Dentists urged to assess patients’ dental IQ during consultations

Dr David Winkler.

Dr David Winkler.

Irish dentists have an important role to play in educating patients about their oral health if dental treatments are to be successful long term.

That’s according to incoming president of the International Federation of Esthetic Dentistry, Dr David Winkler. He addressed delegates at the Irish Dental Association’s (IDA ) annual conference in Galway recently.

He stated patients must become equal partners if lasting results are to be achieved which meet their expectations.

“As oral healthcare professionals it’s essential that dentists assess their patients’ dental IQ during the initial consultation phases and establish their level of oral hygiene before treatment and therapy commences. By ensuring patients know how to maintain their teeth and gums we can enormously increase the long-term success of treatments.

“Equally, by ensuring patients have a reasonable expectation of what can be achieved we can put together treatment plans based on the resources available to meet the patient’s objective needs and their expectations - which can be very subjective in nature.”

Sometimes a change in mindset is required, this is often the greatest challenge faced, together with dental care and oral hygiene, he said.

“There is no point looking for a quick fix that doesn’t provide the patient with the optimum restorative benefits long-term. Patients need to be made aware of the consequences of whichever treatment they receive in terms of longevity, costs and potential biological damage to their existing teeth. Key to this is getting patients’ dental IQ up to a level where they understand the implications of whatever decision they make.”

Dr Winkler said a vital determinant of success is whether patients maintain oral hygiene post-treatment and that, with the average person only brushing his/her teeth for 47 seconds, much more can be done to ensure patients are cleaning their teeth effectively.

“Like most of the western world Irish people live very busy lives and this can have a negative impact on the amount of time and effort they put into taking care of their teeth and indeed imparting good oral practice to their children. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to take your teeth for granted and fail to take charge of your oral health regime until the damage is already done and removal or costly repair is required.

“The most important part of tooth care happens at home and requires regular brushing, proper flossing and the use twice daily of an antiseptic mouthwash containing the essential oils that break down plaque such as Listerine Total Care, which is the only mouthwash accredited by the Irish Dental Association. These simple steps, along with regular dental check-ups, go a long way toward helping prevent tooth decay and gum disease.”

Dr Winkler outlined a healthy smile acts as a confidence booster and can take years off your appearance.

“All it takes is ten minutes each day, which is not an enormous amount of time when you consider people spend multiples of this every day on other areas of their physical appearance be it on clothes, make-up, hair treatments or working out in the gym. Good teeth, which improve a person’s smile, are one of the first things people notice when they meet you so it’s well worth the investment.”

Patients also need to be aware of the effect of diet and eating habits on dental health and the link between oral health and overall health. He noted higher rates of snacking on sugary foods and drinks by Irish people compared with other countries have had a significant impact on overall levels of oral health, particularly among children and teenagers.

For example, whereas 17.5 per cent of 11-year-olds in Ireland consume soft drinks daily the figure in Finland is only 3.5 per cent. He said snacking on sugary or acidic foods and drinks can increase the risk of decay as the teeth come under constant attack and do not have time to recover.

“We also now know that poor oral health can contribute to general health issues such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes (which is becoming a major problem in Ireland and the western world ) and low-weight pre-term births. So, it’s not just a question of dental decay and gum disease as was previously thought. It’s not a question of us all looking like Tom Cruise or Julia Roberts. It’s a question of good health.”

In addition to a healthy diet and visits to the dentist at least once a year Dr Winkler offered the following three tips for people to follow for a lifetime of good oral health:

1. Brush.

Brush gently using small vibratory or circulatory movements twice a day for two minutes using fluoride toothpaste. The use of a gentle power-toothbrush is an excellent way to get the most out of tooth brushing.

2. Floss.

Clean between the teeth at least once a day using floss, tape or an inter-dental brush. Correct flossing is not easy and your gums may bleed a little at first. If this continues or you need help with flossing, consult a dental professional to get good advice on how best to maintain healthy gums.

3. Rinse.

Rinse twice daily after brushing with a good antiseptic mouthwash such as Listerine Total Care. Rinse for 30 seconds, swilling the liquid around and between the teeth before spitting out the mouthwash.

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