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Do your patients understand their oral health and hygiene needs? Try 80:20 coaching.

Date: December 2020

Author: Louise Sinclair

As dentists, you know that many of your patients could benefit from more comprehensive oral home care and biofilm management. As detailed in Colgate’s recent Whole Mouth Health White Paper, such improvements would help patients to better protect themselves from some of the most burdensome dental conditions, dental caries and periodontal disease.

However, we’re also very conscious of the limited time we have with each patient in the chair. We know that oral health gains happen at home, however it can take time to provide the necessary education and coaching to our patients, many of whom have little understanding of oral microbiology and pathology.

The 80:20 approach for Whole Mouth Health

It’s essential that our oral health messaging is simple and accessible. It should be easy both for us to deliver and for our patients to understand. 80:20 coaching could be the solution.

The 80:20 approach is based on the fact that the teeth only make up 20% of the mouth, with the other 80% represented by the tongue, cheeks and gums. Bacteria are present on all of these surfaces, not just the teeth, so it’s important to target all of these areas for Whole Mouth Health.

It may seem obvious, but it’s a thought that often simply doesn’t occur to patients. Many will have grown up with the message that oral health care was all about protecting the teeth. By starting the 80:20 conversation, we can correct this misperception and help them to think of their oral health in whole mouth terms.

An example of simple, quick, but effective 80:20 messaging could be:

“Taking care of your teeth is really important, but did you know they only make up 20% of your mouth? Bacteria that cause oral diseases also grow on the other 80% of your mouth – your tongue, gums, and cheeks. For good oral health, we have to protect 100% of the mouth.”

Reinforcing the Whole Mouth Health message

Of course, our advice is only useful if our patient follows it. Despite their best intentions, it’s often the case that patients forget the conversation or struggle to stick with their new oral health habits.

You can help to reinforce Whole Mouth Health by using a variety of coaching tools. Colgate Professional offers a broad range of helpful patient education resources, such as:

  • 3D mouth models to demonstrate oral health concepts and techniques.

  • Chairside tools like the Gum Health Physical, which provides personalized reports and guidance for patients to take home.

  • Educational videos and articles on oral health and hygiene.

  • Digital materials for sharing on practice websites and social media channels.

You can also recommend products that support Whole Mouth Health, like Colgate Total Toothpaste. Providing a sample or recommendation to your patient can help them to remember your conversation about improving their oral health behaviors.

Alongside your 80:20 coaching, you might add something along the lines of:

“A regular fluoride toothpaste is good for protecting against cavities, but it won’t protect all the surfaces of your mouth. So I recommend an antibacterial toothpaste like Colgate Total, as it targets bacteria on 100% of the surfaces in your mouth, including your teeth, cheeks, tongue and gums.”

Whole Mouth Health – a whole team effort

To effectively promote behavior change, it’s important to get the whole dental team on board and in alignment. Brief your team on the importance of Whole Mouth Health, and encourage them to integrate 80:20 messaging into their oral care coaching.

With this simple coaching method, you can change the way your patients think of oral health and help them to develop an effective Whole Mouth Health approach to oral hygiene.