How can dental nurses improve patients’ oral health during the pandemic?

Alis Fleming discusses how dental nurses can make a difference to patients' oral health as we continue to battle COVID-19Alis Fleming discusses how dental nurses can make a difference to patients’ oral health as we continue to battle COVID-19. 

Has COVID-19 meant an increase in poor oral health?

Studies show that stress has a significant link to effecting the immune system. The immune system is what can help fight bacteria that causes periodontal disease.

Throughout the world, stress levels are incredibly high which contributes to the deterioration of health, including oral health. As part of the dental team it’s important to play our part in encouraging and educating our patients on the importance of oral health during this unprecedented time.

How can we play our part to help improve this?

If you’re a practice that’s currently seeing patients face to face, you can communicate in more traditional methods to patients about the importance of home care. Many patients presume that a scale and polish will ‘cure’ gum disease.

However, what they do at home has a vital impact on their oral health. It’s important for dental nurses to try and get the patient to have a better understanding that their day-to-day home care is what will improve their oral hygiene. This can be as basic as brushing twice daily, flossing or using interdental brushes.

By communicating with the patient you will get a better understanding of where they could be missing out on key oral hygiene opportunities. For example, the majority of the public brush their teeth as part of a day-to-day routine. Since most of the nation are working from home, a morning routine might not apply anymore. As a result, brushing teeth twice daily will not become a priority.

Another factor that could affect their oral hygiene while working from home could lead to them snacking more often on sugary foods and drinks. We need to educate the patient on the consequences of their action. All while encouraging them to take responsibility for their behaviour.

How can we communicate whilst minimising the amount of patients coming through the door?

With technology, there are many beneficial ways we can communicate through different media. This can be used alongside traditional face to face or in cases where patients are not able to attend; such as elderly and vulnerable.

Social media can play a big part. Uploading videos of demonstrations being done on models or Youtube videos on how to use oral health tools such as interdental brushes.

You can also have an e-consultation with patients via Zoom. This can be to discuss concerns, demonstrate on models and give advice on their diet. You can also reinforce positive habits, and discuss specific treatments such as denture hygiene and implant hygiene.

Helpful facts and information can also be uploaded to social media. Facts can make patients aware of the high risks to having poor oral health habits. Helpful information such as spotting signs of gum disease can help minimise the risk of patients coming through the door. They can then gain access on how to help treat gum disease.

Having dedicated team members who are trained and competent in updating various social media would be a good addition to any dental practice. They can update platforms with the latest developments. This can also include tailored oral health messages to your community of patients.

‘Use this opportunity to our advantage’

It is important to ensure we respond to queries regarding oral health questions. This will further help build rapport with patients even when we may not be able to see them face to face.

Patients may have kids who are currently home schooled due to the pandemic. Uploading some fun-games can help the kids learn and play at the same time. It is also just as important for kids to understand the importance of maintaining good oral health and building it into their daily routine.

Promoting online shops that sell your recommended oral health supplies can also be helpful for patients to locate these items quicker. Additionally, it can encourage them to purchase and use regularly.

With healthcare being under the spotlight during the current crisis, we can use this opportunity to our advantage by ensuring we promote oral health using modern media and the internet. This can maintain a relationship between the patients and the practice.

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