The Internet for education

When I first started using the Internet, it seemed to be a place for college students to find information and send e-mails to other people their age.

by Lory Laughter, RDH, BS
momylaugh@aol.com

When I first started using the Internet, it seemed to be a place for college students to find information and send e-mails to other people their age. Today almost everyone has Web access regardless of age, academics, or economics. I've seen 9-year-olds on planes with smart phones using Skype, and great-grandmothers exchanging photos via e-mail. You can safely assume that most of your patients and clients can find links on the Internet. While not all information available on the superhighway is true, there are ways to guide your patients to the sites you trust.

Patient education material is plentiful on the Web, and it is our job to instruct patients on finding the resources most likely to answer their questions or confirm our in-office education. A few such resources have caught my attention in the last couple of months.

Young Dental has produced a brochure to help patients better understand the oral-systemic health link. The brochure can be downloaded free at http://www.youngdental.com/pdf/OralHealthLit.pdf, or by visiting the Young Dental site and clicking on the Oral Systemic Health Brochure link.

I know that saving paper and limiting printing is an important part of protecting our planet, but this is one Web resource I have printed several copies of to have in my operatory. I encourage patients to view the brochure while I am occupied with charting notes or some other task. The brochure is basic and can start a dialogue that enables you to educate according to your own style and preference.

The Oral Cancer Foundation has put together a nice Web site for professionals and patients alike, www.oralcancerfoundation.org. It is easy to navigate and can be a great addition to the education you provide in-office about oral cancer. You should direct patients, family members, and others to the links on the left-hand navigation bar. The links starting with facts and going down to the HPV connection contain essential information for everyone. The Oral Cancer Foundation can also be followed on most of the major social networking sites, making it very easy to stay current on news and information.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research has a Web page full of educational resources at http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/EducationalResources/. You can order publications for your practice on a wide variety of topics from this site. The Oral Health tab contains information of interest to anyone with a mouth. Teachers can use the site to find resources for classroom teaching, and many of the brochures are available in Spanish.

In the section for ordering publications on the NIDCR site, there is a guide for adults that is only available online – "Plaque: What is it and how to get rid of it." This guide is easy to follow and teaches how to floss and brush in plain terms that people can understand. I can visualize this two-page piece in places where oral health care is limited. Leaving copies at homeless shelters, senior citizen centers, youth clubs, and even school lunchrooms could help the public recognize oral health issues and the first steps in preventing disease.

Perhaps one of the best online places to recommend for oral health information is the ADHA site. By directing patients to the Oral Health Information tab on the left bar, they can access a number of resources on everything from proper brushing to premature birth facts. This page also has a link for tobacco cessation that takes the user to www.askadviserefer.org for valuable tools to end tobacco use. The posters on tobacco cessation could be great tools to raise public awareness. School groups, youth organizations, and other groups can download, print, and hang the posters to encourage a tobacco-free existence. As an added bonus, when patients use the ADHA site for materials, they are reading information on the dental profession and where we fit in with the health-care team.

I encourage everyone to do a Web search for dental hygiene education resources and see just how much is available for our patients and us. It is a resource that is truly worldwide.

Lory Laughter, RDH, BS, practices clinically in Napa, Calif. She is owner of Dental IQ, a business responsible for the Annual Napa Dental Experience. Lory combines her love for travel with speaking nationally on a variety of topics.

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