by Anne Nugent Guignon, RDH, MPH
Traditional line cooks prepare dishes made from standard ingredients. While the result may be quite tasty and nourishing, the dishes are typically predictable and the presentation is generally routine.
The term gourmet has a certain mystique. Depending on your personal preferences, the results can be beautiful to behold and create taste experiences that are exciting.
As the world has gotten flatter, cuisines from diverse cultures are becoming increasingly available. New flavors, textures, combinations, and presentations, exotic even a decade ago, crowd today's menus. Fusion cuisine takes the process even one-step further. East meets West, earthy peasant foods become fashionable; vegetarian becomes hip and healthy; and lower fat, nutrient-packed foods are in demand.
The parallel between today's new exciting food combinations and creatively blended dental products is striking. Years ago, the selection on the professional and retail dental menu was simple. There was not much to choose from so the experiences were quite predictable.
When I was a kid in the 1950s, the addition of fluoride was a breakthrough. There were no premixed therapeutic rinses, professional fluoride treatments, power brushes, or irrigators. It was a bare bones existence comprised of basic plain-Jane hand brushes, nylon floss, rubber tip stimulators, toothpaste or powders, and a few strong-tasting mouth rinse concoctions. Denture cleaners, powdered and paste adhesives, and special denture brushes took up a sizeable portion of shelf space in the drug store because the vast majority of adults were missing at least their molars if not all their teeth. Obviously, there was limited need for fancier or more specialized products.
A packed aisle
Fast forward half a century; the aisle space in the drug store devoted to dental health products is now huge. Shelves are jam-packed with all sizes and shapes of hand and power brushes, interdental devices, rinses, and toothpastes that strengthen teeth, attack plaque, prevent tartar buildup, and desensitize teeth. Trusted, legacy brands sit side-by-side new niche products. There has been an explosion of products that whiten teeth, freshen breath, have antimicrobial properties, soothe dry mouths, and train tiny tots to accept that oral hygiene is part of daily life. The drug store is not the only place where change is taking place.
The choices for professional products is also increasing at an exponential rate, making it more critical than ever that we keep abreast of changes in both chemistry and delivery methods. That's the real revolution and it's one we can't ignore.
Just for fun, compare xylitol to chocolate. A truffle is a singular treat, typically made from chocolate. The hot fudge sundae delivers melted chocolate in another format. Mexican chefs add chocolate to mole sauce to round out the flavor of this highly complex, spicy concoction.
Much like a chocolate truffle, xylitol can be a solo therapeutic ingredient, delivered via gum, lozenges, sprays, mints, or wipes to decrease the population of strep mutans in the oral cavity or to promote salivary flow.
Varnish used to refer to fluoride, but not any more. Varnish and ice cream sundaes are delivery systems. Today's fluoride varnish can be served plain or with xylitol. Varnish is now a delivery system for the combination antimicrobial, chlorhexidine with thymol, a variation analogous to a strawberry sundae.
Xylitol mixed with other ingredients is comparable to mole. Essential oils, bicarbonate, and other compounds combined with xylitol create multipurpose lozenges that soothe dry mouth symptoms, alleviate halitosis, and neutralize acids.
Xylitol is not the only player. Gourmet fusion includes novel combinations, unique delivery systems, and new presentation methods for many different products. The menu include strips, interdental devices, trays, slow release disks, mints, gums, wipes, lozenges, pastes, rinses, brushes, varnish, and floss. This is an exciting time to practice. Step out of your comfort zone and explore the wonderful new choices on the dental menu.