In recent years, I have seen an increase in patients requesting cosmetic dentistry advice and treatment in my practice, but not all of them have been consistent with their oral health care. Patients who are curious about cosmetic treatments such as teeth whitening, veneers, implants, teeth straightening and all-ceramic crowns are often in need of guidance on maintaining optimal Whole Mouth Health.
Scolding these patients for their shortsightedness will not help you treat them, but gentle coaching on the importance of maintaining healthy gums and strong teeth will remind your patients that you are invested in their well-being. Dental professionals have the opportunity to act as partners with their cosmetic-minded patients by focusing on Whole Mouth Health.
Cosmetic dentistry can be explained much like the exterior of an exotic sports car: it can look stunning, but if the engine isn't properly maintained the car will eventually stall. A regular routine of proper preventive oral health home care and regular dental check-ups are the engine that makes a straight, white smile work.
Patients looking for cosmetic dentistry advice are often excited about procedures that will improve their smile and confidence. During a cosmetic consultation, I like to use this enthusiasm to motivate the patient to also focus on the health of their entire mouth in order to maintain this investment they are making in themselves. They may be home-whitening pros, for example, but they may not know how to safely prevent oral soft tissue irritation while whitening or how to maintain gingival health during and after whitening.
Here are just a few ways you can help cosmetic-focused patients take ownership of their oral care:
- Emphasize the importance of Whole Mouth Health and proper home care to reduce the possibility of recurrent decay, staining and periodontal disease.
- Recommend home care products like fluoride toothpaste to help prevent decay, and mouthwash that reduces plaque and gingivitis to help maintain gingival health. Demonstrate their proper use during appointments.
- For patients who are interested in whitening, recommend a custom solution like the Colgate Optic White Professional Take-home Kit for fast and effective results.
- Reassure patients that you will provide the best possible treatment and support them in their efforts to preserve the health and beauty of their smile.
- Send patients home with a letter that includes instructions for home care and a congratulatory note for investing in their oral health.
Educating Patients About the Importance of Controlling Bacteria on Soft Tissues for Whole Mouth Health
Patients should be made aware of dental biofilm and the myriad of bacteria in their mouths that cause caries and periodontal disease, which could result in subsequent failure of cosmetic efforts in the long run. In addition, they should be educated about the importance of controlling bacteria on the soft tissues of their mouths (including the tongue, cheeks and gums), as these bacteria can repopulate the teeth after brushing.
You may want to mention that proper oral care, in addition to maintaining cosmetic work, may also have more generalized health benefits, due to the apparent link between periodontal disease and systemic health concerns, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Patients may also appreciate having more information and a resource on oral health and systemic health.
Patients aren't always able to visualize their internal health, but cosmetic dentistry is a visible investment. By encouraging cosmetic-focused dental patients to practice comprehensive oral health care, you can help them maintain Whole Mouth Health and improve their overall health.
Dr. Ryder Waldron is a practicing general dentist, co-host of the Dental Realist Podcast and co-author of the books So You Want To Be A Dentist? and So Now You're A Dentist? You can contact him on Twitter @ryderwaldrondds.