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Most patients struggle to understand oral health message being passed by dentists.

There are subtle, relatable ways to pass that oral hygiene instructions to your patients. Read on as Dr Scott Froum highlights 10 motivational oral hygiene analogies you can use for your patient.

Enjoy!

1: If you brushed your hair and had blood on the hairbrush, would you think that was normal? So why would blood on your toothbrush be normal? Bleeding anywhere is a sign of a problem. – Greg Kurtzman, DDS 

2: Gum disease is like an infection the size of your fist. Imagine if that were on your arm or leg, and it bled every time you touched it; would you go to the doctor to get it fixed? – Addison Killeen, DDS

3: Why do you need to brush and floss? Have you ever taken your filthy, dirty car to the car wash that only sprays water? It still comes out kinda grey and not totally clean. If you take it to the one that has water and the mechanical action of brushes, the car comes out much cleaner. It’s the same with teeth. – Audra Ward, DMD

4: When describing pockets during probing, I tell the patient that it’s like a pool table…the deeper the pocket, the more pool balls can fit. Just like the deeper the space of the pocket in the gums (I say gums to them), the more bacteria can get in there and cause a problem. – Kerri Rossiello, RDH

5: I take the plaque on the perio probe and ask, “If I put this on a cracker, would you eat this?” I always hear, “Gross, no, ugh, and yeew.” Then I say, “Well, if you’re not brushing and flossing, every time you eat anything, you’re eating this.” Pause. “So, makes sense to brush and floss, right?” – Martin C. Courtney, DDS

6: We clean our office every night, which is like your regular cleanings, but twice a year we have the cleaning people in to do a more thorough cleaning, like spring cleaning; they clean into the corners and the duct work, etc. Root planing (deep cleaning) is like spring cleaning. We get deeper under the gum tissue and thoroughly clean the root surfaces. This can’t be done at your regular visits. Maxine Feinberg, DDS

7: Say you cooked a great spaghetti dinner and sauce gets on the top of the stove and the wall behind the stove. After you are done, you clean the stove and countertops until they are spick-and-span. Now, pull the stove away from the wall and it will be dirty. Brushing is like cleaning the top of the stove and countertops; flossing is like pulling the stove away from the wall and cleaning behind it. – Sandy Swanson Nyquist, RDH

8: When patients complain about how their teeth bleed when they floss, I say, “If you walked a mile barefoot today, would your feet bleed?” They usually say, “Yes.” I then ask, “If you walked that same mile barefoot every day for a month, would they still bleed?” Then they all say, “No, probably not.” I tell them it’s the same with their mouth and flossing. – Nina Carresi, RDH

9: Think of deep pockets like the deep end of a swimming pool. You can take a skimmer and clean the top surface of the pool (floss), but you need a pool cleaner (dental professional) to get the grit/rocks (calculus) out from the deep end. At that point, you just need to maintain it! Think of antibiotic therapy as the chlorine, if needed. – Holly Gamal-Caccia, RDH

10: “How’re you doing with brushing and flossing?” We ask, “How is your flossing going?” They will sometimes say, “Oh, I brush after every meal now,” and I tell them that’s great, but that’s not where your disease is. I tell them the old kids’ camp skit where a guy is standing under a streetlamp looking around for something on the ground. Successive people walking by and ask him what he’s doing. “I’m looking for my quarter I dropped.” So, each successive passerby stops to help, and there are four to five people looking for the quarter under the streetlamp. Then someone asks, “Where did you lose it?” He says, “Over there” (and he points about 15 feet away in the dark). “Well, then why are you looking here?” And he says, “It’s easier to see under the streetlight.” I tell them the brushing is OK, and it’s easier to do that, but it’s not going to cure your disease because it’s almost entirely between your teeth. – Geoff Bauman, DMD

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