Its all about the education

Gaby Ugarte is the hygienist at a private practice in the Hertfordshire town of Potters Bar. The team at Selbourne Dental Surgery consists of two full-time dentists, one part-time dentist, Gaby, four dental nurses and two receptionists. The practice also employs specialists providing sedation treatments and implantology.

Gaby sees her role as an essential component of the practice’s preventive ethos; and the key to her preventive programme is patient education.

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Gaby explains: ‘It is imperative and important that patients understand the causes of tooth decay and gum disease and the effects of these causes.

‘Once this understanding has been achieved, most patients are very receptive to my preventative ethos of daily flossing, dietary advice, use of disclosing tablets, mouth rinses, smoking cessation, a minimum of twice daily brushing and finally regular visits to me, the hygienist!’

She adds: ‘Excellent oral hygiene and the maintenance of oral hygiene forms the cornerstone of any treatment plan prior to commencement of restorative treatment.’

Gaby’s rules for happy patients

  1. Gain the trust of your patients so they are comfortable and accepting of your treatment recommendations
  2. Provide various treatment options and invite discussion to achieve joint treatment planning
  3. Be friendly and approachable
  4. Be accommodating and sympathetic to your patients needs, especially those who are very nervous and apprehensive
  5. Be an excellent communicator. Ensure the patient has a clear understanding of the treatment before it begins and that they understand the potential risks and benefits.


Gaby is passionate about the topic of oral-systemic relationships and shares learnt knowledge with patients, using laminated handouts on subjects ranging from diet to essential fish oils in order to underpin what she has been discussing with them about their oral health. Most of this is tailored to the individual patient.

Gaby says: ‘It is widely accepted that there is a link between poor oral hygiene and heart disease, for example, but most patients do not understand the correlation until it is explained to them.

‘This forms an essential part of my preventative programme and adds a whole weight of evidence for patients when discussing the benefits of following a good oral hygiene regime.’

Bespoke education

However, she readily admits that educating patients can be quite challenging at times.

She explains: ‘Education is key. Several tools are used during my appointment with patients, ranging from visual aids to information leaflets.’

Like her advice, Gaby tailors her product recommendations to individual patients.

One patient explains: ‘Gaby always reassures me and talks me through what she is doing and why. As a nervous patient, she is aware of my worries and has redeveloped the way I think about oral health – she has made me aware that I should visit the hygienist as much as I do the dentist.

‘She always takes time to explain the benefits of oral health and the importance of why I should be doing what I need to be doing to maintain good oral hygiene at home.’

Top of the class – Gaby’s favourite dental innovations

  1. Digital radiography offers instant imagery and brilliant clarity
  2. Rotary endodontics such as the Morita endo system
  3. The intraoral camera is a fantastic visual tool.


Gaby explains: ‘What I advise patients to use in their oral health regime will depend on the nature of the treatment to be undertaken, but this primarily would be an electric toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste.’

Gaby is a keen advocate of electric toothbrushes, specifically the Oral-B Professional Care 5000, and recommends Oral-B Pro-Expert as a default toothpaste. She also recommends Oral-B Pro-Expert Premium Gum for periodontal problems.

Gaby explains: ‘Ultimately, it is the combination of an effective toothbrushing device, good toothpaste and a commitment to interdental cleaning that achieves patient satisfaction and smile success. But the key in all this is the education of the patient as to how best to achieve this.’

Garbiñe ‘Gaby’ Ugarte (pictured) spent her formative years growing up in San Sebastian in northern Spain where she completed her studies to become a dental hygienist.

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