Billion Healthy Mouths Club

Prof. Sung-Suk Park: “The changing of habits to prevent oral disease is the core of any dental treatment.”

As a dental hygienist with 20 years of experience, Prof. Sung-Suk Park believes that sustainable habits are key to the retention of good health.

For Professor Sung-Suk Park, the most important thing for motivation is awareness. She therefore uses intra-oral photos to show her patients the current situation in their mouths. Thanks to this approach, they can see potential problems like bleeding between the teeth, neglected areas and recessed gums, and understand that those issues are preventable by adjusting their everyday habits. Prof. Sung-Suk Park explains how to guide patients on their journey to complete and sustainable oral health. 

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

As a professor at a college for future dental hygienists, I try to make my students familiar with the proper and ideal oral hygiene concept, and help them practise it.

With patients, treatment in the dental field is very important for restoring both the functional and aesthetic aspects of the mouth However, retention of good health is even more important. So, the role of sustainable habits in patients is essential. Dental hygienists work as educators and helpers in this process.

What does high-quality patient care mean to you?

The highest level of patient care is to help them live independently without any help from dental professionals. To achieve this goal, the dental professional must continuously help and educate patients to take care of their own oral environment by themselves. 

“Young people should understand that what they do now in terms of oral care is very important for their future health.”

What is the best advice that you have received from your colleagues or teachers?

To maintain the basic principles, but adopt new trends. I always accept other people’s opinions and advice with an open mind, but evaluate all new things on the basis of fundamental principles. I do the same in clinical areas.

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

The most important thing for motivation is awareness. So, I use intra-oral photos to show my patients the current situation in their mouths and highlight potential problems like bleeding between the teeth, neglected areas and recessed gums. In the pictures, patients can see their current status and understand that it was caused by their bad habits from the past.

With young people, I refer to their parents and grandparents to stimulate the feelings and logic that what they do now in terms of oral care is very important for their future health.

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. Prof. Sung-Suk Park 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.

How do you keep yourself motivated and what technique works for you the most?

I follow the SOOD technique developed by Edward Park, Ph.D. One of the first steps is holding the mirror and looking at the target teeth while brushing. As a dental hygienist and professor, sometimes through self-assuredness I can lapse into idleness. To avoid this, I made my own rituals of using interdental brushes and tongue scraping at specific times. 

What change do you wish to see in your work during next 5 years?

I work as a teacher at a college where I educate future dental hygienists, and I hope I can provide them with knowledge and skills to allow them to educate patients when they start working in real life.

As a dental hygienist, I want to expand my area of education to the general public to recommend the right skills for biofilm control and tools to prevent oral diseases. I’ve implemented the SOOD techniques in my class and in the education of the public. 

“I try to deliver the message that the patient’s daily efforts, using the right method and tools, can keep them healthy.”

What is a common stereotype of dentistry you dislike? How do you deal with it?

Many people recognise dental restoration as a treatment. In addition, restoration means more money for dentists. I want to let patients know that there are professionals out there who focus on biofilm control and education to preserve natural teeth. Conversation is essential in this process, and the changing of habits to prevent oral disease is the core of the treatment.

What is the advice that most of your patients hear from you? 

It is definitely the importance of prevention. For me, as a dental hygienist, trying to achieve the shift to preserve the natural teeth is my greatest role. I try to deliver the message that the patient’s daily efforts, using the right method and tools, can keep them healthy. This is what I teach my students as well.

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

Interdental care is highly underestimated. Actually, it is usually only recommended after the destruction of the periodontium, whereas in fact it should start right after the formation of contact between the teeth. I try to educate my students by checking their interdental spaces, measuring the sizes and prescribing the interdental brushes for each individual case. I think that this is the area that should be underlined more by all dental professionals when communicating with their patients, from day one. 

“Friendliness is essential to creating a rapport with patients.”

Which skill and character feature is an absolute must-have in your job as specialised dental professional? 

Friendliness is essential to creating a rapport with patients. An emotional bond can make education more effective. At the same time, professionals must have a lot of evidence-based knowledge.  

What does your oral hygiene routine look like? 

I had a dental sealant on every molar in my teenage years, so I did not have any problems with caries. As a dental hygienist, I thought that I had a good self-care routine, until I met Dr. Edward Park. I changed my oral hygiene routine in line with the SOOD technique after attending a SOOD class. My brushing method changed and interdental brushes became part of my routine. My lectures at college also changed accordingly.

Professor Sung-Suk Park is a dental hygienist from Korea with 20 years of experience. She holds a Ph.D from Gyeongsang National University and has been working as a professor at the Department of Dental Hygiene at Taegu Science University since 2009. Prof. Sung-Suk Park is a board member of the Korean Society of Dental Hygiene. She also volunteers for the oral hygiene education in Daegu Metropolitan City as a steering committee member.