Call For An Encore! Disguising Dentistry’s Unpleasant Side

Nov. 1, 2007
When casting actors for a theatrical role, the director observes the auditioning actor clearly project speech, imitate or adapt into a character through improvisation, and disguise his or her own voice/personaility.

by Karen Kaiser

When casting actors for a theatrical role, the director observes the auditioning actor clearly project speech, imitate or adapt into a character through improvisation, and disguise his or her own voice/personaility. Just as an actor changes and conceals his or her identity for a part in a play, dental products for home and operatory may disguise and conceal unsightly components of dental plaque and hemorrhage.

Patients sometimes indicate that they are disgusted by flossing and the revolting debris that is dislodged from their gums and periodontal pockets. The bacteria may, of course, have an unpleasant smell as the bacterial breakdown and the bleeding from tender tissues can become a deterrent for some patients to floss regularly as recommended.

However, with diligent flossing as part of the homecare routine, the debris becomes minuscule and almost invisible, and patients will wonder if they are removing anything at all. We know the firming of the tissues and the disruption of the plaque colonies are benefits of flossing yet patients may not want to visibly see what repulsive debris they are removing. For some patients, the mere sight of blood is enough to stop them from flossing.

The POH Company takes “disguising” into consideration with its NoWax Percept floss, which is black. The darker POH floss, as opposed to the standard white floss, minimizes the appearance of blood during flossing. The patient flosses without fear of seeing “red.” In most cases, with good technique, the bleeding will subside as the tissue becomes firmer with regular care.

During hygiene visits, patients will ask, “Am I bleeding? I never notice blood when I brush or floss at home.” When patients have a fear of seeing red during recare visits, one way to alleviate apprehension is to disguise a blood-removing item that is consistently used.

The saliva ejector is, for the most part, a disposable item. When using clear saliva ejectors, blood and debris going up the suctioning straw are readily seen by the patient. For some patients, actually spotting the evacuated hemorrhage through a clear ejector tip is a source of motivation.

But for others seeing the debris is disgusting. To obscure the flowing debris, why not disguise the saliva ejector? Try a suctioning device that not only evacuates and maintains a dry field but also works to camouflage the blood flow too. Flexo saliva ejectors by Bosworth Company are flexible. So bending them to contour into the oral cavity is easy. Flexo saliva ejectors do not collapse where they are bent, so they do not restrict the flow. Besides white, Flexo can also be found in blue, yellow, green, and red.

Crosstex Company offers a premium saliva ejector that has a reinforcement wire embedded into the ejector. The wire avoids crimping when the suction is shaped into desired position. These saliva ejectors are provided in solid white as well as a blue type tip.

Disguising Unpleasant Tastes

Dentistry has made great strides in developing products that disguise unpleasant tastes. Flavorings are found in numerous dental products. Almost every flavor can be found and some are rather pleasing to our patients’ palates. Still, many products used daily have bitter flavors or no flavor at all. The addition of a safe flavor to certain oral products disguises an unpleasant taste that may be unwelcome to the patient. Adding flavor may also reduce the patient’s tendency to gag if the material is objectionable.

One product in dentistry where flavor drops may be added is to alginate impression materials. Patients enjoy selecting a flavor that masks the bland, mushy material. Several alginate flavorings are available on the market in droplet-style dispensing bottles. Dentsply Raintree Essix, for example, has alginate flavorings ranging from bubblegum to pina colada.

Patients certainly think exam gloves have a distinctive look and smell. Some exam gloves are disguised with pleasing colors and scents. Sullivan-Schein’s Glove Club features the Illusion brand exam gloves. They are not the standard cream shade but instead are blue in color (disguising fluids on fingers in use). The gloves are powder-free, have a textured grip, and are scented in either grape or bubblegum. Children will be quite familiar with the bubble gum scent. Older patients also enjoy the unique, scented glove experience.

Sullivan-Schein also distributes the Elastex Nytrile glove, a non-latex type that is mint scented and also found in a shade of blue. The Supermax brand offers a powder-free glove, the Aurelia, which is found in a shade of green with a fragrance of peppermint.

Microflex offers the Color Touch glove, also peppermint scented. The Microflex gloves are colored and grouped in boxes according to the size of the glove. Small gloves are pink, medium are green, and large gloves are blue.

The Cranberry Cyntek gloves are purchased with popular peppermint fragrance and citrus.

Add some zest to the patient’s appointment by introducing appealing flavors or scents. Blood, debris, and unpleasant odors or taste are disguised when one switches to products which “camouflage.” Patients will be asking at future recare for an encore performance when the senses are pleasantly heightened during the appointment

The author did not receive compensation for products discussed. To unmask the products mentioned, visit,,, and

About the Author

Karen Kaiser, RDH, graduated from St. Louis’ Forest Park dental hygiene program in 1994 and currently practices at the Center for Contemporary Dentistry in Columbia, Ill. She has written several articles for RDH and other publications, sits on dental hygiene panels, and is an evaluator for Clinical Research Associates. She can be contacted at