Today, many people are interested in learning about their overall health. They hire personal trainers and nutritionists to help them be proactive about their short-term and long-term health goals. People want to feel and look their best for the short-term and get ahead of bad habits that could result in serious conditions in the future.
This dedication to proactive health extends to the mouth, and modern patients are seeking dentists who will provide them with proactive dental care. Modern patients want not just treatment for dental problems, but forward-thinking care for their Whole Mouth Health. Here's how can you best care for these motivated patients.
According to a Colgate study conducted by Kantar, the modern dental patient wants their dentist to provide positive reinforcement for what they are doing correctly. I have often been told by patients that they felt scolded by their former dentist for not flossing, brushing or keeping regular dental appointments. This perceived judgment may cause patients to dread their regular hygiene appointments and make them discouraged about any progress they have made.
Patients like to feel supported about the progress they are making, not ashamed of their mistakes. Dental professionals can act as a coach for their patients and encourage them to improve in specific areas by discussing the systemic health benefits associated with a healthy mouth.
Another comment I hear frequently from patients is, "I just got that procedure done because my last dentist told me to do it." For any treatment you recommend, whether it's flossing more frequently or restoring a broken tooth, advise patients of the benefits to their oral health and overall health. For example, good periodontal health (achieved by thorough brushing and regular flossing) has been shown to coincide with good heart health.
After they have considered your recommendations, let patients make their own educated decisions about their treatment. Modern dental patients want to collaborate with their dentist in making their oral health care decisions and not simply be told what to do.
Modern dental patients want to be proactive about their dental care rather than reactive when a problem arises. Even if they don't have any cavities or oral diseases, these patients appreciate proactive recommendations so that they can maintain their Whole Mouth Health. Proactive dental care can include general tips and personalized recommendations.
- Remind patients of the importance of preventive care like brushing and flossing to reduce the risk of dental caries and periodontal problems. According to a Colgate report conducted in collaboration with Kantar, proactive patients want to care for their whole oral health, not just their teeth. Remind them that teeth only make up 20 percent of the mouth, and educate them on how to keep their gums, tongue and oral mucosa healthy.
- A knowledgeable modern patient will be aware of dental caries and may even know how this occurs. You can build on their knowledge at regular hygiene appointments by assessing and talking with them about their individual caries risk and the lifestyle factors that contribute to it.
- Encourage fluoride use to prevent dental caries, reduce sensitivity and to strengthen enamel.
- Oral hygiene and reducing the level of bacteria aren't the only ways for patients to protect their oral health. Offer referrals for orthodontic treatment when you think it is warranted to eliminate plaque traps and allow teeth to be cleaned more thoroughly. You can also talk with athletes, including schoolchildren and adults who are involved in sports activities as a hobby, about wearing a custom-fitted mouth guard while playing sports to reduce the risk of broken teeth and other orofacial injuries.
Overall, always listen to your patients! Ask them what they like about their teeth and what they would like to improve. Good oral health gives modern dental patients a sense of pride and self-confidence because it shows that they have invested in themselves. As dental professionals, we are in a unique position to empower patients and have a positive impact on their overall health.