Identify, Restore and Protect: Personalized Care for Your Caries-prone Patients is Fast and Easy with Fluoride-releasing Solutions

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Disclosure: We value transparency at Today’s RDH. This article is sponsored content from 3M Oral Care as part of our sponsored partner program.

As a dental hygienist, you are constantly assessing caries risk. What’s often missing is comprehensive and personalized patient engagement. Building trust with patients, empowering them to take control of their oral health, and educating them about their current situation and treatment plan can help to increase compliance. Earning a patient’s confidence establishes the foundation from which you can build a successful, fluoride-based treatment plan.

To support you throughout the assessment and treatment phases, we’ve identified three steps to help you make the most of the management plan you create with your patients―along with three fast and easy treatment solutions that each incorporate fluoride. Together, these strategies and applications will help to protect even your most vulnerable patients from their caries-causing habits.

Three Steps to Optimize your Treatment Plan

    1. Establish the risk level. Start by asking your patients open-ended questions about their family history, self-care, dietary habits and exposure to fluoride―without making them feel judged or reprimanded. Through these discussions, along with your observation of what’s happening in the mouth, you should be able to quickly identify whether the patient is at a low, medium or high caries risk. Some examples of the types of questions to ask are:
      • What is the hardest part for you when it comes to oral hygiene?
      • If you could make one part of your daily routine easier, what would it be?
      • What long-term goals do you have for your teeth and mouth?
      • Can you see yourself brushing twice a day for two minutes?
      • You have had cavities in the past. Tell me why you think that happened?
      • or Mrs. X, please tell me what you do to take care of your teeth?
      • Why would you want to make this change in brushing habits?
      • If you did decide to make this change, how might you go about it in order to succeed?
      • How important is it for you to prevent white spot lesions on your teeth, on a scale from 0 to 10, 0 is not at all important, and ten is extremely important?
      • Follow-up question: And why did you choose___ rather than a lower number?
      • Summarize and ask one final question: So, what do you think you will do?


  1. Create a management plan. After determining the patient’s risk level or disease status, use clinical evidence to describe caries to your patient, and explain about their own case situation. Third-party credibility is necessary to build trust and add scientific background to what patients are learning about themselves; it helps them to understand caries as a disease and shows that you’re not just sharing an opinion. As you transition to the treatment discussion, ask for patient participation and let it guide your conversation. Utilize a visual risk assessment form to empower and engage patients with the management plan; this makes them feel more in control and less like they’re being told what to do. 3M Oral Care offers a complimentary Risk Assessment Form. Download here:
  2. Maintain the plan. Documentation and follow-ups are the most crucial parts of maintaining a treatment plan. If a patient isn’t seeing the same hygienist every time he/she comes in, the plan could fall by the wayside if documentation isn’t there, or if the next clinician doesn’t check in. Document everything. Follow-up with patients at each appointment to ensure that they’re staying on the track to better oral health. And, continue asking open-ended questions about their efforts and progress. It can be as simple as inquiring, “How have you been addressing your risk for getting cavities?” Ultimately, they need to know that we support them throughout treatment and are here for them if they do end up in trouble.

Comprehensive care for caries-prone patients doesn’t have to be time-consuming. With restoration and protection solutions that incorporate fluoride, just three simple steps will make enamel more resistant to acid attack from plaque bacteria, sugars and acidic foods and beverages. This will treat a patient’s current caries and protect against new tooth decay. Give your patients extra care with both in-office and in-home fluoride treatments.

Three Fluoride-based Solutions to Treat and Prevent Decay

  1. Restore with a fluoride-releasing glass ionomer restorative. When treating a patient with caries, choose a fluoride-releasing restorative for extra protection. Select a restorative that’s strong and easy to place, like 3M™ Glass Ionomers, which fit a range of patient situations and support both esthetics and efficiency.
  2. Protect with a professional fluoride treatment. Frequent in-office fluoride applications are a powerful tool in delivering strong acid resistant tooth mineral to prevent hypersensitivity. While it takes seconds to apply the varnish on a wet surface, it shows the patient that you’re invested in their oral health. The #1-selling fluoride varnish in the U.S., 3M™ Vanish™ White Varnish is formulated for both advanced protection and extended release, providing long-lasting protection by releasing fluoride, calcium and phosphate for up to 24 hours.
  3. Mineralize with anti-cavity toothpaste. Send your patients home with protection that’s as simple as brushing. 3M™ Clinpro™ 5000 Anti-Cavity Toothpaste is a fluoride-containing prescription toothpaste that re-mineralizes and strengthens teeth, helping prevent caries and even reverse white spot lesions. When you prescribe a toothpaste like Clinpro 5000 to a patient, let them know how many times a day they should use it based on their risk level, how much they should be using, and share about how it will help strengthen their enamel. If they seem concerned, let them know that the taste is mild and appealing to most patients.

Prioritizing patient engagement and fluoride-based prevention and treatment solutions benefits everyone involved. When a patient feels genuinely cared for, they’re more likely to refer patients and come to you first if they have questions or need further treatment. This results in improved patient success and personal job satisfaction; not to mention that it’s also great for business!

For more information on fluoride products or implementing a caries risk assessment protocol, refer to the 3M Oral Care website and their Caries Management by Risk Assessment (CAMBRA) resources.


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