Melia has been a dental hygienist for 10 years and loves being part of the dental field. She's originally from Alberta, Canada, but now lives and works in Utah. When she's not practicing dental hygiene or working on her website Hygiene Edge, she loves being in the Utah Mountains or being with her 5 year old Georgia.
When a hygiene day gets busy and time gets short, some things have to give … and usually the first thing to go is oral hygiene education, or OHE.
But, in reality, OHE is one of the most important things we as dental hygienists can do for our patients.
We can spend hours scaling and polishing, but after only a few minutes, the pellicle will start to form and the biofilm process restarts itself. Within 24 hours, there’s enough biofilm to start the infection process again.
Getting patients to decrease biofilm at home is key, and educating them is the only way to help. So how do you not only squeeze in time for OHE, but make sure your patients hear you loud and clear?
Here are a few simple ways you can encourage your patients to up their oral hygiene game between appointments.
1. Save your samples for your patients
If you go to conventions, you probably come back to the office with a treasure trove of samples, from whitening products to specialty mouthwashes.
It’s so tempting to keep them for yourself (I’m the first to admit that I love trying out new dental products) but having them on hand to give to patients makes OHE exciting again.
Giving someone a new sample is like giving a gift. It’s fun having a patient try out something new, then following up with them at their 3- or 6-month appointment to see if they tried it, and asking what they did or didn’t like about it.
I love to keep all of my samples and handouts in a file folder where I can have them organized into different topics. That way, I can easily pull relevant samples for my patients if I need to.
2. Utilize index cards
Keep a pen and a stack of index cards (I prefer the unlined ones) handy in your drawer. You can use these to jot down home care recommendations, or where to purchase certain products you and your patient talked about during their appointment.
Mention you wrote them down, and slip the note in their take-home bag. Having something tangible when they get home will increase their chances of doing what you talked about in the office.
3. Teach one new skill during each appointment
Make OHE a game during the day by trying to teach each patient something new.
Maybe it’s some oral hygiene education for their new grandbaby. Maybe it’s addressing dry mouth or a slight change in saliva production. Maybe it’s talking about different bacteria present in the mouth, and how proper tongue scraping can help with their halitosis concerns.
Trying to educate each patient and tailoring it to them can make the day a bit more exciting.
4. Start OHE during radiographs
Can your patient see the screen that their radiographs pop up on after exposure? After you take the patient’s radiographs, you can chat about what they see: a potential cavity, bone loss, large amalgams, whatever.
Pointing these areas out on an x-ray is the perfect segue to talk about how they can improve their home care.
So there you have it – now there’s no excuse for oral hygiene education to fall through the cracks. With these simple tips, hopefully you’ll be able to make education an hourly habit and increase your patient’s overall health by tweaking their oral hygiene routine.
What are your favorite oral hygiene education tricks to use during the day?