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Why Sunstar Gum Soft-Picks are the best educational tool for your patients

Sept. 1, 2016
Jonathan Engel, DDS, shares his experience with Sunstar Gum Soft-Picks and explains their excellent patient education potential.

"While there is still much to learn regarding genetics and the host’s ability to fight disease, one thing is evident: One must disrupt bacteria on a regular basis to help obtain excellent oral health."

First, let me state that I am a strong believer in the oral-systemic link. Gum disease is believed to be one of the most common diseases in the world. In the United States, the percentage of adults who have gum disease range from the 60% to 80% depending on the study you read. Let’s be clear about this: Any bleeding gum is diseased, whether the problem be gingivitis or periodontitis.

At over 100 years old, hygiene is the longest-running preventive health-care model in the United States today. Hygienists have not failed in their message to the public regarding the importance of excellent oral health care. The public just doesn’t care. While in some underserved communities, lack of education contributes to the health problems, the vast majority of Americans are exposed to many different types of advertising that promote products for oral health care.

While there is still much to learn regarding genetics and the host’s ability to fight disease, one thing is evident: One must disrupt bacteria on a regular basis to help obtain excellent oral health. I believe in my 34 years of providing dental care that Sunstar Gum Soft-Picks are one of the greatest tools out there to help our patients disrupt bacteria regularly.

Related: Alternatives to floss: A review of Sunstar Gum's Soft-Picks Advanced

Hygienists know how much patients hate flossing their teeth. Most patients have not been willing to spend the time to learn how to properly floss their teeth, and they complain about cutting their gums or that their gums bleed when they floss.

Let me share why I believe Soft-Picks may be the most important tool in your toolbox of oral hygiene education. During the new patient exam, before I begin the periodontal exam, I explain to the patient what the oral systemic link means to their overall health. More to the point, I explain that gum disease increases the risk of heart disease as much as smoking does. Then I hand the patient a mirror and I tell them about Soft-Picks and that their gums should not bleed when they brush, floss, or use Soft-Picks. I proceed to use a soft pick interproximally through their entire mouth. Any area that has any bleeding is pointed out to the patient. Some areas bleed so quickly and so profusely that no words are needed, but they are still told they have gum disease. It is one of the most powerful educational tools I have at my disposal.

Hygienists, if you go ahead and show your patients their bleeding gums after you have either completed a periodontal probing or performed hand instrumentation, you have already lost the battle. The patients will say you caused their gums to bleed—that it doesn’t not happen when they brush or floss (if they do so).

So let me share what I have asked my hygienists to do to better educate our patients. Before they pick up an instrument, they hand the patient a mirror and remind the patient about the oral systemic link. Then they go ahead and “soft pick” the patient’s entire mouth. This way, the message is consistent and persistent throughout the patient’s care in our office. The patient learns that the health of their mouth directly relates to their overall health. And, of course, we tie together any health issues or genetic predispositions they may have.

Related: A new 'flossophy' exposes the myths surrounding the efficacy of flossing

So, let me close with this. Because of the general ease of use of the soft pick, I have seen marked improvement in the health of my patients that use them as directed. In dentistry, excellent dental health is only possible when it is a team effort. It doesn’t matter how good a job you may do as a hygienist or I do as a dentist—if the patient doesn’t participate in excellent home care, then they increase the risk of oral disease and systemic disease involvement.

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Jonathan Engel, DDS, resides in Los Angeles. He is a 1982 graduate of the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry. His website can be viewed at