As dental professionals, it is our job to educate our patients. As a hygienist myself, I will admit to feeling a little uncomfortable pulling out a toothbrush and demonstrating proper brushing techniques with an adult patient. It feels awkward because most patients think they know how to brush their teeth correctly, so it can come across as condescending. As hygienists though, we are able to take a look inside their mouth and see all the areas where plaque is left behind.
Let the patient see from your perspective
Instead of taking a risk of sounding condescending, I take an approach where I am able to visually show the patient from my perspective.
During a hygiene visit, one of the first things I do is take a full mouth series of intraoral photos. I take my patient on a digital tour of their own mouth and show them areas of plaque build up and inflammation. I do this before I start any cleaning so the patient is aware of their current health status. At this point, I am able to point out areas they may be missing with their toothbrush and offer advice on how to better clean a specific area.
As we all know, patient education is an ongoing process. It is typical for patients to comply with our recommendations for a short time following their appointment then fall out of the routine. This is why tracking progress is an important step in their education.
“How do I fix this?”
One essential condition that should be tracked using intraoral images is gingival inflammation. While we can show a patient their periodontal charting and try to explain what it all means, nothing is more clear to a patient than an image.
Showing a patient an area where the teeth are layered in plaque surrounded by puffy, bleeding gums — the image is pretty clear. The next question out of the patient’s mouth is usually, “How do I fix this?” This is when you can step in with all of your hygiene tips to help the patient better care for their oral health. Then, at the patient’s next visit, you will take new intraoral images to show the patient how much their hard work has paid off!
Sometimes it can seem monotonous the way we repeat our oral hygiene instructions to patients, hoping that they will finally listen to us. (Floss!) It can be a frustrating process, but instead of becoming frustrated by a patient who seems unwilling to listen, consider changing up your delivery of patient education. Intraoral images are a real eye-opener for patients and can be just what you need to get that stubborn patient to start changing behavior.
Check out MouthWatch’s training video on grasp and imaging techniques for intraoral cameras.
Dive Deeper with a Research Article: Clinical Applications of Intraoral Camera to Increase Patient Compliance – Current Perspectives
Jaime Cardwell, RDH
Jaime Cardwell, RDH, has 10 years’ experience working in many aspects of the dental field. She is currently a practicing dental hygienist and a dental practice efficiency enthusiast. She enjoys working clinically with patients, and has a passion for creating efficiencies within dental practices and helping dental professionals grow in their careers. She loves sharing her experience through writing and speaking. Contact her at [email protected]