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10th October 2013

Just an Idea

OK, what do your best friends never tell you about?  You know what the answer is, but I`m embarrassed to say!  Well, apparently I`m not alone as a dentist as we don`t tell people about bad breath.   Once in a while I`m asked to do a `spot` on local radio as the resident dentist and this week they rang up to ask if I`d talk about the ancient art of `tongue scraping`.  As part of the conversation I had to explain that this habit is primarily about reducing bad breath.

A quick poll of friends and listeners found that a lot of people worry about this, but they don`t get specific advice and it doesn`t often get mentioned as a motivator in OHI (oral hygiene instruction.)  It`s the unspoken word, the elephant in the surgery, the gap in our marketing material.  However, if approached in the right way, it`s something we could use to attract new business and motivate the patients we already have access to.

Already, fear of bad breath is the primary reason 25% of people brush their teeth.  In studies, about the same percentage test positive for the sulphate based gasses from those `bad-boy` anaerobic bugs that cause real halitosis.  There is a problem though, in that it`s not the same 25%, as some people suffer from halitophobia.  This documented condition affects about 1% of the UK population and is a form of OCD.  Signs include an obsession with brushing, with increased cervical wear of teeth, despite having healthy periodontal tissues (and sweet breath).

This dilemma apart, we should be using this concern to help motivate people to better health.  After all, we could do with any help to get people serious about altering their habits for the better.  So maybe we can tap into that 25% who are appropriately concerned and help them make the connection with reducing the bacterial population around their gum margins.  I would suggest just asking the question about breath as much as we might ask the question about bleeding gums, they are both equally relevant.

A simple internet search will find the few UK practices that highlight bad breath and advice about the problem.  I would like to encourage you to expand this number and help patients with problems (that they worry about mentioning) as well as help practitioners with expanding their breadth of practice.  By the way, I brush my tongue every day.

Dr John Shapter - QCS Expert Dental Contributor

Topics: Dentists


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