The same old story

Do you ever have times when a piece of text all but leaps up from the page and hits you between the eyes? I had that experience recently when studying a Bible commentary.

I read ‘Repetition is the secret of the teacher’s success’ and thought it very profound in relation to dentistry. In many ways we have to be like an evangelist breaking into new territory and persuading others to share our enthusiasm.

As hygienists will know, repetition is part of our job. How many times do we have to say the same thing again and again to the same patient every six months, slightly changing the format or adding emphasis? We feel we are becoming boring but the same information needs to be reiterated, only small amounts can be absorbed and even these are quickly forgotten.

Patients rely on us to keep repeating ourselves and reminding them. Then one day we look inside their mouths and, thankfully, find the information has sunk in, they’ve come to the point when something has clicked in the brain and made sense. They have changed their technique, spent longer brushing or watched what they’re doing. It is a great feeling.

I tell my patients to think of me as their personal trainer – it sounds so much more professional. And really, we should be training them. All dental clinicians have the responsibility to teach patients how to look after their mouths and keep them healthy, thus keeping the rest of the body healthy.

If we are unable to do that, then we have to send them to someone who can. Creating a beautiful smile is not enough if the bacteria are allowed to remain undisturbed and the patient not alerted to the potential damage.

So take heart, keep reminding, repeating and encouraging. Important things are worth going over and over again.

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