Recent evidence underscores the connection between dental health and overall well-being, including conditions such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease. With practices still experiencing the knock-on effects of COVID-19 and a backlog of routine care, UK patients face challenges in maintaining their dental health. This presents a unique opportunity for dental practices to enhance their hygiene appointments and empower patients to take charge of their oral health at home.

At Patient Plan Direct, we advocate an in-practice education approach designed to bridge the gap between patients’ home routines and the guidance provided in the dental practice. This ensures a positive experience during appointments and can be seamlessly adopted by all team members.

Educate

While oral hygiene education is a staple in dental practices, the key lies in evaluating the effectiveness of your current hygiene offering. Are you communicating at a level that aligns with your patients’ understanding? Dental professionals often use jargon, confusing patients about necessary actions.

Our approach emphasises transitioning from merely stating the issues to explaining the reasons behind their dental health status and the steps needed for prevention. Utilising visual aids, for example, enhances active learning and demonstrates techniques for improvement.

Inspire

Motivation is a collective effort, with the entire team playing a pivotal role. Begin by extrinsically rewarding patients, demonstrating the proper use of recommended tools during appointments, and providing samples for home use. Follow up with intrinsic motivation, showcasing improvements, and explaining how continued efforts will benefit them.
Consistency is key, and virtual follow-up meetings can strengthen the patient’s resolve, fostering good habits and sustained motivation.

Empower

Understanding patients’ individual circumstances is crucial when dealing with reluctance to change oral hygiene routines. Identifying barriers and probing about their feelings regarding dental health is essential. Combatting deflation, especially in cases where immediate results are not evident, is equally important.

Dentists hold a significant influence on patients’ trust and perception. Collaborate with the wider team to ensure that ‘hygiene appointments’ are not trivialised as mere ‘scale and polishes’, emphasising the importance of employing consistent terminology. This can also help to dispel the common perception that these types of appointments are a one-off procedure, which can devalue the role of a hygienist or therapist in the eyes of your patients.

A strategic solution to address this matter is the introduction of a dental practice plan, which can incorporate hygiene appointments into a patient’s routine check-ups. Typically ranging between 2 and 4 appointments a year, you reinforce the ongoing nature of oral care and underscore the value of these professionals in maintaining optimal dental health.

The above strategy is a comprehensive, long-term approach to oral health education that is built on patient trust and previous appointments. Ultimately, it can be adapted to each patient, catering to their unique requirements.

If you’re interested in learning more about establishing a dental practice plan that seamlessly integrates hygiene appointments, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Patient Plan Direct team. We’re here to provide you with the information you need to enhance your patients’ oral health journey.

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