One of the jobs of a dental assistant is to help patients develop good dental habits. The dental assistant can be a powerful motivator for patients with poor dental practices. Most patients trust authority figures like dentists and dental assistants, so they can have an influence on patient’s dental habits.
For a preventative dental program to be successful the dental assistant must reinforce proper dental hygiene. If successful, the dental assistant should complement the patient on their good dental hygiene. By building the patient’s trust, the dental assistant can help motivate the patient to practice good dental hygiene.
Preventative dentistry should have a goal of helping patients of all ages to practice good dental hygiene throughout their lives. The patient and dental assistant must work together as a team to prevent dental disease. The dental assistant is responsible for educating the patient about dental disease and how to prevent it. Then, it is up to the dental assistant to motivate patients to practice good dental hygiene without excuses.
Parents Educating Children about Preventative Dentistry
Parents are also a motivating force for their children to practice good dental health. This can include proper brushing techniques, use of fluoride, application of dental sealants, proper nutrition and plaque control. Learning proper dental hygiene starts at birth. As soon as the first tooth appears, the parent can start teaching their child about proper dental hygiene.
Should I use Dental Sealants on my Child’s Teeth?
A dental sealant can help protect a child’s teeth with a coating that covers pits and grooves in their teeth. Dental sealants can be used to protect hard to clean surfaces of the teeth from bacteria that causes decay. Dental sealants have been proven to be safe by the
Teeth Evolve & So Does the Preventative Strategy
As a person ages, not only do their baby teeth full out and permanent teeth grow in, but their teeth evolve. The teeth go through changes in the enamel cementation, dentin and pulp. The dental assistant is tasked with educating patients of all ages for proper dental hygiene based on the stage of their teeth.
Adults are more likely to develop caries at a greater rate than children. As the adult becomes older their roots can develop caries, and there is an increased risk for gingivitis and gum recession. The older patients may also have conditions of dry mouth from their intake of medications which may cause teeth to decay quicker. A proper preventative strategy is important to help a patient’s teeth to evolve properly.
What is Fluoride and How Does It Work?
Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in food and water. Tap water is also supplemented with fluoride to help prevent caries. Systemic fluoride is ingested in the food we eat and water we drink. Topical fluoride is applied to the teeth with the help of toothpaste, mouth wash and during cleanings at the dental office. To protect patients from receiving too much fluoride, the dental assistant should educate adults and parents about fluoride and its uses. The dental assistant should educate parents to not allow young children to swallow fluoridated toothpaste. The parents should also supervise younger children while learning to brush their teeth, so they learn proper dental hygiene.
Dental Caries and Nutrition
It is important to note that dental caries cannot occur without dietary sugar. Sugar like sucrose, maltose, lactose, glucose and fructose. The use of artificial sweeteners is not just for people with diabetes, it also helps reduce the risk of dental caries. Artificial sweeteners include saccharine, aspartame, sorbitol, and mannitol. Xylitol has been proven to prevent caries from happening in the first place. It is theorized that bacteria can’t use xylitol to produce acid which inhibits the growth of the bacteria that cause dental caries.
Proper Plaque Control
Plaque takes 24 hours to grow on the teeth so dental professionals recommend daily flossing. Unfortunately, a patient can’t remove all the plaque on their teeth everyday even with proper brushing, flossing and dental cleaning aids. It is recommended that patients get their teeth cleaned at least every 6 months by a dental hygienist. It is important for dental assistants to keep up with new dental products, so they can properly educate patients on all the options for proper dental hygiene.
How to Choose a Toothbrush
There are many different brands, sizes and textures available for toothbrushes. Toothbrushes can be divide into electric and manual. Both types can be effective for removal of dental plaque. Dentists typically recommend soft-bristled brushes since the bristles are gentler on the gums and any exposed cementum or dentin. The toothbrush should remove plaque without causing tissue damage.
Proper Toothbrush Usage
The Bass method is a common method that a dental assistant can recommend for brushing. The bristles of the toothbrush should be angled at 45 degrees from the tooth’s surface. The patient should be instructed to start at the back of their mouth while using a vibrating, back-and-forth motion. The dental assistant will want to allow the patient to demonstrate their brushing technique and the dental assistant can provide this while they brush. The recommends that a person brush their teeth two minutes twice a day with a toothbrush that has soft bristles. It is recommended to replace toothbrushes every three to four months. Toothbrushes should not be shared. The toothbrush should be thoroughly rinsed after each use. The toothbrush should be stored in an upright position after use to allow the toothbrush to air dry. Overbrushing should be cautioned to not cause excessive wear to the teeth, recession of the gums and exposure of the roots.
Proper Use of Dental Floss and Dental Tape
Dental floss is important to use once a day, as it takes 24 hours for plaque to return to the teeth after flossing. Proper flossing will remove debris and bacterial plaque not allowing the gums to bleed. It is recommended that a patient floss before brushing so that the removal of plaque opens up the whole tooth to receive fluoride to prevent caries.
Proper Care of Dentures
For those patients that have dentures, the dental assistant will want to instruct the patient to use a denture brush to completely clean the dentures. The patient can use commercial denture cleanser, soap and water, or a mild toothpaste. The dental assistant should instruct the patient to use short strokes and fill the sink with water just in case the dentures fall into the sink, so they don’t break.
Which Toothpaste should I Use?
There are different options for toothpaste depending on the patient’s needs. All toothpastes with the must contain fluoride to strengthen teeth and ingredients to remove food residue. The patient may want to remove stains, have sensitive teeth, need to reduce tartar build-up, whiten the teeth, prevent bad breadth or want a specific flavor of toothpaste. There are many different choices for dental assistant to recommend and should be matched based on the patient’s needs.
Interested in learning more about preventative dentistry? Are you ready to become a dental assistant? The Dental Assistant training program at Meridian College provides extensive hands-on training including a school externship at a dental office where you will assist the dentist in treating actual patients.
Contact Meridian College today to learn more about becoming a dental assistant.