Billion Healthy Mouths Club

Periodontist Dra. Sarah Ocaña Chacón from Mexico: “Evidence-based dentistry and new technologies help me design better education for future dental professionals.”

A true professional should focus on maintaining oral health rather than treating diseases.

A dentist, periodontist, student and lecturer, Dra. Ocaña Chacón says that being both a student and a teacher motivates her to try to be a better dental professional. Dr. Ocaña Chacón also has an essential role in dentistry in Mexico as she helps to form and design the education of the country’s future periodontists. In this interview, you’ll learn why Dra. Sarah Ocaña Chacón thinks that prevention should mean responsibility and ethical practice, and why people should pamper and thank their mouth every day.

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

From my point of view it’s essential to find time once a day to “pamper” your mouth – and by pampering I mean brushing properly and cleaning in between your teeth. I live in Mexico City which is very chaotic; there are many people, a lot of traffic, everyone is always running late due to long distances. Yet, we all manage to find the time to take a shower. So, why should we not also be able to find the time to brush our teeth properly?

Depending on your schedule, you may have more time to brush at night than in the morning, but the important thing is just to make sure to spend enough time with your mouth. And yes, it is important to take showers, but I tend to say, “a clean mouth is more important than a clean armpit,” so do not forget to brush daily.

What does the word prevention mean to you?

To me, prevention means responsibility and ethical practice. A true professional should focus on maintaining good oral health rather than treating diseases. I really believe prevention is the future of dentistry and that dental professionals around the world should start shifting the focus of dentistry as a curative profession and turn it towards prevention.

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

I often tell my patients to think about how much their mouths do for them. Through your mouth you eat, you speak, you smile, you kiss. You use it 24/7. So it seems fair to me that you should “thank” your mouth everyday, and the way to do so is to have a proper oral health regime.

I tell my patients to learn what a clean tooth feels like; pass your tongue around your teeth before and after brushing. If you’re done brushing and the surfaces don’t feel smooth, give it another go. Always remember that preventive dentistry is not expensive, but dentistry that comes from neglecting your oral health is.

What’s the biggest challenge of your job?

I find it hard to convince other colleagues that prevention and periodontal health are key to the success of every treatment. I often receive patients who have been treated for years and have beautiful restorations but have severe active periodontitis and were never told they had periodontal disease or even taught how to brush properly. I always tell my students that none of their treatments will be successful if they don’t start with an individualised oral regime for each patient.

Welcome to the Billion Healthy Mouths Club

Proper prevention is 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 regular routines in prevention and a holistic approach to dentistry. Dra. Sarah Ocaña Chacón 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’s the thing that you like about your job the most?

Being able to give patients a pleasant dental experience. Many patients come to the office with preconceived notions that going to the dentist is painful – even torturous, expensive and not that important. Whenever I treat a patient and they say “that didn’t hurt at all” or they come for a second visit and are eager to know if they’ve improved their brushing habits, that just makes my day. Changing the negative perceptions towards positive dental treatments and oral health makes me happy.

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

Finding the right tools for mechanical biofilm control at home, and learning how to use them. A proper oral health regime is not like a cooking recipe; different people have different needs and different needs require different tools. Following the recommendations of your oral health provider and going to periodical check-ups is essential. Oral diseases don’t always hurt in the early stages, so just because you feel fine, it doesn’t mean you can skip your dental check-up.

What’s the biggest oral health myth that you fight against?

There are so many! But I think nowadays one of the popular myths is “a dental implant is just like your natural tooth”. Sure, a dental implant is an amazing piece of engineering and technology and in many cases it is the best treatment option if we have to replace a tooth. However, I think that some colleagues take advantage of that and extract maintainable teeth, promising the implant will be identical to the natural ones. They’re not! Whenever it’s possible, we should always try to save our patients’ natural teeth!

Currently, you are a coordinator of the Postgraduate Specialisation Programme in Periodontics at the Universidad Intercontinental. Could you tell us more about the programme and your role?

The Specialisation in Periodontics at Universidad Intercontinental in Mexico City is a two year postgraduate course, focused on training periodontists with the most recent and profound knowledge in prevention, prognosis, diagnosis and treatment of periodontal diseases, as well as maintaining the health, function and aesthetics of the periodontal tissues around teeth and implants.

I am in charge of developing and updating the new curriculum based on the specific needs of the population, in order to train dental professionals with the best academic and clinical education, applying evidence-based dentistry and the latest technologies we have at our disposal. It is a big responsibility as I am contributing to the education of our future periodontists. The goal is to try to give our students the best education to become the best professionals.

I’ve been teaching for over ten years now and I can say teaching is as rewarding as practicing dentistry. Being a teacher motivates me to try to be a better dental professional everyday, in order to lead by example. I love to see how my students develop skills, critical thinking and how they can approach complex cases and treat them successfully. It’s very rewarding to see the impressive results they can achieve. And I like to think I contributed with my grain of sand in helping them become ethical, responsible and successful dental professionals.

I think the message I try to deliver to my students is to always be curious. Never quench the thirst for knowledge you have. Always learn from everything; learn what you like, learn what you dislike, learn from your successes, but most importantly, learn from your mistakes. That’s the only way you’ll get back on track.

Dra. Sarah Ocaña Chacón received both her bachelor’s degree in dentistry and her specialisation in periodontology at the Universidad Intercontinental (UIC) in Mexico City. Since 2010, Sarah’s been teaching different courses at this university’s Faculty of Dentistry, including periodontics, preventive dentistry and furcation treatment.

Her private practice at Centro de Odontología Integral is strongly focused on prevention, periodontics and implant dentistry. Besides this, she has lectured courses and conferences in Mexico as an iTOP lecturer. Currently, as mentioned in the interview, she is the coordinator of the Postgraduate Specialisation Programme in Periodontics at the Universidad Intercontinental, and has just started studying another master’s programme in dentistry at the Universidad Latinoamericana. Visit the website of her dental office Centro de Odontología Integral to learn more.