Billion Healthy Mouths Club

Dental hygienist Barbara Derham from Ireland:
“Watching patients take control of their oral health outweighs any treatment outcomes.”

Prevention is training patients to maintain a healthy dentition by themselves.

In education, many dental professionals are still trained to fix the problem rather than prevent it. Yet dental hygienist and certified iTOP instructor Barbara Derham has been passing on to her patients that, in fact, prevention does take time and training to get right, but it’s 100% worthwhile. Read this short interview with a dental professional with over 30 years’ experience in dealing with both adult patients and children with special needs and complex medical needs.

What routines do you find most critical for maintaining proper oral health?

I think good routines will come after a person truly understands when and why his or her mouth needs to be cleaned. Cleaning twice a day, or for some even more frequently, still doesn’t ensure the mouth is clean unless one makes his or her own assessment of the biofilm levels.

What does the word prevention mean to you?

In my early career, I must admit my focus was primarily towards treatment; after all I was trained to fix the problem, with prevention often as an afterthought or hastily added at the end of a course of treatment. Placing prevention first and treatment second takes confidence and good communication with our dental teams and patients. But then, the satisfaction of watching a patient take control of their oral health and realise he or she can make the difference outweighs any treatment outcomes. So in my opinion, prevention is training patients to be able to maintain a healthy dentition by themselves.

What is your “golden rule” or advice that you tell your patients often?

You can’t look backwards, so no matter what has happened before, if the patient wishes to learn new skills we can start afresh and make changes. Prevention is not easy. While everyone can use a toothbrush or an interdental brush, it takes time and training to get it right.

What’s the biggest challenge of your job?

Working within a primary care centre, it’s often the case that I may only have contact one or two times with a child and family. We only see our patients at targeted ages, so it’s critical to make prevention a priority during these sessions.

Welcome to the Billion Healthy Mouths Club

Proper routines in prevention are the future of dentistry – that’s why we at Curaden launched the Billion Healthy Mouths Club – a community of dental professionals committed to the idea of having proper routines in prevention and a holistic approach to dentistry. Dental hygienist Barbara Derham is one of those dental professionals who shares these values, and we proudly present her experience and thoughts to other like-minded people from the field. Keep reading our Gently magazine to discover more interviews with forward-thinking professionals from around the world.

What’s the thing that you like about your job the most?

Quite simply, people and in particular children are fantastic. They are open, inquisitive, and once they understand what they need to do often it’s so simple for them. I am so lucky to meet patients at a stage before oral disease has occurred, or even if caries has begun, then we have a chance to stop the disease and enable the patient to control their oral health for life.

What’s the most important thing in the terms of oral care routine from your point of view?

In my opinion people should not get too concerned about when they do it and how long it should take. Understanding the quality of oral care needed, and that it is completed to the highest level achievable each time we do it, is much more important than how often or when.

What’s the biggest oral health myth that you need to explain to your patients often?

The “two minutes” belief! Is two minutes of toothbrushing better than 30 seconds? Yes of course, but because the timer stops it doesn’t mean every tooth is really clean.

Barbara Derham works as a dental hygienist in Primary Care Services in Dublin, Ireland. She has extensive experience in dealing with all cohorts of patients, treating children, adults and children with special needs and complex medical needs.

Barbara is a dental hygienist graduate from Edinburgh Dental Hospital. She holds a Specialist Certificate on Oral Health Promotion, received the Clinician’s award and additionally is a certified iTOP instructor and lecturer. Barbara is the chairperson of the local organising committee for the International Symposium on Dental Hygiene (ISDH) 2022 Dublin, and is currently developing the programme with the local organising committee, the International Federation of Dental Hygienists (IFDH) and scientific committee. Follow her work on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.