Introduction

Patients often do not attend their general dentist during orthodontic treatment. They assume that the orthodontist will check for caries and do their ‘check-ups’. It is the responsibility of the orthodontic professional to ensure the success of the treatment. The teams in the specialist practice and in the referring general practice needs to work together to create awareness and prevent dental disease. An open evening with your staff, your referring dentists and their staff is an effective way of improving communication and understanding, leading to better experience for patients.

Scheduled appointment protocol

During orthodontic treatment patients will be seen at least once every 8 weeks. It is important that at each appointment clinicians take the time to ensure that the patient is following the guidance given to them post-bond up and that they are settling into the desired routine. Routine is key and the first couple of appointments are particularly important when it comes to ensuring compliance for the duration of the treatment.

Each member of the team has a role to play:

Clinicians

It is important that patients are provided with feedback on the oral hygiene; praised for good cleaning and using a mirror shown any areas requiring specific attention. Consider giving patients with a score out of ten and establishing a clear rating scheme e.g. a score below 6 leads to an oral hygiene refresher course with a member of the practice team, below 5 on consecutive appointments necessitates removal of the appliance until hygiene levels have improved.

Nursing Staff

Certain patients will find nurses more approachable than their clinicians and are often the member of the team patients turn to for answers to their questions. Nurses also provide the important link between the surgery and front desk, able to pass on instructions from the clinician to the front desk and remind patients of any recommendations e.g. to pick up a new size interdental brush or a replacement toothbrush.

Reception Staff

Patients leaving the practice with oral hygiene products attain considerably high compliance than those who leave empty handed. Over the counter sale of professional oral hygiene products is an essential component of patient oral care provision and needs to be actively encouraged within practices. Every appointment should be seen as an opportunity to check patients are happy with the products they have been recommended to use and that they have sufficient supplies to carry them through to their next appointment. Failure to do so will be likely to have a significant impact on patient compliance and overall oral hygiene levels.

To facilitate communication between clinicians and the front desk it is highly desirable for one of the clinical team to accompany patients to the front desk and ensure that the patient leaves the practice with the products they need. If this is not practicable we would recommend that the use of prescription pads are considered, these reinforce the point that good oral hygiene is not an option but an integral part of successful orthodontic treatment and ensure reception staff know what has been recommended to the patient.

Note: Orthodontic prescription pads are available on request. See Marketing Support for further details.

Staff Training

A well trained, highly motivated team is the trademark of a successful dental business. Staff in specialist practices tend to be less aware of oral hygiene risk factors and prevention than in general practice, principally due to the fact that few employ the services of a dental hygienist. To help address this Dent-O-Care are able to assist specialist orthodontic practices by providing on-going training and support for team members during a lunch and learn session.

Oral hygiene ‘Best Practice’ protocol

Ensuring that all members of the team follow practice procedures and provide patients with consistent levels of care it is recommended that a ‘Best Practice’ protocol is put in place for each phase of the treatment process. This should detail each step in the process, from pre-treatment through to post-treatment retention, and cover both clinical and non-clinical interventions.

Click here to download a sample best practice protocol.