Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2017 02 Augermugshotmsh

Home-care compliance: How to motivate dental patients between recare visits

Feb. 14, 2017
Amber Auger, RDH, suggests home-care products that can motivate dental patients in between recare visits.  

By Amber Auger, RDH, MPH

Dental hygienists often struggle to gain patient compliance with flossing. The American Dental Association reports that only one out of four Americans floss daily.(1) The American Academy of Periodontology concludes that nearly 27% of American adults admit to lying to their dentist about how often they floss.(2) Studies show that Americans would rather do dishes, sit in gridlock traffic and even clean the toilet before flossing!(3)

As dental professionals, it is essential that we provide our patients with effective education to keep them motivated between recare visits. Building a trusted relationship with the patient is essential in gaining optimal patient compliance for meticulous homecare.

Creating Compliance in Pediatric Patients

“Although dental caries are largely preventable, they remain the most common chronic disease of children aged 6 to 11 years and adolescents aged 12 to 19 years.”(4) Motivating children to floss is easier with products designed to meet their needs. Gum Crayola Kid’s Flossers are colorful flossers with an easy to grip handle.

Demonstrating the proper brushing and flossing techniques with the patient will help reinforce the importance of brushing and flossers will assist with technique. If the pediatric patient has poor or fair homecare encourage the parent to assist with nighttime brushing. Inform the patient that this does not mean they are not a “big boy” or “big girl” but is a way to help prevent cavities.

Creating habits

Clinical studies have shown that visualization helps people create a daily habit. Once you discuss what is inhibiting the patient from interdental care, you can suggest a solution. For instance, if the patient explains that their schedule is too busy for flossing, suggest using Soft-Piks on their lunch break or during their commute home.

Patients often feel that they need to use traditional floss to successfully clean their teeth and dread flossing so much that they neglect their interdental routine all together.

Show the patient you’ve listened

Inform the patient that it’s not uncommon for them to feel the challenges they do with interdental care. Validate the specific challenges they’ve shared. For example, if a patient shares that they do not floss due to the fact that they have tight teeth, implement active listening into specific recommendations: “I find that patients with tight teeth have the most success with…”

Advise the patient on alternatives to interdental care that won’t fray, such as a Proxabrush or a Soft-Pik. Ask the patient exactly where they struggle to clean; this will allow them to feel heard. Holding a mirror and demonstrating the product will enable the patient to visualize the proper utilization of the product at home, while allowing them to feel the correct application against the gingiva and tooth.

Products such as the GUM Proxabrush Go-Betweens Cleaners offer a 90-degree angle at the neck to allow for further control. In addition, Proxabrush Go-Betweens offer a clear cover when placed on the end of the brush extend the working handle for better access between the posterior teeth. Educating the patients on why we are recommending a specific product will increase their motivation to implement.

Keep your message consistent

Most patients do not change their home care from poor to meticulous overnight. Each time the patient returns for a visit, reinforce the importance of home care. Utilize an intraoral photo to show the patient their specific areas of inflammation, plaque, and calculus. Describe how the bacteria continues to multiply and becomes more destructive to the enamel, tissue, and bone.

If the patient has systemic factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes, inform them of the increased risk of periodontal disease. Review the specific risks the patient has to decay, gingivitis, and periodontitis, then review how the specific interdental aids, rinses, and brushes you are recommending will benefit to reduce their risks of disease.

It’s more than interproximal care; it’s disease prevention. When patients return to the dental chair, celebrate any recommendations they were compliant with. They may not be implementing consistently; however, the positive reinforcement allows the patient to feel valued and motivated for continued progress.

Amber Auger, RDH, MPH, is a hygienist with experience in multiple clinical settings, including facilities abroad. Amber obtained a master's degree in public health from the University of New England and a bachelor's in dental hygiene from the University of New Haven. She holds a part-time position at an elite dental office in Boston, and is chief of clinical technology for Jameson Management. Amber Auger is a key opinion leader for several dental companies, speaker and published author, and can be contacted at


  1. ADA News. Survey finds shortcomings in oral health habits. Available at: Accessed February 6, 2017.
  2. Perio.Org. More Than a Quarter of U.S. Adults are Dishonest with Dentists about How Often They Floss Their Teeth. Available at: Accessed February 6, 2017.
  3. NPR. Are you flossing or just lying? Available at: Accessed February 6, 2017.
  4. CDC. Dental Caries. Available at: Accessed February 6, 2017.
  5. G.U.M. Crayola Flossers. Available at: Accessed February 6. 2017.