The Dental Hygienist: Educating the Patient

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The Dental Hygienist: How Healthy Teeth - Healthy Body can Support Her

This page is dedicated to every dental hygienist who understands the value of oral hygiene education. As a dentist who for years also acted as the dental hygienist, and as a long time dental patient, I’ve sat in all three chairs. I’ve learned how difficult it is to educate the patient about oral hygiene using the traditional approach to dental disease prevention. 

I quickly discovered that I simply could not afford to take the time to provide patients with all the information I knew they needed. I also learned that the available brochures, videos, and handouts are not very effective. When I hired my first dental hygienist, I found out from her that, unlike myself, her other employers were more concerned about her generating revenues from cleaning teeth (and other preventive treatments) than in taking time to educate patients about preventing dental disease. You may have experienced that situation yourself. 

Educate Your Dental Patients Away from the Dental Office

In fact, I found that trying to educate the patient about dental disease prevention at the office was so difficult that I was motivated to write my first book on preventive dentistry for the layperson, The Tooth Trip. But I’d be less than honest if I told you the book was written only for the dental patient. It was also written for myself in order to support my role as an acting dental hygienist. It worked because the book allowed the patient to learn the basic principles of dental disease prevention at home; which is much more conducive to learning than being lectured to in a dental chair. The book also clearly defined the roles of the dental hygienist and the patient. Once the patient learned the basics it then allowed me customize each patient’s oral hygiene prevention program to her needs. As you well know, every patient is different, but all require the same basic oral hygiene education if an oral hygienie program is to succeed. 

From my role as a substitute dental hygienist I finally understood how important the hygienist is to the success of a dental practice and to the success of a patient’s oral hygiene education program. In fact, I considered the dental hygienist’s role in the dental education process to be so important that I devoted an entire chapter in Healthy Teeth-Healthy Body: How to Improve Your Oral and Overall Health to explaining how dental patients can more effectively work with the hygienist and utilize her to guide them to oral health. That chapter alone is the key to the book’s success and worth its weight in gold! 

The Importance of the Dental Hygienist

In chapter 8, “Working with the Dental Hygienist,” I make it clear that you're the boss and the patient should always defer to you, even if your instructions differ from what I say in the book. Thus, you don't have to change your approach to the way you present your own oral hygiene program. But what will change is that you will now have an educated and motivated dental patient to work with. This in turn will: 

  • save you time
  • improve your relationship with your patients
  • increase “word of mouth” advertising
  • make your job easier & more rewarding

Another reason why hygienists play such an important role in a successful oral hygiene education program is that hygiensts can do what books are not able to do. While books can provide valuable and useful information, they don’t have hands, eyes, ears, or a mouth. A book can’t talk to a reader and get a reply, or demonstrate an oral hygiene technique, a give a patient a pat on the back—but you can become the eyes, ears, hands, and voice of Healthy Teeth-Healthy Body: How to Improve Your Oral and Overall Health.

Because the success of any dental wellness education program is dependent on supporting, guiding, and monitoring the patient’s oral hygiene program, you play a critical role in its success. But it will only be successful if each patient has access to and understands the fundamentals of preventing dental disease. Healthy Teeth can provide the basic oral hygiene knowledge for the patient, allowing you to customize, support, and monitor each of your dental patient’s oral hygiene program. A perfect win-win situation for you, the patient and the dentist! 

If your goal is to improve your patients’ oral and overall health, and fully enjoy being a dental hygienist, then you’ll want to learn more about how I can help you accomplish those goals. Once you discover how effective my dental disease prevention program is for you and your patients, it will be easy to promote it to the dentist. To help you with that I’ve included a For the Dentist page. I recommend you read through it and if necessary, suggest that the dentists you work for read it. Their understanding and support for what you are doing is important. To find out more about how to use my book to support your existing oral hygiene program, click on Making Prevention Profitable

My Suggestions to You

If you decide to use my book in your oral hygiene practice, I suggest you have the patient read it and I know you’ll be amazed at their response and at how much easier and gratifying it will make your job. 

Because I explain to the reader how to use the book and what it is designed to do, you won't have to take time to show them how to effectively utilize it. When your patients receive Healthy Teeth , ask them to write down their questions, so you can answer them at a future visit.

The philosophy of my oral hygiene education program is explained to the patient in the Prevention Program link. This will introduce the patient to the prevention program and guide them through it. It is in a printer friendly format. Feel free to download it, make copies, and provide it to your patients. Over the years I’ve found that there is nothing more satisfying than helping a patient eliminate dental disease and restore her mouth to health and function. As you know, doing so can be quite an energizing emotional experience. Today good oral hygiene is even more important because we know the importance of the relationship of oral health to overall health. I wish you well. 

In Health,


Dr. Tom 


I’d love to hear from you about how the book and program has worked for you. Please email your comments and suggestions to us by Clicking Here.