How to give a good Oral Hygiene Instruction (OHI) – for the lay person

Help people

You are, probably, an ‘oral (mouth) health professional’ or an individual who is just interested in helping others achieve an optimum level of the health of the mouth through simple education. Either way, I see giving OHI as a way of creating value for others – trying to provide simple solutions to everyday challenges. Actually, helping people this way is very important because people around the world suffer embarrassment, loss of function, miscarriages, certain diseases and, even, die because of problems related to the cleanliness of the mouth. Surprised? But that is the truth! Inadequate cleanliness of the mouth has been linked to diseases of the heart, miscarriages, heart attacks, blood sugar problems, and so on.

Promote health of the mouth

In recent times medical authorities are realizing more than ever before that there is the need to empower people to take informed decisions concerning their own health. It is this power that you transfer to your patients or clients when you give OHI.

OHI

Giving OHI is the practice of teaching people how and why they should keep their mouth clean. If you are not a trained ‘oral (mouth) health professional, you may need to learn the basics of keeping the mouth clean in order to be able to give OHI.

How to give OHI

People you give OHI to are more relaxed when they know who they are talking with. Because of this, the first step in dishing out OHI is to let your listener know you. Introduce yourself. If it is in a clinic setting, it would be good to talk about your authority by saying something like: ‘Good afternoon Mrs. Sadiq My name is Joyce. I’m the person assigned to talk to you about your mouth’ or ‘Hi, my name is David; may I have your attention for a moment?’ Just anything nice and courteous that introduces you and the activity you want to carry out to your client will be sufficient.

After this introductory formality, you may now give the OHI.

In giving the OHI, you need to talk about:
• Common diseases of the mouth and ways of preventing them
• The strategic place of the cleanliness of the mouth in the prevention of common diseases of the mouth
• The common materials in the neighbourhood that are used in cleaning the mouth
• The ideal tooth brush
• Type of dentifrice (paste or powder) to use (fluoride-containing)
• The correct way of brushing the mouth
• How long it should take to clean the mouth
• How many times the mouth should be cleaned in a day
• The periods of the day one ought to clean the mouth
• Care of the cleaning material(s)
• How to care for the tongue and lips
• Use of dental floss silk
• Use of ‘self-cleansing’ fruits as desserts
• Diet
• Where and when to seek help for mouth problems
• How often one should go to the dental (mouth health) clinic, for check up and professional mouth cleaning, in a year
• Any other information you feel is relevant to your client and his mouth condition

Toothbrushing demonstration

It is universal best practice to make the client show you how they clean their mouth. If it is possible, give a mouth model and a demonstration brush to the client for them to demonstrate their practice. If the pattern is good, consolidate it. If it is not, teach the correct pattern.

Simplicity

Keep the information you pass as simple as possible; and make the whole process conversational and interactive. Formal presentation of OHI can be, to say the least, very distressing and intimidating.

Informed Instruction

Last, but not the least, you need to come to the ‘OHI table’ armed with the right information about your client. For example
1. Knowing the client’s name enables you to greet them by name.
2. When you know why your patient or client came to the clinic, you will be able to plan a balanced session that will address their most pressing mouth care needs.
3. Knowing their age tells you to incorporate some spices that are relevant to people in their age group into the instruction.
4. Knowing they wear an artificial device in their mouth or are pregnant helps you to teach them about caring for the device or their baby’s mouth.
5. Knowing they suffer particular health challenges helps you plan for a holistic instruction that will assuage their discomfort or symptoms and facilitate improved quality of life for them.

Keep in mind

When next you have an OHI client before you, remember this piece. Make the session a rewarding one, worth looking forward to, during subsequent visits.

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