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Using connected health to help manage your orthodontic patients

Date: October 01, 2021

Author: Louise Sinclair

As a dental hygienist, your patients will often be among the millions of Americans undergoing orthodontic treatment every year. These patients, many of them adolescents, face a specific set of challenges in maintaining their oral health throughout treatment. Here, we explore how you can use connected health to help your orthodontic patients manage these challenges and achieve the best possible outcomes.

Challenges of orthodontic treatment

One of the most frequent complications of orthodontic treatment is decalcification, or white spot lesions, with an estimated prevalence as high as up to 97% in ortho patients. Gingivitis and gingival enlargement also commonly occurs.

These challenges arise in part due to the obstruction created by fixed appliances. Brackets and arch wires can prevent adequate salivary clearance and make it difficult to perform effective toothbrushing and interdental cleaning, particularly in younger patients with immature motor skills. This allows biofilm to accumulate around the appliance and demineralize the enamel, creating white spot lesions.

Compounding this problem is the fact that the introduction of orthodontic appliances significantly changes the composition of biofilm. Specifically, it contains higher numbers of acidogenic bacteria like Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacilli, known to play a major role in the development of dental caries, and an increase in periodontal pathogens.

The risk of biofilm accumulation, white spot lesions, gingivitis and other complications can be mitigated with diligent oral hygiene efforts. A Turkish study found that plaque index scores and decayed, missing and filled permanent teeth counts increased in orthodontic patients, but it also cited multiple pieces of research in which this was averted with oral health intervention.

Despite the obvious benefits, teaching and motivating our patients to perform proper oral hygiene, especially children and adolescents, is often easier said than done! Luckily, there’s an app for that…

How connected health can help

App-connected power toothbrushes have been shown to be valuable tools for improving oral hygiene. One study found that using an app-connected brush, compared to the same brush without the app connected, can reduce the following after a single brushing:

  • Total oral biofilm by 60% (compared to 44.9% without an app).

  • Biofilm at the gingival line by 49.5% (compared to 34.7% without an app).

  • Interproximal biofilm by 56.9% (compared to 40.2% without an app).

Over the 6-week study, twice-daily brushing with the app-connected brush resulted in significantly reduced oral biofilm levels. Gingivitis was reduced by 38.9% compared to 28.9% using the same brush without an app.

The smart Colgate hum power toothbrush helps patients achieve improved oral hygiene with helpful, oral health-promoting features like brushing reminders, timers to encourage correct brushing duration, and pacers to ensure equal attention to all areas of the mouth.

It goes a step further with advanced sensor technology to detect which areas of the mouth are being brushed, illustrating coverage and highlighting neglected areas in the connected app. Oral health can seem like an abstract idea to our younger patients, so it’s helpful to be able to show them (this literal representation of where biofilm is likely to accumulate and encourage them to pay special attention to these at-risk areas.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of the Colgate hum toothbrush for our orthodontic patients is the opportunity for improved motivation. We know that children and adolescents respond very well to reward and competition. The Colgate hum appeals to this with “gamification,” setting challenges and rewarding good brushing behaviors with redeemable points.