As dental hygienists, we want to help our patients. That’s what we do. We struggle with how to encourage them to adopt new habits that they know are for their health. If I had a nickel for every patient who said, “I don’t floss as much as I should” … I know you’ve heard this too.
To make changes in our lives, we need to make a decision, then act on it. Different actions will give us different results. How can we encourage patients to take action and make changes?
The start of a new year is the perfect time for new habits, which I think of as having three components:
Every habit has a trigger: time of day, people around, emotions you’re feeling. The cue is a reminder to do something, such as time of day, where you'll be, and who else will be around.
Routine is the way we do things, and this is the behavior we want to become the new habit. For your patients needing to make changes to their oral health routine, there's a lot of room to change their routine. Some suggestions I like to give include brushing in the shower, dry brushing in the car on the way to work or school, and sucking on a probiotic while reading in bed.
The reward is what we get out of doing whatever we do—in this case, clean teeth, fresh breath, a smile, and feeling good about ourselves. Whether it's praise from their hygienist or something else, encourage your patients to think about what would motivate them to make a change.
Here's my full blog post on how I get new dental habits to stick like glue. Your patients will love the ideas, too.
Barbara Tritz is a biological dental hygienist and orofacial myofunctional therapist whose blog, Queen of Dental Hygiene, provides patients the information they need to help them on their healing journey. “Our one-hour appointment time was just not long enough to share all the many important facts I wanted our patients to learn. Dental hygiene is about so much more than just teaching brushing and flossing," says Barbara. “We are healers, educators, and lifesavers, and we need to give our patients the tools and skills to empower them to true wellness and health.”
Read Barbara's blog and look for more of her posts excerpted and shared on RDH.