Amber Ojak explores patient perceptions of hygiene appointments and how they may need educating on their own oral hygiene routine.
Recently I have become increasingly aware of patients coming into the surgery and saying they have: ‘A lot of build-up, purely because they haven’t been’ (for an appointment), due to the Covid pandemic.
I am convinced that this statement: ‘There’s a lot of build up because I haven’t been’, means that patients believe it is the sole responsibility of a dental therapist or hygienist to remove the calculus or plaque. They are taking less responsibility for it themselves.
So, how do we convince or rather remind patients that the reason they have calculus or plaque, is not because they haven’t seen a dental professional to remove it. But instead because they are neglecting their oral hygiene routine?
1. Giving patients responsibility and ownership for their own oral hygiene
When someone comes to me with this statement, I gently remind them that they can remove calculus or plaque easily at home, with a good oral hygiene regime.
The reason it builds up (as we all know) is due to not regularly removing this themselves.
Patients tell me that they’re struggling to find time to use interdental aids whilst working at home. They feel that they have regressed with their oral hygiene.
Helping patients identify a time when they can set aside a few minutes has really helped a few of my patients think outside of the box a bit more. This is helping encourage them to maintain their regimes at home.
2. The power of motivation
Really motivating patients to improve and maintain their oral health, is key.
Many people report a decrease in mood. They tell me the last thing they want to do is to clean interdentally.
Using lists and flow charts is really useful for identifying the current status of a patient’s oral health. As well as highlighting where their ideal goal is.
When people report feeling low, I find setting a goal can help them focus. It gives them something else to think about.
3. Highlighting the purpose of a dental professional
Changing a patient’s mindset is really difficult. The idea that a dental therapist or hygienist is just there to clean their teeth and get rid of staining and build-up of calculus and plaque still seems high.
Taking the time to educate patients, that although they are seen every three to six months, this is not an excuse to neglect their own oral hygiene.
A few times I get the patients to remove softer build up with a test drive themselves at an appointment.
Establishing that we are an adjunct to their oral care regime is key. Patients shouldn’t solely rely on us.
This perspective also needs strengthening in the wider community. Now that the term ‘scale and polish’ is changing to PMPR (professional mechanical plaque removal), it’s the perfect time to change how we view dental hygiene appointments.
Catch up with previous Oral Health Highlights
- Reflecting on 2021’s lessons.
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