Patient Care

Homecare Trends: The Bad, the Good and the Great

By Jamie Collins, RDH on February, 11 2021
Homecare Trends: The Bad, the Good and the Great
Jamie Collins, RDH

Jamie has been in the dental field for nearly 20 years, both as an assistant and hygienist. In addition to clinical practice, she is also an educator, speaker, and has contributed to multiple textbooks and curriculum development in addition to being a frequently published author.

Dentistry is full of new ideas and trends, some of which are helpful and others … not so much. The COVID-19 pandemic brought personal care and health to the forefront for many. As our collective focus is aimed at disease transmission and prevention, society has turned to the internet for answers and trends, no matter the outcome.

When it comes to home care, how do you know which dental hygiene trends are worth trying, and which ones are not only a waste of time, but may actually be harmful? Here are three oral health trends that all hygienists should have on their radar:

Xylitol is a naturally occurring product found in many plants, and is extracted from birch wood for medical purposes. The benefits of xylitol are far-reaching, and include a low glycemic index that makes it a good alternative sweetener.

There are various xylitol products on the market, including gums, mints and rinses that boast the benefits of xylitol. Xylitol has demonstrated the ability to inhibit the bacteria involved in the caries process, making it a great ingredient for dental products. Many fluoride varnishes and prophy pastes on the market contain xylitol as a natural sweetener with the caries-fighting bonus.

There are early studies that indicate the xylitol nasal sprays may be beneficial in inhibiting the COVID-19 virus in the nasal passages. However, too much of a good thing (consumption) may have adverse gastrointestinal effects, be sure to use the gums and mints in moderation.

Activated Charcoal
Buyer beware when purchasing a charcoal-based product. It has been one of the hottest trends, with a variety of choices to purchase everything from pastes and powders to toothbrushes.

The claims include the ability to whiten even the toughest stains. However, it can actually do the opposite. If the charcoal powder gets into a porous structure or filling, it can be difficult to remove, leaving a dark stain behind.

The larger concern is that the Relative Dentin Abrasivity may be high depending on the brand, in turn causing damage to the teeth and oral tissues. I don’t recommend patients to use charcoal paste without first investigating the product, and in reality, they usually don’t have much effect on stain.

Chlorine Dioxide
Pre-procedural or homecare rinse the use of chlorine dioxide showcases many benefits. It can be used as an alternative to chlorhexidine in many cases (not all) without the risk of staining.

Chlorine dioxide offers the ability kill the odor-causing bacteria, rather than masking it. There are a variety of choices on the market; my favorite and best-accepted by patients is from Oxyfresh. They offer fluoride and fluoride-free options (both pastes and rinses) that are dye-free, pH-balanced and contain xylitol.

The best part in regard to patient acceptance and compliance is the pleasant taste – we all know if it tastes bad, patients are less likely to use it. There is also early evidence that chlorine dioxide is helpful in reducing the spread of COVID-19, but more studies are needed.

The pandemic has brought self-care to the forefront, especially with the mask-mouth phenomenon helping to raise awareness a patient’s own oral health. Smelling the malodor helps drive improvements to oral care needs. The public is more cautious and aware when it relates to personal care, and oral care if no different. Arming patients with effective solutions to prevent decay and odor without causing more damage is key.


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