© Diana Vyshniakova | Dreamstime.com
Dreamstime M 140658826

Product accessibility: Setting up our patients for success

Sept. 24, 2020
Stocking carefully-chosen items in the dental office can greatly increase compliance and help patients feel taken care of. Here's why.

How many times a day do we make product recommendations to our patients? Whether it be for whitening products, toothpastes, or dry mouth remedies, our patients are always looking to us for answers. It is our job as hygienists to stay current, but our obligation does not stop there. We not only answer our patient’s questions on products they are looking for, but we also recommend products that our patients need to improve their oral health.  Most of the time our recommendations are around ways to battle xerostomia, how to introduce more fluoride to combat decay, and interdental cleaning. It is important that we set our patients up for success by stocking these items in our office.

When I was in hygiene school, I do not remember making a lot of product recommendations to my patients. At most, I may recommend a sensitive toothpaste when needed. But once I got into practice and established my patient base, I realized just how often I was either answering patient questions on products or recommending them to improve patient’s oral health. It is important that we understand the importance of stocking, within reason, some of the products we are recommending to our patients. Now, understandably, we cannot stock every sensitive toothpaste or over-the-counter whitening agents we may recommend. But there are some items that we really should stock in the office so that our patients can take them home and begin using them right away.

One of the top products we should consider stocking in the office is our prescription-strength fluoride toothpaste. It is understandable that offices would not want to buy the product and have it expire before being able to sell it all. However, many of these products have an expiration date of close to two years, and if you start small with ordering, offices should be able to avoid wasting products. We must keep in mind that if we give our patients a prescription to then take to a pharmacy, the likelihood of them following through with that is slim. When it comes to prescription toothpaste we are recommending that for our high-caries risk patients, we want to make it as easy as possible for them to begin using the product.

Another benefit to having the toothpaste in stock is that you can give direct instructions on how to use the product. It is imperative that our patients use the product as directed or it will not be as effective as we need it to be. It is hard enough for our patients to remember what we tell them in the office, much less if they must drop a prescription off at a pharmacy to then pick up a few hours or days later. And lastly on the fluoride, it is important to keep in mind that pharmacies may not be filling exactly what you have recommended for your patients. I was recently listening to A Tale of Two Hygienists episode Steve Pardue with Elevate Oral Care mentioned that several pharmacies often buy the generic versions of the prescription toothpastes. This is a great point to keep in mind. By stocking our offices with the prescription toothpaste we recommend, we can be sure what they are getting.

The other product worth keeping in the office would be a dry mouth product. Now I realize that there are a ton of options when it comes to attempting to alleviate xerostomia but offering various forms of xylitol in the office is a great start. I remember having so many patients ask me about dry mouth relief, and I would make a couple of recommendations, and write them down for them, but honestly, most of them probably didn’t follow through with purchasing. And we all know how intimidating the dental aisle can be with options. So, I would encourage you to investigate some xylitol options that you can offer your patients and stock those products to help your patients find the relief they need.

Lastly, I would highly recommend stocking your offices with interdental cleaning options for patients. I found myself often working with patients who suffered from dexterity issues on interdental cleaning. One option I often recommended for my patients was Sunstar GUM’s Soft-Picks. These were great options for not only patients with dexterity issues, but my patients in orthodontics. Because the office I worked in at the time kept Soft-Picks in the office, I was able to show my patients how to use them and send them home with some. I believe this makes all the difference in the world when it comes to patient compliance.

As hygienists, we are all already such advocates for our patients, this is just one more way we can help meet their oral health needs. It can be helpful to have a hygienist in your office or on your team take on the role of ordering some of these products in small batches to ensure products are not wasted. I think that you will find when you start stocking your office with some of the products you recommend, patient compliance is increased and ultimately so is the patient’s oral health. I strongly believe that stocking certain products in your office conveys the importance and belief you, as a clinician, have in the use of those products and your patients will be incredibly grateful for your commitment to their oral health.