I graduated hygiene school with all of the enthusiasm in the world! I really felt like I was going to save Americans from this horrible oral health crisis. Then I started working in the real world. I began to see patients that asked me questions that I had NO idea how to answer. I felt panicky, confused and frustrated. I had little knowledge beyond brush, floss, and fluoride.
I remember one time in particular I had a patient with excellent oral hygiene. She had great probe readings, little plaque and LOTS of cavities. She did not have any of the typical causes of decay (heavy soda drinking, etc.) She was so frustrated, and I was too. I went to another hygienist and presented her with my findings, she replied, “she must just have weak teeth.” The patient had no trace of congenital problems with teeth formation and I couldn’t accept the idea of “it must just be the way it is for her.”
I went home and began to research everything I could from dental journals, books and hygiene message boards. That is when I really started learning about the benefits of xylitol. There are actually over 2000 studies that have been conducted. It has the ability to drastically reduce decay (around 70 percent) and cut down plaque (50 percent,) which is more than patients usually remove by brushing.
I learned about how other countries use it in their schools but we are a little bit behind in the U.S. I also learned that when mothers had enough exposures to xylitol their babies had a huge reduction in decay because cavity-causing bacteria were not being passed.
I was so excited about xylitol and found my patients really shared my enthusiasm. I had great compliance and saw great results. I find that hygienist are not offering xylitol to their patients because of various barriers. Below are a few solutions to those barriers.
Lack of Knowledge: A lot of hygienist don’t feel confident talking about a product that they don’t know a lot about. I would recommend brushing up on the topic. I love Trisha O’heirs writing on the subject. Check out her article in dental town HERE.
Here at Hygiene Edge we have also created a FREE informational handout for to give to your patients as well HERE.
Accessibility: I’ve heard from hygienists that they don’t like having to send their patients to the health food store or on online to get xylitol. A resolution to this is do what my office does and carry the product in-office. It was hard to keep on the shelves! We mostly sold the Spry 30 day system from Xlear. I’ve also personally been really impressed with Xyloburst’s selection of products; especially the suckers for kids!
Exposures: One barrier for hygienists is that the patients have to get five exposures throughout the day. This sounds like a lot but think of the concept of simply replacing out their existing gum/candy habit. A lot of already snack and chew gum so simply swap it out with the products they are using. I tell my patients to “Strive For Five”!
Expense: The beauty of having xylitol in your office is that you can lower the price a little bit. Xylitol is definitely more expensive than gum with sorbitol and other sugars but it’s a LOT cheaper than a cavity and precious tooth structure. I always let my patients decide and most are willing and grateful to try something “new.”
It will take some work but you too can create an anti-cavity protocol for your office that will benefit your patients long term.