“A rep is here to see you…”

Clare Berry overcomes her initial scepticism and shares her experience of a really useful  tool

Another busy day in practice and today a company rep has brought in the Oral-B Test Drive to show me. Could this addition to our tool kit make a real difference? The rep seems to think so.

I have a great relationship with my Oral-B rep: she’s a fellow Dental Hygienist, I trust what she has to say, and I enjoy her visits. So I listen intently about the Test Drive wondering how I could use this in practice.

A few issues arise straight away, the main one being that putting the sleeves on and donning the new heads between patients seems time- consuming, particularly in the one practice where I don’t have a nurse. I immediately feel like this is going to be a barrier to its use. At this practice I have initial 20-minute appointments (cue booing from the crowd of Hygienists and Therapists who agree with me that little can be done in this time. However, this is the dental world we live in and some of us have to do what we can in the time offered). I am lucky in that I can rebook a patient for whatever time I feel they need after the initial appointment (if the patient is willing to pay).

How can I find the time for this?

The rep leaves and the Test Drive sits in the cupboard for a month. (Does this sound familiar?) Then, I had a rethink about how I am dealing with my patients. I read a book about learning theories (well skim read a book about learning theories), and the saying - ‘I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand’- makes me question whether I doing enough for my patients? Are my priorities in surgery right? Giving OHI should be dominating my surgery time, especially in the initial phases of treatment.

Since this lightbulb moment, I use the Test Drive on EVERY patient.

Overcoming the supposed time issue turned out to be quite easy. I have 7 trays set up at all times (as I treat between 5-7 patients at a time and then I have a break long enough to process my instruments before I get back to it). In addition to my instruments, I also have a Test Drive barrier shield and a Test Drive head on each tray as well. I even take a couple of the heads out of the packaging and place them ready on each tray for the day. I can do this because I know I am going to use it with every patient.

If I have a shorter appointment I may only use the Test Drive on a small area that the patient is having difficulty with (almost always lingual of the lower molars or buccal of the upper last molars). I like to show the patient the plaque deposits and often disclose, and then how the toothbrush removes it with ease. I simply use the test drive as part of the intraoral exam process instead of seeing it as another thing to add to the never ending list of things we now need to do in an (often too short) 20-minute appointment. Of course when I have enough time I get it out at the end of the appointment again, for when I do my OHI to show the patient with low manual dexterity (for example), how they can manage an electric toothbrush better than a manual.

I also use it to convert the avid manual user - when they try the electric toothbrush they are usually amazed at the difference and astonished at how long two minutes actually is. And of course, I like to use it so the patient can ‘test drive’ the product before buying one. But I have found by using it in the intraoral checks at the beginning of the visit, I am doing this already without any thought, in almost every case the patient responds well to its use in this way. It’s a conversation starter right there, without them feeling like it is a lecture left for the end of the visit.

This is just how I have found it helpful in my surgery, and I know I am doing more for my patients in the process. But in my opinion, I do think this should be a vital tool in the Hygienist’s toolkit. I think we are lucky to have access to something that can prove useful to get patients to experience and therefore appreciate the difference an electric toothbrush can make to their oral health. I urge you not to put barriers up to using it on every patient like I did initially.

My verdict is that it should be seen as a positive move forward in our ability to change behaviours and should be considered for use in varying ways on each and every patient that walks into our surgery.

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