Dr. Jerry Baluta, Odyssey Dental Care, dentalcorp Partner Since 2014
It’s been just about a year since we all began living in our COVID-19 inspired modified reality. As industry professionals, we know the importance of regular dental hygiene appointments and we have a responsibility to ensure our patients are protecting their oral health.
In a recent survey conducted by the CDHA, it was found that 6 in 10 Canadians have not seen their dental hygienist since March 2020.
As you know, there is a strong connection between oral health and the rest of the body. A multitude of research exists on the link between periodontitis and systemic health problems.
Without proper oral hygiene and professional care, defenses against bacteria are reduced, cavities can develop, and gum disease can take hold. Over time, this can exacerbate underlying conditions, and even contribute to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or stroke.
Now, more than ever, it is important to have a strong immune system to fight off viruses and infections, and yet patients are not making that connection back to dental hygiene.
We have a duty of care to ensure our patients understand the importance of being seen for their professional cleanings.
Why are patients not keeping their dental hygiene appointments?
Surprisingly, the number one reason is not due to concerns about possible exposure to COVID-19. The top reason patients cited for not keeping their dental hygiene visit is that they view it as something that can be put off. In other words, they don’t recognize the significant role it plays in their health and well-being.
What does this tell us?
This tells us that we as dental professionals have an opportunity to do a better job educating patients on the connection between oral health and systemic health, so that patients understand how important it is to keep their dental hygiene appointments.
What can we do about it?
Closing this knowledge gap requires consistent and frequent communication with patients across all roles within our Practices in order to be effective.
There are simple, effective strategies that you can incorporate into your Practice today to promote the importance of dental hygiene visits.
Best Practices for Communicating the Importance of Dental Hygiene Visits:
- Post a Visual Display. A simple infographic in your reception area and operatories helps promote patient awareness about periodontitis and its link to overall health.
- Tailor Your Messaging. Organize dental hygiene patients into treatment plan categories that are clearly marked in the patient schedule as well as in the patient chart. This allows the admin team to be set up with the right information and scripting to communicate the importance of an appointment to the patient. This also supports the team to mitigate cancellations as well as keep patients on track with their scheduled dental hygiene appointments.
- Reinforce in the Dentist Chair. Incorporate the patient’s dental hygiene treatment plan into the discussion of their overall treatment plan with the dentist. Reinforcing the importance of regular dental hygiene appointments at each dentist appointment will further drive awareness with the patient.
- Leverage the new AAP Classifications. Use the new AAP Classifications to guide comprehensive treatment planning and leverage its framework of key tables to distill important concepts to the patient about their oral health.
- Engage the Entire Practice Team. Discuss at your daily team huddles the link between oral health and systemic health. Have team members bring in articles on the link between oral health and systemic health and post them in your lunchroom to keep this top of mind.
Dentistry plays a fundamental role in the overall health of our patients. Helping our patients understand the importance of dental hygiene can only bring about positive results for both patients and practices.