Patients are more accepting of dental treatment when they clearly understand why it is necessary and what benefits it will offer. As a result, the best periodontal patients are well informed patients; so much of the fear and anxiety surrounding periodontal disease and treatment may be due to lack of information and insufficient patient education.
The function of periodontal patient education is to adequately inform patients of current and potential periodortal disease and available treatment along with the associated risks and options of therapy. Different patients, however, have different priorities of perceive need. For some, it is enough to explain the relationship of food to bacteria to plaque to decay and so through the process. Others might need visual aids such as disclosing tablets, brushing and flossing demonstrations, and printed and illustrated in office guidelines or take home instructions.
Patient education is important to teach patients proper oral hygiene and preventive practices and to reinforce progress, thus helping to create a cooperative environment of oral care and enhancing patient compliance. As a form of negative reinforcement, which may be effective in some cases, some doctors are known to withhold periodontal treatment (except for emergencies) until the patient demonstrates the ability, willingness, and motivation to perform proper oral hygiene on an on going basis and to regularly participate in follow-up or "recare" therapy.
In addition to providing patients with the basic information necessary to make an educated choice about treatment, our entire staff has a basic knowledge of periodontal disease and the general guidelines of treatment. We try to encourage patients to learn about the proposed treatment and the rationale for treatment, offering all available resources to the patient.
Just four years ago, a survey conducted by the editorial and research departments of Dental Products Report indicated that seven out of ten patients were asking their dentists for information on preventing periodontal disease; they were asking about brushing, flossing, and home care techniques as well, but not in such large numbers. In 1992, 90% of the doctors surveyed also told Dental Products Report that they distributed to patients written materials (flyers, pamphlets, and brochures) on periodontal disease prevention. At the same time, 16% of those surveyed said they also used video tapes for patient education; among the most popular topics were toothbrushing, flossing, effective home care techniques, and the prevention of periodontal disease. Today, patient education still consists of written materials and videos, but it also includes intraoral video camera systems, which can be found in more than 30% of the dental offices across the U.S., according to 1996 surveys conducted by Dental Products Report. In fact, 62% of the doctors queried last year mentioned patient education as the most impor-tant reason for having purchased an intraoral video system. The doctors using the video systems have learned that live action videos of the patient's own mouth and color prints depicting the patient's own oral conditions can make that patient more knowledgeable, more aware of the periodontal disease process, and potentially more of a partner in the treat-ment and management of their periodontal disease.
All of the interactive patient education multimedia software on the market today contain segments on periodontal disease. Narrations, usually two to four minutes in length, utilize full color graphics and animation to explain periodontal issues in a way that patients are able to better understand their need for care and the value of the doctor's recommended treatment. Patients can thoroughly explore specific subjects (such as the symptoms of gingivitis, root planing and scaling, subgingival irrigation, and so on), pursuing topics relevant to specific conditions by pressing certain portions of a touch screen or via a computer keyboard, depending on the level of integration between the CD based system and the practice computer network.
The doctor remains the: central figure in patient education, the one who establishes the philosophying tool. The doctor s role also is to educate patients regarding diagnosis, etiology, prognosis, treatment plan, and sequence of therapy.
Because the hygienist spends more time than the doctor with some periodontal patients, particularly "recare," "recall," or "supportive periodontal therapy" patients, she will identify areas of inadequate plaque control, to detect weakness in motivation, and to address specific dietary problems.
The Dental Assistant will
also help in patient education regarding oral hygiene instruction.