You Have a Medical Disease of the Mouth
I like to joke with my patients by saying,
“I don’t know if you know this, but your mouth is actually connected to your body”.
Because dentistry and medicine don’t always cross paths, we can forget that what happens in the body can manifest signs and symptoms in the mouth. Conversely, inflammation in the mouth can exacerbate systemic disease. The dental hygiene profession has based its existence on prevention and education of disease. I feel, at times, we have lost sight of that.
Patients don’t always take us seriously. “I know I should be flossing”, “I don’t have time to floss” ,“Please don’t lecture me on flossing”. How do we help them to see the importance of our recommendations? I have adopted the technique of linking my patient education to a prescription plan. It is my belief, and many others, that what I am teaching them is just as important as a medical procedure or prescription. When I started doing this, patients would often become more engaged. My conversation goes a little like this:
“You have a medical disease of the mouth. The inflammation/infection that is in your mouth can affect the rest of your body, including your heart. Today I am going to prescribe to you (insert sized interdental brush color and/or specialty brush). Using this everyday will be as important as you taking a prescription medication. If you don’t use it, you are increasing your chance of decay/tooth loss/periodontal disease/ peri-implantitis and other concerns throughout your body.”
After that, I teach them to use the recommended product and discuss with them any limitations they may have, concerns about their level of compliance, or how I can help motivate them to develop this new habit. It won’t happen overnight, but eventually our patients will see our home care recommendation is as important as a prescription they need to take every day. As a profession, we just have to remember how important patient education is to the long-term success of our patients. If you need help sizing the interdental brushes so you can “prescribe” one to your patient, check out my blog on “Sizing Interdental Brushes”.
"I don't know if you know this, but your mouth is actually connected to your body."