Ben Atkins: reducing the risks of irregular access

Ben Atkins: reducing the risks of irregular access

Ben Atkins shares his advice for helping patients to establish good oral health routines to reduce pressure on NHS dental services.

Simple, but effective oral health advice can help patients avoid decay and gingivitis at a time when NHS appointments are under significant pressure, according to Dr Ben Atkins. He advises that using a couple of minutes of precious consultation time to explain what good oral health looks like, and importantly how to achieve it, not only makes a difference to patients’ oral health, but can also reduce the frequency they need to see a dental professional. This frees up slots for a greater number of additional patients.

‘The key thing is to take the time to understand the awareness levels of each patient. Do they really know not only why they’re brushing their teeth, but what they are trying to achieve? In the past I’ve found my oral health teams didn’t explain what good oral health looks and importantly, feels like so they know what they are aiming for. Use terms they will relate to ‘glassy teeth’, ‘no woolly coating’, tackling ‘dragon breath’, etc… 

‘Don’t take anything for granted. A lightning bolt moment for me was when I started asking my patients if they knew how to brush their teeth. Nine times out of 10 they didn’t because they’d been taught by someone who couldn’t brush their teeth themselves – perhaps someone who grew up a long time ago when guidance was different.’

The five second rule

He reassures: ‘The beauty of oral health messaging is it is actually very simple: brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste for two minutes.  There are apps to help time brushing – so patients can measure rather than guess. There are those which even split the mouth into quadrants, so every part of the mouth is equally targeted. However, for those who are less able to access technology, and that includes children, the message is even more simple: brush each tooth for five seconds!’

Dr Ben Atkins’ top tips to help dental professionals speak to patients about better oral health regimes

  1. Advise that whichever toothpaste they buy it should contain 1,450 parts per million fluoride (adult toothpaste), and why this level of protection is important
  2. They should brush twice a day for two minutes – that’s five seconds per tooth
  3. Using an electric toothbrush, such as Sonicare, means they can let the technology do the work – the bristles cover the whole tooth, the brush will time the recommended two minutes and split the mouth into four areas to ensure each has equal attention, and even indicate if the correct pressure is applied. Recommending brushes that have a scientifically proven superior clean, like Sonicare, is going to help patients effectively maintain their oral health between dental visits
  4. Brushing deals with 70% of bacteria, but flossing, interdental brushes or preferably a Power Flosser will help them to reach the remaining surfaces between the teeth
  5. Many people are concerned about brushing bleeding gums, when in fact two or three days of correct brushing can stop the bleeding. Explain why their gums bleed, how to reverse the first signs of bacterial damage, and the best way to deal with bleeding gums is by brushing teeth for an extra five second in those areas
  6. Use disclosing tablets to show patients the areas in their mouths they are missing when brushing
  7. As people age their teeth move so they may have to adapt their brushing techniques accordingly
  8. Explain that once they have established a good oral hygiene regime, they should wake each morning with their mouth feeling reasonably fresh
  9. Advise them to chew sugar-free gum between brushing and after meals. It helps to stimulate saliva – the body’s natural way of clearing bacteria from the mouth… It also works as a way of cutting down on sugary snacks
  10. Advise them not to rinse their mouths with water after brushing because it rinses away the fluoride. For patients who really want to rinse, advise alcohol-free mouthwash.

To help your patients try a Sonicare-clean feel, contact [email protected] to enquire about a Sonicare In-Mouth Trial Unit for your practice. 

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