The key factor in motivation when it comes to oral hygiene is using examples that the patients can relate to.
According to oral health therapist Ms. Amedah Soh from Singapore, patients should understand that the main work on their oral health is done at home – in between their dental visits. Also a clinical manager, she believes that dental professionals need good communication skills to convey this message in a personalised way.
What is your dental philosophy and core values of your daily practice?
My goal has always been to provide comprehensive care that is fully personalised and perceived positively by patients. My core values are absolutely clear – empowering through education and doing my best to make sure that patients keep their own teeth for their whole lives.
What does high-quality patient care mean to you?
For me, high-quality care is when the patient understands their current oral health status and leaves the clinic having learnt how to better care of their mouth on their own, before their next visit. Even if they see us regularly, there’s always something new they can learn, at every visit.
“The patient should leave the clinic having learnt how to better care of their mouth on their own before their next visit.”
What is the best advice that you have received from your colleagues or teachers?
This may sound simple but it really is true: if you are unsure, just ask. And don’t be frightened or shaken by the unknown.
How do you motivate patients to keep good post-treatment care?
I strongly believe that self-motivation is the best motivation. When the patient comes in, we discuss what they want to achieve in terms of oral health and how they can reach their goals. I need to remind them that, in a way, I’m just a facilitator who sees them every few months. During the time in between visits, they are the ones who do the real work.
How do you educate yourself?
Continuous education is very important to me. I read professional literature, attend webinars and conferences and then put all information to good use by serving the community. This allows me to immediately put into practice what I’ve learned.
What changes do you wish to see in your field during next 5 years?
I hope that within the next five years, oral health therapists will be recognised and accepted as an integral and respected part of the dental team, at least in my region. In addition, I would really like to see patients request their routine dental prophylaxis to be performed by an oral health therapist.
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. Ms is one of those dental professionals who shares these values, and we proudly present her 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.
What is a common dentistry stereotype you dislike? How do you cope with it?
I often hear that dentistry is dull and boring. I’ve found that the best way to fight this stereotype is to raise awareness – educate people that the oral cavity is the gateway to the rest of the body. The mouth may seem small and insignificant, but it actually plays a vital role in your overall well-being. I normally start the conversation with something personal that the person can relate to, and once they are on board, it’s easier to convey my message.
“I want to educate people that the oral cavity is the gateway to the rest of the body. It actually plays a vital role in your overall well-being.”
What is the advice that most of your patients hear from you?
Brushing and flossing – or interdental cleaning in general – are two sides of the same coin, one cannot work without the other. Some patients have never heard about this before, so I try to explain that it’s never too late to start cleaning your interdental spaces.
Another typical piece of advice is: choose your toothpaste and mouth rinse according to your current oral health. Read the labels, know your ingredient list and any sensitivities or allergies, and understand your dental health before choosing and using oral hygiene products. Your dental professional can help you make the best decision.
What is the most underestimated oral care routine from your point of view?
In my experience, the most frequently overlooked practice by patients tends to be daily interdental cleaning.
How do you try to stress its importance?
I compare it to taking a shower. For example, after a busy day, you come home sweaty and need to take a shower to feel clean, fresh and smell better. But imagine if you washed just the front and the back of your body and not the sides, underarms or the spaces between your toes. Would you feel clean and think that you have washed yourself well?
If the patient spends an adequate time in the shower making sure that every nook and cranny is clean, then they should also allocate a good amount of time and effort to cleaning their mouth. After all, the mouth is also a part of their body. When people hear this, mostly it’s like a light bulb turns on.
“If the patient spends an adequate time in the shower, they should allocate good amount of time to cleaning their mouth too.”
Which skill and character feature is an absolute must-have in your job as a dental professional?
There are a few qualities I could mention – determination, perseverance, patience, integrity and good communication skills. Let me explain.
Determination is needed right from the start to get you through the ungodly university schedule. Then after you graduate, it helps you stick to the profession and perform great work. Perseverance is extremely important, because as dental professionals we want to stay true to bringing high-quality and ethical dentistry to the masses. Integrity means performing our work with honesty, sincerity, authenticity and honour – which are the basis of our profession.
And finally, being a dental professional involves a lot of speaking, active listening, observing and empathising. That’s why the dentist needs good communication skills and needs to adapt their communication to the patient’s needs.
What does your oral hygiene routine look like?
(laughing) I can assure you that my routine is very manageable and humane and anyone can handle it. I don’t have any secret tips or tricks.
I use a manual toothbrush with fluoridated paste in the morning, then during the day, I rinse my mouth after every food and coloured or flavoured drink. Before going to bed, I use a Hydrosonic toothbrush and clean my interdental spaces. When I feel it’s necessary, I use a mouth rinse. That’s all!
Ms. Amedah Soh is a certified dental assistant and oral health therapist located in Singapore. Ms. Soh graduated from Nanyang Polytechnic and currently works as an oral health therapist and clinical manager at Sunshine Dental. She is a committee member of the Association for Oral Health Therapists, Singapore (AOHT) and the Special Care Dentistry Association Singapore (SCDAS). She also dedicates time to the Tzu Chi Free Dental Clinic, to provide dental work, give dental talks or offer any other dental-related services, as needed.