Your dental patients have been taught the basics of oral hygiene care from a young age, but are they keeping up good practices into adulthood? And are they getting regular cleanings, flossing, and not over brushing? How do you communicate important educational information to adult patients without sounding condescending or making them feel defensive? It can be tricky, but just comes down to good, old-fashioned communication.
Oral Hygiene: Getting Back to Basics
We’re all familiar with the essential tools of oral hygiene. But it’s safe to assume your patients aren’t using these tools often enough or properly all the time. Cleaning appointments are wonderful opportunities to establish dialog with patients about their habits. Your RDH can ask patients to demonstrate how they brush, and discuss the best flossing techniques to avoid plaque build-up. Many patients aren’t aware that flossing daily does more than dislodge food from between the teeth: it removes bacterial film that leads to plaque formation. Using floss regularly in the interproximal areas can significantly reduce the risk of gum disease.
Your patients may not know that as they shift away from drinking regular tap water to bottled water and water from home filtration systems, they reduce their fluoride consumption, and miss the decay-preventive benefits of fluoride found in regular drinking water. If your patients drink bottled water, talk to them about including fluoride in their dental regimen.
Linking Oral Health to Overall Health
Adult patients may know the techniques of oral hygiene, but are they informed about the risks that poor dental health poses for overall health? As you know, recent research suggests links between dental health and everything from pneumonia, heart disease, and stroke to Alzheimer's Disease. Unlike kids, who need fun distractions, adults benefit from making these connections between cause and effect.
Consider including informative articles about the relationship of oral health to systemic health in your office newsletter, in the waiting room, or as a handout at the end of a cleaning appointment. Proactively offer to answer questions about connections between overall health and dental care during regular visits.
Taking Advantage of Technology
Lots of tools are available for tech-savvy adult patients who need encouragement to practice good oral hygiene. Tell patients about “smart” toothbrushes, for instance, that can map the effectiveness of their brushing habits and help them improve. Smartphone apps like “Brush DJ” can help adult and younger patients alike brush longer using their own music, as well as offering reminders for tasks like flossing or getting a new toothbrush. And don’t forget to use the patient’s preferred method for receiving appointment reminders (most prefer SMS)!
The Importance of Relationships
Above all, having a positive impact on the dental practices of your adult dental patients requires healthy patient relationships. Building trust between your staff and your patients will allow you to have a positive influence on their oral health.
Ensuring patients come in for regular checkups is key. Tailoring your approach to specific patients types can help make sure that patients maintain their regular appointments. Some practices you should consider include:
- Establishing an effective Customer Relationship Management plan (or CRM). When you stay in touch with patients, they feel valued, appreciated, and cared for.
- Connecting with your patients by using your website and social media channels to present your staff personally. If patients feel they know you, they’re more likely to trust you!
- Communicating sensitively and respectfully during appointments. Don’t be in a rush and talk to patients while treating them or conducting cleanings. Rather offer them your attention for a real conversation about their needs and concerns. When patients feel heard, they will trust and respect your recommendations.
Once you’ve influenced the at-home dental care of your patients, and encouraged regular cleanings, how do you make sure that dental patients are receiving the dental treatments they need at your practice? In recent years, effective and pain-free minimally-invasive dental treatments have become an attractive alternative to traditional treatments, especially for nervous patients. Read more about minimally-invasive treatment options on our blog.