Billion Healthy Mouths Club

Dr. Cornelis Springer: “Cleaning and brushing your teeth is not the same thing”

Dentists are guides to help patients think about their oral health differently, says this sports dentist from Brazil.

Dr. Cornelis Springer from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, is an expert in sports dentistry and a university professor. In our interview, he told us about the specificities of dentistry for athletes and why he believes dentists should not focus only on the patient’s mouth.

What is your dental philosophy and the core values of your daily practice?

My philosophy is very simple: “Oral health is linked to physical and mental health.” Whether I’m teaching my students or treating patients, I always keep prevention in mind. When a patient comes into my dental office, I first thoroughly analyse their oral health as well as the general health of their body, and then schedule an intensive oral hygiene education program using the iTOP philosophy. I use this oral hygiene training as the opportunity to solve the patient’s specific needs.

What does high-quality patient care mean to you?

I believe that dentists can only provide high-quality care when they pay attention to the patient’s needs and treat their health holistically. Dental professionals should motivate patients to transform their perception of oral and physical health. The main focus should not be on a problem or disease, but on health.

What is the best advice you have received from a colleague or teacher?

Many people have had a great impact on my career and some of their wisdom has been paramount in my professional life. The best advice was never to look only at the patient’s mouth. This means that dental professionals should also focus on the patient’s behaviour and habits, skin, hair, etc. The body gives us a clear picture of a person’s health, that’s why we need to look at it as a whole.

How do you motivate patients to maintain good post-treatment care?

Encouraging patients is definitely very important. The method I apply has four steps. First, I point out the problem, then I carry out the treatment. Afterwards, I train and educate the patient using the iTOP philosophy and explanatory photos and videos. The last step is to encourage the patient to return to the dental chair regularly.

“The body gives us a clear picture of a person’s health, so we need to look at it as a whole.”

Thanks to the oral care training, the patient can see how much their oral hygiene can be improved. In my experience, when patients understand why oral care is important and how to take care of it, they have excellent post-treatment behaviour. 

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. Dr. Cornelis Springer is one of those dental professionals who shares these values, and we proudly present his experience and thoughts with other like-minded people from the field. Keep reading our Gently magazine to discover more interviews with forward-thinking professionals from around the world.

How do you educate yourself?

Through constant reading of scientific literature and attending symposiums, congresses and conferences.

What changes do you want to make in your field over the next 5 years?

I’m currently making a big change in my field of work, a change that started some time ago. I started to dedicate my time to teaching at Ânima Education Group, focused on projects in the sports dentistry area, and I joined the D‘harmonie Institute, where we value a personalised service of excellence and follow high standards. For the upcoming years, the idea is to make these changes more and more solid.

What is a common dentistry stereotype that you don’t like? How do you deal with it?

The biggest problem with dentistry is its extreme focus on treatment rather than prevention. It is not easy to change this approach, as even patients see it as the norm. Transforming this mindset would mean changing habits in adults, which is a very difficult task. I try to take it one step at a time. If one out of every ten patients understands the importance of dental care and follows my advice, that’s still success.

What advice do most of your patients hear from you?

Only you can transform your oral and physical health. I, as your dentist, am just an instrument, a guide to help you think about your oral health differently.

What is the most underrated oral care routine from your point of view? How do you try to emphasise its importance?

Unfortunately, the importance of using calibrated interdental brushes is underestimated. If the population understood the importance of an interdental brush, we would see far fewer oral health problems. I always try to encourage my patients to use calibrated interdental brushes, it is a necessary habit change.

“If one out of every ten patients understands the importance of dental care and follows my advice, that’s still success.”

What skill or character trait is absolutely indispensable in your work as a dental professional?

I work in the area of sports dentistry. With athletes, it is necessary to focus on performance in everything they do. Therefore, as a sports dentist I need immense knowledge in the area of physiology, immunology, sports training and other areas relevant for athletes. Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary thinking is key.

What is your oral hygiene routine?

In my point of view, there is a difference between cleaning and brushing your teeth. Cleaning is macroscopic, where we remove food remains that settle in the oral cavity. I practice this type of cleaning a few times throughout the day. 

Brushing the teeth is microscopic, where we need to dissolve the dental biofilm. For that I set aside 8 to 10 minutes of my time, at night, while watching a movie or reading a book. I brush without toothpaste, using just my own saliva. I remove the biofilm with a conventional brush, interdental brushes and finally a tongue brush. If you brush your teeth quickly and without efficiently removing the biofilm, it’s not useful even if you do it ten times a day. The quality of brushing is more important than quantity.

Dr. Cornelis Springer lives in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. He studied at the School of Dentistry at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, and did his masters in sports science at the School of Physical Education at the same university. Currently, he is a university professor at UNIBH (University Center of Belo Horizonte) and UNA, and also works at both the América Futebol Clube and the Minas Tênis Clube, a multi-sports club. Dr. Springer has written a chapter in a book on sports dentistry, and taught a course on oral health prevention entitled Prophylaxis 4.0.