Encouraging Oral Hygiene and Patient Education Post Pandemic

DATE: July 2020
AUTHOR: Mandy Dennis, RDH

A world of change has taken place with people working from home, teaching families and trying to adapt to unexpected lifestyle changes. Life stressors take precedence and oral hygiene and home care may have become a low priority for many individuals on a daily basis. As offices start to re-open, this is a good time to provide oral hygiene instruction and to emphasize the importance of good oral hygiene and prevention through patient education.

The Return of Patients

Dental offices are returning to work and patients are coming back for appointments, often admitting to decreased home care while being sheltered at home. Stress and diminished home care habits can leave a patient prone to dental caries. There is a need for dental hygienists to educate patients on the risks of poor home care, increased snacking and lack of motivation which can lead to higher caries risk. The American Dental Association (ADA) has provided great resources in helping to determine your patient's caries risk, and for discussing your patient's diet and home care habits.

Encouraging a patient to maintain oral health through tough times is a difficult task, especially when the stressors of life are daunting. Good oral hygiene not only makes one healthier it can also provide self-confidence. As the pandemic continues on and society begins to re-open, people are excited to return to daily life, dental visits included. Many patients have been staying home and the opportunity to be face-to-face again provides the incentive to care for oneself again. As dental hygienists we must understand the barriers to home care and provide a compassionate and listening ear all while stressing the importance of caries management.

Home Care

Increased caries risk can be combated with the use of fluoride products, including an array of prescription strength fluoride therapies such as Colgate PreviDent 5000 toothpastes. Colgate has created a variety of formulations with 1.1% sodium fluoride for caries prevention as part of a home care regimen. One of these is a prescription strength toothpaste formulation for sensitive teeth, an incentive for patient compliance. Patients are often admittedly lacking on self care and many are willing to invest in prevention. Having prescription fluoride pastes in the office to dispense as needed ensures it gets into your patients hands, versus counting on them to fill a prescription at a pharmacy. This increases the chances of patient compliance. For the patient who may have difficulty brushing, PreviDent Dental Rinse can be helpful. This weekly rinse delivers 0.2% neutral sodium fluoride, helping to prevent dental caries.

Professional Care

Patients young and old can reap the benefits of Colgate PreviDent Varnish, a professionally applied in-office fluoride. Varnish containing 5% sodium fluoride (which contains 2.26% fluoride) is proven to relieve dentin hypersensitivity. The ADA recommends 5% sodium fluoride varnish as an in-office fluoride treatment to help prevent dental caries in children and adults, an off-label use. A combination of both in-office and prescription strength home fluoride toothpaste can also be provided for protection.

As the world we live in has changed and altered the way we perform dentistry, patient needs and caries prevention stays the same. Fluoride is a proven mainstay in caries prevention and oral hygiene instruction remains important to help patients perform good oral care at home. Determining the specific needs of our patients and helping them see the benefits of in-office and at-home fluoride therapies can help patient re-establish better routines.