Dentist’s advice

The best effort of dentists does not always mean that people are going to care for their teeth.

A study by a team at Newcastle University found that only one third of patients with gum disease who received advice on how long to brush their teeth, followed to the letter.

However, the same people perceive their brushing habits to be better than they were – a finding that has important implications for dentists wishing to change the behavior of their patients.

Gum disease can eventually lead to loss of multiple teeth, but in many cases the damage can be stabilized or reversed if treatment is combined with a good home tooth care regime. For the study, patients received advice on a regime – which in particular said they should brush their teeth twice a day for two minutes each time.

Each of the 17 study participants used an electronic ‘data logger’ electric toothbrushes that recorded brushing time. The brush had a light on the handle that flashed when two minutes had passed. They were also asked to fill in diaries detailing their brushing habits. The experiment recorded brushing times for two periods of four weeks.

When the researchers analyzed the data, tooth brushes recorder data showed about a third of people followed the advice whereas the diaries suggest that more than half of patients thought they had been obedient.

The study results are published in the British Dental Journal.

Lead researcher Dr. Giles McCracken, a professor with the School of Dental Science at the University of Newcastle, said: “Research has shown that brushing for two minutes is the optimum time for most people to remove plaque from the teeth. If you brush for less time, you are not removing enough, and if you brush the benefits for longer periods cannot be much higher.

“The fact that many participants in the experiment said they had followed the dentist’s advice when our records proved that they had, has implications for the profession, especially in our increasingly litigious society.”

“Patients should understand that their health is primarily their responsibility, and if they are not going to comply with the advice of health professionals such as dentists who have your best interests at heart, they must accept the consequences.”

Newcastle researchers are carrying out further research on how to give advice in the dental chair, and whether this can be specially adapted for each individual receiving treatment.

Co-researcher Professor Peter Heasman, said: “I think that many dentists and dental hygienists are fully aware that their patients do not always follow their professional advice. However, we were surprised to find that many of our patients who were unable to follow instructions accurately, even in the short term. ”

  • The research was funded by Phillips Oral Healthcare.
  • The best advice tooth care
  • Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste
  • Avoid eating sugary foods, especially between meals
  • Clean between your teeth, floss or a mini toothbrush / interdental
  • Give up smoking
  • Take professional advice on the care of teeth

Chewing sugarless gum, especially those containing the sweetener xylitol after meals to protect teeth from decay.