Plaque products aren’t something most people think about, unless they’re a dentist or oral health therapist (or my wife, who is always searching for new blog topics for me).
Without the profile of other dental diagnostic tools, plaque products can be underestimated for their value. This is especially the case when you know the damage plaque can cause. Think tooth decay, bleeding, inflamed gums, irreversible damage to teeth and gums, white spot lesions. Do I need to go on?
Despite knowing dental plaque contributes to tooth decay and periodontal or gum disease, people don’t necessarily make changes. So the big challenge for our dentist or oral health therapist is how to help patients make better choices with their oral health.
As we understand more about the role of plaque products in diagnosis and changing behaviours, reflected in a recent study (The American Journal of Medicine: Randomized Trial of Plaque-Identifying Toothpaste: Decreasing Plaque and Inflammation 10/16), dentists could be closer to a new solution.
Read on to learn more about how plaque products can change oral health regimes.
How do we find plaque?
Dentists and oral health therapists can identify plaque through an oral examination.
Typically, this happens at your regular oral health visit. At the same appointment, your dentist or oral health therapist will remove plaque manually, perhaps suggesting certain measures you can take to reduce plaque.
If you’re like most patients, you’ll nod in agreement. Yes, Dr Mark, I’ll brush and floss daily. Honest, I will you say.
Believe me, I’ve heard it more than a few times, having been a dentist in Helensvale for 30 plus years. Happy saying is not always the same a happy doing. I get it.
Plaque products, like brushing and flossing aren’t the most exciting things around, but they are useful for identifying plaque in a visual way. And as the study I mentioned earlier shows, they can work well to prompt behavioural changes in patients.
Can plaque products solve the universal challenge faced by dentists?
Every dentist and oral health therapist wants their patients to take good care of their teeth by following an good oral hygiene regime. The big question is, how do we do that without sounding like scaremongers and broken records?
For some patients, there is a legitimate lack of understanding and skill, or a lack of access to oral health care. Certainly, there are demographics this applies to – the elderly and minority groups come to mind. The good news is, skills can be taught; lack of awareness can be overcome with education.
But what’s the solution when a person does have access to care and skills, but still doesn’t maintain a regular oral health regime? A good way to overcome this aversion to loving their teeth is to show them.
Now I’m a fan of a good story and dye that shows up plaque works a treat for this purpose. In the past, dentists and oral health therapists have relied on manual products, like disclosing tablets to show how much plaque is present in a person’s mouth. Only effective to a point, these don’t detect small changes in areas where plaque is known to be found. Also working against them is the fact they are time-consuming, subjective, and invasive. Patient comfort is also a consideration, as dental plaque is stained with a “disclosing agent”, such as fluorescein disodium salt. Using UV light, plaque is highlighted in the mouth.
Even though this approach has worked at identifying plaque, dentists and oral health therapists still face the challenge of bringing about change in oral hygiene behaviours. The good news is a new product – Plaque HD™ – could help.
What is dye-containing toothpaste and how does it work?
In the study I mentioned earlier, researchers compared fluoridated toothpaste containing dye with toothpaste without dye.
Using dye-containing toothpaste, the purpose of the study was to make patients more aware of plaque and increase their desire to be more active in oral hygiene practices at home.
Essentially, they’ve used a visual tool – the dye-containing toothpaste – to tell a story. Add to this some clear instructions on how to use the toothpaste, and it seems a few light bulb moments were had by the study participants. In layman’s terms, researchers found oral health care at home improved when it was explained simply and people could see what was going on with the plaque in their mouths.
Like most things in life, there is no silver bullet. This is certainly true in the world of dentistry. Notwithstanding it’s early days for Plaque HD™, what dye-containing toothpaste offers is the ability for people to make a direct connection between what they do and their oral hygiene. For many people positive changes follow.
What’s the take-away on Plaque HD™?
If this approach encourages new healthier behaviours in my patients, I’m all for it. Together with the whole team at Dental as Anything, we’re focused on educating our patients and community. Intent on making a difference, we’re on a constant search for tools, techniques, and products with the capacity to enhance our patients’ experience. For us, teeth are for life, and with tools like Plaque HD™, we’ve another opportunity to help bring that about in the patients we support and care for.
Dr Mark Miller has been caring for the local Helensvale and broader Gold Coast community for over thirty years. His approach to dentistry is focused on helping people to understand the connection between their oral health and overall physical wellbeing. He is friendly, funny, and most of all, very caring. If you’d like to discuss our dental treatment finance options for a prescribed treatment, we’d love to book a time to chat with one of our team. Tel 5573 0188 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.