Inspiring oral health

Hygienist Siobhan Kelleher has taken her oral health message out to the community, with dramatic results

DentalHygienist.ie workshops were created to give an interactive educational environment in the heart of the community that inspires the best oral health for all ages. The workshop is transportable and fits easily into any setting. It is divided into four zones and is set up to accommodate ı0 participants per zone. I encourage parents and children to take part together and I have boards made for each zone.

The aim of the workshops is to heighten awareness of the importance of good oral health. Zone ı covers the ‘Functions of teeth’, Zone 2 is entitled ‘Sugar detectives’, where participants explore sugar amounts in certain foods, investigate the food packaging for sugar under different names and spoon the amounts of sugar into a glass container to examine the results.

Zone 3 is called ‘What is plaque/bacteria?’ This aims to disclose and show participants the areas they are missing when brushing. Each participant will have a toothbrush and toothpaste sample and they will be encouraged to discuss the importance of fluoride toothpaste. Parents and carers are asked to sign a form for disclosing procedure. This zone is adapted to the group taking part e.g children, diabetes groups, active retirement (includes talks on dry mouth etc).

Finally, Zone 4 is the test of knowledge quiz with participants presented with a certificate to take home with the DentalHygienist.ie message:

  • Cut out fizzy drinks and eat healthier snacks
  • Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
  • Replace brush frequently
  • Spit out toothpaste – don’t rinse
  • Visit your hygienist/dentist regularly.

Dental charity Heart your Smile were looking for innovative and inspirational projects that demonstrated care for the community and we were lucky enough to be awarded one of their Innovation 360 grants – one of only six to be awarded so far. The charity have also shown an interest in making the workshop into an oral health activity book.

The workshop has been delivered in local schools, groups and various settings in the community including Fota wildlife park, active retirement groups and mother and toddler groups (Fig ı). I also run the workshop in the practice. The participants love the interaction and the children especially get a giggle out of the disclosing!

Each participant is given a toothbrush and toothpaste sample (Fig 2) as well as a certificate to take home with the oral health message on it (Fig 3).

What transpired is that the workshops have given participants, who may not have attended for years due to anxiety, embarrassment or fear, the courage to attend practice for treatment. The connection outside the clinical setting is something I feel needs to be explored more by dental professionals.

I have collected data that shows the workshops have attracted non regular attendees as well as a high percentage who are stressed and taking anti-depressants. One workshop attendee, Ann, took part in a workshop and it gave her the pathway to seek further oral health advice. She was very stressed and taking antidepressant medication. Everyday pressures and a process of events have led Ann to this point. She presented with low self esteem, concerned about bad breath and suffering sensitivity, which was affecting her food choices.

With an encounter in the community and four appointments later, Ann reported “a fresh, comfortable mouth” and a new confidence to approach work colleagues once more.

Analysis of medications taken from attendees at the workshop that have attended the practice for treatment:

  • 49 per cent – no medication
  • 30 per cent – anti-depressive medication
  • 9 per cent – diabetes medication
  • 5 per cent – heart medication
  • 7 per cent – other

Several clinical studies have investigated the possible relationship between psychological stress and periodontitis and have suggested that stress may play a role in the development of periodontal

diseaseı-3. Most studies report a poor outcome following non surgical therapy4 but could it be a different result if the correct information was given, good clinical skills applied and the correct products used? I have several successful cases that are now in the maintenance phase after successful periodontal therapy.

Oral hygiene needs are often not met. Omission of general health habits and neglect of oral care make the person susceptible to various infections and illnesses 5.

Xerostomia is a major oral problem with stress and anti depressive medication. As the bacterial invasion is facilitated (poor oral hygiene) and the immune response becomes weaker, it is logical to assume that periodontal disease will be enhanced by stress. Stress diminishes saliva flow and increases dental plaque formation. Emotional stress modifies the saliva pH and its chemical composition like the IgA secretion 6.

Modern day living has many stresses and strains for people. The current financial situation in Ireland has put a strain on many families. Some patients may not realise they are at stress levels. How do we attract these patients into the clinical setting? Many practices have clever marketing ideas and high spec surroundings to attract the patient but what about going out into the community and inviting patients in through interactive contact and easing their journey with the first step taken outside the clinical setting?

Testimonials

“I am still in shock about the Natural Confectionary Co sweets having 25 spoons of sugar! [see Fig 4] Your workshop was amazing and I was delighted I took part myself. I have never seen anything like this before. Good luck and keep up the good work.” Pauline Callaghan

“I feel like I had a makeover Siobhan. My teeth look so white again, the bad taste is gone and I had ice in my drink for the first time in years! If you hadn’t invited me to take part in your workshop, another ı0 years may have passed. See you soon.” Ann