To recommend is human; to dispense is divine
by Julie Csoke, RDH, BS, and Liz Lundry, RDH
Working in a busy dental practice, it always seems there is not enough time to do all the things we need to do with our patients. Sometimes we even run out of time at the end of the appointment to coach them about self-care. In a rush, we end up recommending a product, expecting patients to purchase it and be compliant about using it. However, what often happens is that they leave the office, get distracted by other work or personal/life issues, and do not follow through on the purchase.
One of the best ways that dental hygienists can help patients with self-care is by making products available to them in the office. When patients are in the treatment room, and the hygienist shows them how unhealthy their tissue is with an intraoral camera or hand mirror, they are motivated to take action to treat their infection. They are engaged in the discovery process and get excited about their treatment, especially if they feel they can accelerate their healing with what they do at home.
Product dispensing can benefit a practice in many ways. Foremost, you are able to capitalize on patient motivation. After you have just recommended the product as a means to better health, patients are enthusiastic. Having the product in your practice offers patients the convenience of not having to go out and purchase it on their own. They can leave the office with product in hand, hence assuring better compliance. Patients have busy lives like the rest of us, and although they have good intentions about making the purchase, other commitments often get in the way. Second, you can offer the product at a price comparable to retail and generate revenue for your practice. Dental professionals can purchase products direct from the manufacturer and get a professional discount. This provides an opportunity to extend the discount to patients so they can purchase the product at equal to or sometimes less than retail. This is often a desirable benefit.
Some people are wary of product dispensing. Yet when done with a focus on patient need, it simply becomes another viable health recommendation rather than a product sale. The key is being passionate about improving your patient's oral health and enthusiastic about recommending a device you know will achieve just that.
Today there are many effective products available for our patients to use at home. Since it may not be practical to carry a large number of products in your office, you will first want to decide which ones make the most sense to have on hand. One product that is ideal for dispensing is a dental water jet. Patients are often not as familiar with dental water jets as they are with power toothbrushes. When you share your expertise as well as your zeal for the product, it can make a big difference. If patients are not 100% familiar with a dental water jet, they can benefit when you communicate your rationale for recommendation, provide instruction on product use, and share with them the success stories of other patients.
We can both attest to the power of dispensing the Waterpik® dental water jet in our practices.
Product dispensing is an easy way to help patients get the self-care products that can provide them with the greatest benefit. When it becomes a part of an all-encompassing treatment plan, it can enhance compliance and ensure measurable clinical results — a win-win for both patients and practitioners.
Many of you have told patients to floss until you are blue in the face and have received ineffectual compliance. The unfortunate reality is that many patients cannot or will not floss. In my 18 years of clinical practice, I have found that I can convince many patients who do not floss to use a dental water jet. It is a great pleasure to witness the measurable results we get with this product. When we have patients who present with bleeding and inflammation and it is evident they are not going to floss, we consider this the perfect opportunity to recommend the Waterpik® dental water jet. The greater joy is that patients return with such positive feedback after using the product.
Men are especially fond of the dental water jet because many men have large hands, making it difficult to maneuver dental floss effectively. In my office we recommend the Waterpik® dental water jet to anyone with braces and all periodontal patients. How many teenagers will take the time to use a floss threader to clean their braces? A new orthodontic tip by Water Pik, Inc., is the answer for this group. A recent study conducted on adolescent teens with fixed orthodontic appliances found that the Waterpik® dental water jet with the orthodontic tip reduced three times more plaque than floss and was 26% more effective at reducing bleeding.
For our periodontal patients who have periodontal pocketing of 4 mm or more, we recommend the dental water jet. Floss is not that effective for this group, reaching about 2 mm to 3 mm below the gingival margin. We instruct all of our periodontal patients in the use of the Pik Pocket® tip — a soft, conical-shaped, latex-free tip for gentle subgingival irrigation. The Pik Pocket® tip will reach 90% of a 6 mm pocket, making me confident that I am recommending a device that is the most beneficial for my patients.
Of all the oral hygiene aids out on the market today, I have been absolutely astounded by the level of healing those patients using the Waterpik® dental water jet have achieved. I recently saw a patient who had been away from the dental office for quite a while. She presented with generalized bleeding, 4 mm to 5 mm pocket depths with light to moderate subgingival calculus. She is a healthy 46-year-old taking no medications. Her treatment plan included four to six appointments of nonsurgical periodontal therapy.
At her initial cleaning and exam appointment, she purchased the Waterpik® Ultra dental water jet. When she returned for her first periodontal therapy appointment, most of the 5 mm pockets were gone! We were both ecstatic! She ended up needing four therapy appointments to comfortably debride her teeth and eliminate her bleeding.
Whether I am recommending the Waterpik® dental water jet as a clinician to patients or for practices to dispense in my role as a JP trainer, I am confident in the outcome patients and practices will get from recommending this product. Because it is so easy to use, compliance is excellent. By having products available for purchase in our practice or even integrating it into the cost of treatment, we are providing not only great customer service, but also great comprehensive health care. As a part of an all-encompassing treatment plan, we can easily help patients make the decision to purchase whatever products we feel are most appropriate.
When we feel confident about the efficacy of these products, our own enthusiasm will convince our patients because they understand it is all about better health.