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News / February 17, 2021

A slow journey to a smile transformation

by Morgan O'Gara

Morgan O’Gara explains why patient education is just the ticket for successful long-term aesthetic treatmentsMorgan O’Gara explains why patient education is just the ticket for successful long-term aesthetic treatments.

Dental health and good oral hygiene are the foundations for any dental treatment, but more especially, aesthetic procedures.

A mouth with active disease is a reservoir for bacteria, so before I can even consider any form of makeover, we must ensure the mouth is free of dental disease and the patient is comfortable with a home care preventive regime they can maintain in the long term. This includes any basic restorative work and dental hygiene treatments to ensure the periodontal condition is stable.

Clear and effective communication is a key cornerstone to all dental care. This extends to the planning of any aesthetic treatments. I need the patient to understand and be happy with any proposed treatment plan.

Aesthetic treatments are a journey, often with multiple stages and procedures. I want  – and need – the patient to be comfortable with each stage. They must understand the objective of each stage and be fully informed along this journey.

Taking your time

We are currently the only dental practice in Ireland that is part of the Slow Dentistry global network of dental practices. 

As part of this network, we run the practice with the Slow Dentistry ethos of spending sufficient time with every patient to provide the very best dental care in a safe and calm environment.

In my opinion, working under time constraints leads to cutting corners and inevitable mistakes. I need time with every patient to get to know them, understand their dental needs and goals, explain every treatment in detail, and to gain informed consent.

With any aesthetic treatment, it is critical that my vision of the result is the same as the patient’s vision; this results in predictable outcomes where both the patient and I can be very happy.

Creating a personalised oral health regime for each patient is critical. What works for one patient will not work for another and vice versa. Part of our job in the practice is to find what works for every patient and reinforce this message at their hygiene appointments.

I am so lucky to have wonderful dental hygienists in my practice who do a fantastic job, not only with their dental hygiene skills, but also in educating our patients with the best oral care regime for them.

Minimally invasive dentistry

Modern minimally invasive dental treatment was born with good oral health as its foundation.

The evolution of dental materials and adhesives has allowed the birth of minimally invasive dentistry. These materials and adhesives can only work in a healthy, clean, dry mouth.

Minimally invasive dentistry is all based on bonding – be it with composite or ceramic. Dental professionals use these materials in a very predictable way to replace or restore teeth, and they can give excellent aesthetic results.

Oral health

However, they are very technique sensitive and the overall condition and health of the mouth is paramount in this.

Attempting to bond a restoration to a tooth in an unhealthy mouth with inflamed and bleeding gums is not possible. This situation will result in a poor restoration both in terms of strength and aesthetics and this restoration will fail.

We are very lucky in the practice. Our patients are extremely well motivated in relation to their oral health.

The majority of our patients will attend the hygienist every six months and are very good with their home care routines. I find positive re-enforcement to be the best tool in helping with patients’ oral care. 

I will look at what a patient is currently doing and if I can make any improvements. Usually, the patient only needs one or two very small changes to improve their oral care. I am very lucky with our dental hygienists who will fully demonstrate any products for patients to ensure they are maximising the potential benefit.

Tooth tools

I am a big fan of electric toothbrushes, as I find that patients find them a lot easier to use in accessing hard-to-reach areas of the mouth. As a result, they are more effective in plaque removal.

In my opinion, Oral-B is by far the market-leader for electric toothbrushes, offering a wide variety of excellent brushes with specific heads for specific patient needs.

Oral-B has just released a new Io brush that I am currently using. It’s a fantastic toothbrush that I don’t believe could be bettered.

Patients should be using some form of interdental cleaning once per day. This includes flossing or interdental brushes. There is such a variety out there on the market. It can sometimes confuse patients.

Our hygienists will show patients what is best for their mouth and, for me, demonstration in the patient’s mouth is the best possible educational tool.

Adapting to the current climate

COVID-19 has inevitably had an impact on dentistry. What a few months it has been. Initially, we had the chaos of the lockdown and nine weeks of emergency treatments only, followed by the backlog.

I am so lucky with my team, which has adapted and implemented all the new procedures with great enthusiasm.

It is an ever-evolving situation and I am sure there will be some bumps along the road.

I have seen an increase in the incidence of people clenching and grinding their teeth. It has been an extremely stressful period for everyone, and this is manifesting itself in patients through bruxism. So many cracked teeth, and many night guards needed to help patients reduce the associated symptoms.

However, I have also noticed an increase in patients proceeding with treatments such as orthodontics.

Patients are working from home and wearing masks. They are happy to have aligners or fixed appliances under the mask. One positive amongst the pandemic.

I am encouraging all my patients to continue seeing us as usual. This will continue their preventive maintenance programmes. It will avoid any issues going unnoticed and developing into bigger issues further down the road.

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This article first appeared in Irish Dentistry magazine. You can read the latest issue here.