When browsing the news I’m always astounded at how many articles there are about the lax approach to oral care among the general populace of the UK. Whilst some of these headlines are more than likely sensationalised by the media to draw in an audience, there is often a grain of truth hidden amongst the hyperbole, and one article in particular that caught my eye recently detailed some harrowing statistics that couldn’t be ignored.
A result of the recent National Dental Survey performed by BUPA Dental Care, the article revealed that over 2 million UK adults hadn’t been to the dentist in over a decade.[i] I personally find it almost unbelievable that in this day and age there are so many people out there who are willing to ignore their oral health and avoid seeking out the proper guidance necessary to ensure that their teeth remain healthy, especially for such a long period of time.
I think in many of these cases people believe in the adage “don’t fix what isn’t broken” and if they aren’t experiencing any pain or visible signs of decay they assume that their mouths are in good condition. As professionals, we know this isn’t necessarily the case. However, when delving further into the article it seems that more than a third of British people mask or ignore dental pain with the use of painkillers instead of curing it with a visit to the dentist. This is an astonishing statistic that suggests that what we really need to do is go back to education and make it clear to these people that prevention and treatment are always better options than pain.
The findings of the survey revealed that many British people skip brushing their teeth if they are in a rush and that a third of them never floss or visit the hygienist either. In a way these statistics are less surprising – how often have you told a patient they need to floss and they return with no change? It still indicates a widespread problem that we, as professionals, need to do our part in changing. Perhaps to combat these statistics we need to explore new methods of guidance to help guarantee that the message really sinks in.
One method that I think could make a big difference is a wider use of dental photography. Not only does this ensure patients will be able to visually see the damage that they are causing to their teeth, but it is also a useful way to track the progress of any treatments you offer. These photos are also useful marketing materials for the practice as long as you ensure that your patients give you the proper consent. This is especially great as with the ever-growing rise in platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, these visual aids can really help people discover what your team are capable of and even bring in new business.
Another method worth exploring is the introduction of technology with visual aids such as animations and diagrams. Not only do these help educate patients by detailing procedures in a way that they can understand, but they also prove to be invaluable resources when faced with patients who have been repeatedly given advice and don’t seem to take it on-board.
Whatever the reason behind this wide-scale neglect it’s from clear reports like these that there is more work to be done. Professionals need to be vigilant when encouraging good oral care habits in our patients, and if that means we should explore new methods to make them aware of the dangers, then it’s something worth considering.
Of course, patients too must take some responsibility, however, when making it clear that regular brushing and interdental cleaning are a necessary part of maintenance and giving the best service we possibly can, we can reassure those who have avoided the dentist for years that seeing us isn’t as scary as they may think. Hopefully these measures will help minimise these worrying statistics detailed by the report over time.
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[i] Dentistry.co.uk. Over 2 Million Brits Haven’t Seen a Dentist in More Than a Decade. Link: http://www.dentistry.co.uk/2018/05/25/2-million-brits-havent-seen-dentist-decade/ [Last accessed june 18].