An open letter to my fellow dental professionals about flossing

Aug. 25, 2014
Even as the son of a dentist Dr. Ben Young didn't learn proper flossing until he became a dentist, and he believes the benefits are endless

Ever since dental school, when I first learned to floss correctlyfor myself (and I’m the son of a dentist), the incredible health benefits of this simple daily task has stayed with me. I won’t go so far as to say that flossing is the reason I became a periodontist, but I sure can say that when patients are correctly trained in the manipulation of a nine- to 12-inch string of nylon between their teeth, the benefits are consistently remarkable.

I can also say that it doesn’t matter how great the dental care for a patient has been, if he or she is unwilling or doesn’t really know how to effectively manage daily plaque control, problems often quickly recur. There is nothing that can really do what flossing does. Not even proxabrushes are a perfect substitute.

Having said all this, there is a common dental practice disconnect. Many of us have gotten tired of talking about flossing to patients who don’t seem to care. So, let me give you three ways the promotion of flossing can strengthen your dental practice.

Flossing can boost your hygiene team’s morale
Too many dental hygienists feel isolated and not really part of the dental practice. They work in their little room and you work in yours. They promote prevention, and unless you speak up, they think you promote “dentistry” or “fixing problems.” Speaking daily to patients about home care and prevention makes your dental hygienists’ tasks easier, and draws them into feeling they’re an important part of your team.

• Flossing can boost your patients’ morale
The most powerful referrals do not come from outdoor billboards, postcards, or other traditional marketing channels. They come from patients who appreciate what their dentists are doing for them. Dental practices that consistently send the message that they care more about preventing disease than fixing problems are building trust with their patient base. Think of it this way – well informed patients love to share good information with their friends and family. Showing people the best way to floss is, for most people, new information they can easily share.

• Your flossing message can set you apart
Who else in the marketplace is interested in teaching people how to floss correctly? When was the last time you saw a flossing advertisement on TV? For the most part, the most popular messages patients encounter discuss tooth brushing, toothpaste, and whitening products. From a practice-promotion standpoint, this should be good news for you because it means you have the opportunity to deliver a distinctive message, one that patients will remember came from you, and one intended simply to help them live healthier lives.

Let me leave you with this. We live in the day of social media tools and online expression, and we’ve been told that these can be used to promote our practices. The truth is that social media is most powerful when it’s used by people with no monetary incentives, who send positive messages about us to their friends. So think about the power of a simple and honest remark like this one – “Dr. Jones and her team are on fire about preventing dental problems. In fact she’s the first dentist to actually teach me how to correctly floss. I love the fact she and her team really care about helping my family stay healthy. If you’re new to our community, I strongly urge you to give Dr. Jones a call.”

Dr. Ben Young, a San Antonio periodontist, is working on his first book “The Joy of Flossing.” He welcomes contributions and input from dental professionals on its content. In addition, if you would like a simple set of instructions on how to floss correctly, please contact him at [email protected].