Winter is on its way. It’s getting cold outside…so now is the time to help patients take better care of their teeth at home! How can you help your patients commit to care between hygiene visits? Making a few simple changes to your interactions with patients can help.
Change your approach, change your results
COVID-19 related job losses mean fewer patients have dental insurance these days. It’s more important than ever for patients to take good care of their teeth at home if they want to maintain good oral health and prevent costly dental procedures.
But getting patients to brush and floss regularly is an uphill battle, as any dentist, dental hygienist or dental assistant can attest. No wonder that more than four in 10 U.S. adults age 30 and over have periodontitis. Nearly a third of Americans don’t know what periodontal disease is! How can they know how to prevent it?
The good news: If the way we’re approaching at-home dental hygiene isn’t working, we can change course and do something that will, says Brandi Hooker Evans, owner of dental consultancy Stellar Outcomes LLC. Here are Evans’ tips for improving at-home oral care.
1. Share something new
“Choose something to educate your patients about that isn't brushing and flossing,” says Evans. “I have found that a conversation about inflammation reduction is much more effective than yet another harp on the toothbrush we have been talking about for six years.”
Evans suggests sharing new advice that’s likely to surprise patients, such as explaining more about the connection between a healthy body and a healthy mouth.
“Did you know eating extra fruits and vegetables will help heal up this infection in your mouth faster?”
“It sounds like you have a lot going on in your life right now. Have you tried daily walks after work? I know it sounds crazy but going for a walk can actually help reduce the inflammation in your mouth. It’s a great stress reliever, and it’s also easy and free."
2. Be on their team
Plaque removal is important but can be boring for patients. Making plaque removal tips sound exciting and like a team effort can help get patients interested, Evans says.
Share your own problems with dental care and how you solved them. Evans suggests something like, “I struggled with the corners along the gumline, too. The thing that helped me was angling my power toothbrush towards my gums all the way to the midline before switching my wrist to go the other direction.” Demonstrate the action with gloves on, using a mirror and showing the patient how this looks in their own mouth.
3. Try out tech tools
Sometimes patients have added difficulties with dental hygiene because of appliances, prosthetics or limited dexterity. That’s where oral physiotherapy aids (OPTs) come in handy. “Look at what their challenge is and then introduce an item that fits their needs,” suggests Evans.
Here’s how that conversation might go: "Mr. Smith, check out this new AutoFlosser! I was so excited when we got these in because I thought of your bridge that’s hard to clean under. Now you will be able to easily sneak the floss under the middle tooth and floss under the entire thing. Look how quick and easy this is. I bet if you use this before bed every day, we can get that area to heal up really quickly!" Then grab the mirror, show them how to use it in their mouth, and let them give it a try.
Small changes, big differences
While these may seem like minor tweaks to conversations you’ve had with patients in the past, they can add up to big differences. “If we act like our patients are in trouble, they’ll respond like obstinate teenagers,” says Evans. “If we treat them like our teammates in this battle against infection and inflammation, they will put their game shoes on and join us.”
Lighthouse 360 can be your best ally in the battle to improve patient home care. Use it to easily create professional email messages that explain tips for home care. Quickly check in with patients a week or so after their appointment to ask how they’re doing with their new hygiene routines and if they have any questions. The Lighthouse 360 dashboard enables two-way texting with patients right from your computer.
Keep patients coming in for regular dental care using Lighthouse 360’s patient recall, appointment confirmation and appointment reminder features. You can communicate with patients by their preferred method, be that text, email, phone or even regular mail. You’ll save time…and patients will never miss an appointment.
Learn more strategies for improving patient hygiene between office visits. Attend Brandi Hooker Evans’ free webinar, “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” Thursday, December 2 at 5 PM PDT/8 PM EDT. Sign up now to reserve your (virtual) seat.