Winning the battle against Fluoride fears

As oral health professionals we are often faced with the challenge of educating our patients to trust new or previously feared treatments. So often we get incorrect theories being used against our suggested course of action, and hearing the words “My friend said…” or “I read somewhere…” is normally a good indication that it’s going to be an uphill struggle to get our recommendation over the line.

DHAA member, Amelia Munn, has one such tale that proves that gentle persuasion, and a bit of re-education, can get you a long way in the battle against a long-term fluoride-phobe.

“I try not to get discouraged when I come across a patient who doesn’t use fluoride. I see them as a challenge,” explains Amelia.

“Fluoride is a touchy subject and something I find some people can be very passionate about. I like to see if I can teach them the benefits and try to learn what it is that they believe is wrong with using it.”

Amelia had just started working in a new practice, and one with a very well established patient base. A lot of the patients had been attending for many years.

This one particular gentleman had been seeing the same dentist for about 20 years. You can’t fault his loyalty.

“I read through his dental history… ‘Mid-forties. No medical conditions. Doesn’t like fluoride.’ Here was my challenge!

“His last clean was six months ago and he needed to come back for fillings, which he did (I should add that he has never had a fluoride treatment).

“The notes also said that he had been advised at his last visit to start using a fluoride toothpaste at home.

“During my clean I noted heavy inter-proximal soft plaque and three suspicious-looking carious lesions, as well as multiple areas of incipient lesions.

“I began to quiz my patient on his oral hygiene regime at home and what products and tools he used. He proudly told me that he was brushing twice a day with a bamboo toothbrush, still not using a fluoride toothpaste and not really flossing.

“‘Mid-forties. No medical conditions. Doesn’t like fluoride.’ Here was my challenge!”

Amelia steered the conversation towards diet and discovered that her patient was consuming a lot of sugar. This guy wasn’t shoveling in the lollies though, in fact he was a relatively healthy eater. His excess sugar hit was coming from a couple of fruit juices a day and a lot of honey. He had heard that honey is good for you and a natural antibacterial.

“I decided that it was time to educate my patient about bio-film and give him a quick chemistry lesson on the process of demineralisation and remineralisation – something that I love to do with my patients!

“Once he had a better understanding of the science of what was going on in his mouth, and why he was still developing decay, his attitude started to change. I could see the dots connecting in his brain and that’s when I knew I had made a connection.

“I explained that I was very concerned about his high rate of caries and that I recommended that he have a fluoride treatment. I added that he should probably consider using a fluoride toothpaste at home as well.

“We went on to discuss cleaning the inter-proximal areas more thoroughly and I introduced him to some inter-proximal brushes which he seemed very keen to start using.

“In the end, and to my amazement, he consented to having the fluoride treatment.

“I gave myself the biggest mental high five and behind my mask I was grinning like a Cheshire cat!”

The DHAA Hygienist Hub is a new space for members to share their professional experiences and challenges that will, in-turn, create a knowledge bank that can be referenced by all.

Have you had a similar experience? What methods do you use to educate your clients?

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