Author: Dr. Alessandro Dini Fernández
Vice-president of Hides Catalunya
Higher Technician in Oral Hygiene
Doctor of Dentistry
Central University of Venezuela (Caracas)
What is a habit, what does it consist of or how is it acquired?
Have you ever asked yourself: What is a habit, what does it consist of or how is it acquired?
A habit, in the broad sense, is nothing more than a repetitive ritual that we comply with, for better or worse. For example, exercising every day or drinking beer every night are habits.
In the narrowest and deepest sense, a habit is a behaviour or action that we practice regularly without questioning whether or not it is worth doing.
For example, do you spend a few minutes in front of the shower wondering whether or not it’s worth taking a shower? I hope not. Or do you stop and wonder if it’s a good idea to do your hair, get dressed and get ready to leave the house? Again, I hope not.
If, as I believe, I have taken examples of daily habits that more or less all of us do, it means that we have identified what habits are. In other words, by habits we mean all those motor and mental activities that, after numerous repetitions, become relatively automatic, easier and more coordinated.
It usually took our parents a lot of time, patience, willpower and perseverance to get us showered, dressed, groomed and, of course, to get us to brush our teeth.
Now I ask you another question: why is it that if a large number of adults “know” well what positive oral hygiene habits their children should practice, a large percentage do not practice them?
Before I go into the difference between the oral hygiene habits of adults and children, let me tell you about the LHO (Oral Hygiene Lessons).
LHO (Oral Hygiene Lessons)
For my part, I love LHOs when the audience is children. However, I admit that the challenge is much more interesting when it comes to adults.
The habits of the adults seem to be encased in a block of ice at minus 150°C: indestructible!
To paraphrase Stephen Guise (“Mini-habits”, 2019):
“A habit is an attempt at brain automation that worked out well”; and if the habit created is a healthy one, the process is much easier and more fun.
But why are oral hygiene habits different between adults and children?
For children, being in the bathroom with mum or dad, using FluorKIN Calcium and the KIN children’s toothbrush to brush their teeth is a moment of play and learning. The aim is to have fun and improve psychomotor control. For adults, it is a constant struggle between priorities.
How many versions of this, colleagues, have you not heard in the consultation?
“I’d rather sleep 2 minutes longer than floss my teeth”.
“If I have just one coffee in the morning, I don’t need to brush my teeth”.
“When I finish grooming my children, I have just 20 seconds left to get ready before I go out.”
“I would rather brush my teeth 10 times a day than not floss my teeth, I hate it!
These are just a few examples of the thousand walls that, on a daily basis and with each patient, we have to jump over, break down, bend…
Today, it is undisputed that good oral hygiene is the basis for good general health; another day, when I am feeling less motivational and more scientific, I promise you a monograph on how the microbiome of the oral cavity influences a huge number of physiological processes that are fundamental to our health.
For this article, the first I have written for Laboratorios KIN, I dress up as a senior persuader and share it with you.
- Ask for samples that you think may be useful to you. The presence of quality products in the practice is the key to being able to perform LHO, with a mirror in the patient’s hand, effective and using the products that we will subsequently advise the patient to use.
- Measure your patient’s level of commitment. Proposing to a patient, who has neither the skill nor the habit of flossing, that he/she should insist on doing it every day for 6 months, promising that, at the end of those 6 months, it will not take 15 minutes as on the first day, but just 1 minute, is pure utopia. Make creative and progressive solutions, for example, propose to dedicate 6 months to flossing for 30 seconds before brushing at night and to do it every day, without skipping a single one. It doesn’t matter how many interdental spaces he/she manages to clean in that time (the first 6 months are to create cracks in the ice block of consolidated habits). It should be 30 seconds and not 29 or 31. Make sure he has understood the movements of the floss between the teeth, the anchorage and all the minutiae of the technique. After 6 months review the technique and, if it is correct, increase it to 60 seconds for the next 6 months. At the third professional hygiene, you might be surprised!
- Never tire of picking up the brush and silk and teaching them, teaching them, teaching them.
- Write down in the clinical diary the objective oral hygiene situation before instrumentation, if you can document it with photographs, all the better. Use all indexes, rates and statistics that can help you to measure the situation and the progress of your patients. If there is progress, congratulate and thank them, a patient who listens is a patient who gratifies and that is priceless.
- Keep an eye on the future of your profession and remember that what we are saying today may be untrue in 10 or 20 years’ time, and it certainly will be.
- Never forget that your work is the master key that unlocks the door to overall good health, use it wisely and masterfully.
In short, the role of the oral hygienist is fundamental to establish adequate habits in patients, as one of their functions is to educate and motivate them in order to lay the foundations for what will become their daily routine.
This habit has its origin in the dental surgery and without it, the patient will not achieve optimum oral health, and therefore will not enjoy general health.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Bad oral habits and posterior crossbite – Repositorio Institucional de la Universidad de Guayaquil. Pilot Faculty of Dentistry