Promoting good oral hygiene – a daily challenge

Drilling deeper into tooth brushing skills: Is proactive interference an under-recognized factor in oral hygiene behavior change?

Dental professionals
MO Easypick 3623

One of the challenges that the dental profession meets in daily practice is how to promote optimal oral hygiene practices to the patients. Lack of patient motivation is often stated as the explanatory factor to this challenge, while it is also suggested that more focus should be put on toothbrushing skill and technique. The authors question if skill and changing old habits have been given enough attention.

Toothbrushing is introduced at a young age, over time becoming a routine behaviour, and as such, mostly not conscious. There is a tendency to improperly estimate features associated with the routine, like overestimating the duration.

When alteration of the technique is needed, different approaches can be considered. An existing habit, like toothbrushing, may inhibit alteration of the technique in the adult individual due to the difficulty in alteration of the implicit memory. The explanation behind this phenomenon is poorly understood, but there are several aspects to consider when it comes to behaviour change. This article puts focus on behavioural skills, an essential part in the behaviour change context. In the context of toothbrushing, it means ensuring that all phases of the behavioural skill are understood by the individual, including having access to the needed devices, time and space to perform the activity and the perceived self-efficacy to brush properly.

The authors conclude that improper toothbrushing may be successfully corrected with information, motivation and awareness of specific behavioural skills. Proactive interference (an existing habit inhibiting new learning) during the toothbrushing retraining might have a negative impact on the behavioural skill, but has so far not been considered in connection with toothbrushing retraining.

A summary of a scientific article

This summary of a scientific study by Thavarajah R et al. is presented by Anna Nilvéus Olofsson, DDS, Manager Odontology and Scientific Affairs. Click here for more information.