3 Nov 2020  •  Blog, Dental Health, Uncategorized  •  6min read By  • Amber Ojak

How to inspire positive perceptions of oral hygiene education

Amber Ojak shares her game-changing EME (Educate, Motivate, Encourage) approach to bridge the gap between your patients’ home routine and what’s taught to them in practice…

Prevention is a growing priority for the dental profession and public in the UK. There’s mounting evidence of poor dental health being linked to general wellbeing such as the onset of diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and many more.

On top of this, many patients across the UK are now struggling with their dental health due to the long period of lockdown and resulting backlog stopping them from receiving routine care and perio maintenance. Now is the perfect time to progress your hygiene appointments to help patients take care of their own oral health more effectively at home.

This doesn’t have to mean investing in expensive, state-of-the-art gadgets and technology – it’s simply by changing the way patients perceive both their oral health and the role of the dental hygienist/therapist in your practice. Consistent communication through the whole practice team will make this easier to implement.

I’ve developed the EME approach to help spark behavioural change in patients, to grow their awareness and become not only better educated but more enthusiastic and committed to their home routine. It’s a three-step, back-to-basics approach with a focus on a positive experience during their appointments at the practice and can be adopted by all members of the team.


One of the most important areas for treating periodontal disease and a standard part of any hygiene appointment is educating patients on prevention. You may feel that this is done well already in your practice, however, I really recommend stepping back and assessing the effectiveness of your current oral hygiene education programme.

Are you speaking at the right level for your patients’ knowledge of dentistry? While society is becoming more aware of their dental health, our profession is often at risk of communicating dental jargon rather than meaningful information tailored to patients. It may leave patients feeling confused about the course of action required by themselves to improve their dental health.

We need to develop our communication from saying what’s wrong and what they need to do, to explaining why their dental health is in its current state and why they need to take certain steps to stop it deteriorating.

Taking this further, providing visual and active learning for patients by disclosing teeth shows them how they need to improve their technique, rather than just sitting through a verbal lecture.

By changing our communication of oral hygiene education to properly explain why problems are developing, we are giving our patients a greater opportunity to understand the importance of prevention.


This is an area the whole team can collectively be very strong, when we all sing from the same hymn sheet.

Rewarding your patients extrinsically is often a good place to start when it comes to effectively motivating them. Our patients have unique requirements in terms of techniques and tools to support them in their home cleaning routine. Extrinsic motivation is about using these tools in practice, showing them the correct way to use them and giving them a sample to take away for use at home once they’ve mastered it.

Following up the extrinsic with intrinsic motivation will help boost your patients’ determination further. Showing them how much a certain area of their oral health has improved and why this will help them in future will encourage them to keep up the good work and buy the products they need, that were initially provided as samples, due to the results.

Effective motivation is also about following up with patients, so I recommend virtual meetings to ask how they’re getting on after their appointment. This will help boost consistency and help develop good habits.


A key part of encouraging patients that are reluctant to change their home routine or lifestyle when it comes to oral hygiene is understanding their individual circumstances.

We need to get under the skin of their reluctance so we can understand the barriers that are stopping them from taking on board the education and motivation we’ve given. This includes probing about how they feel about their dental health and how much they’ve understood your sessions.

There’s also a large element of combating deflation from patients when it comes to encouragement, particularly in those who aren’t improving as much as they want or can’t quite master the techniques. Disheartened patients are more likely to give up on what has been taught to them if they aren’t seeing immediate results.

A different facet to encouraging patients falls to the dentists at the practice. Patients trust their dentists most when it comes to dental advice and techniques, which can often mean that patients feel less confident in the advice given from other team members. Under your recommendation and communication of our skills, patients may change their behaviour and understanding of the role of the dental hygienist or therapist for the better.

We need to work together so that the hygiene appointments aren’t simply called ‘scale and polishes’. This also extends to the wider team to ensure that the right terminology is used so that patients can understand that these appointments aren’t just one-off procedures, which devalues the role of your hygienist or therapist in the eyes of your patients.

The reason why I so firmly believe in the EME approach is it’s adaptable to meet your patients’ unique requirements. It’s a long-term approach to oral health education that builds upon previous appointments, rather than ticking a box and moving on before patients have had the opportunity to master that particular element of their oral health. It will help your patients ‘Enhance, Maintain and Enjoy’ their smiles in the future.

To find out more about how to implement EME appointments in your practice, you can see the webinar with Amber Ojak in full here.

About Amber

Amber graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 2018 and is currently working in private practice, following experience with the NHS.

Amber is an ambassador for the British Society of Dental Hygienists and Therapists as well as an elected council member. She has written for Dentistry Nursing and Oral Health magazines and the journal Dental Health, among other publications.

Amber has a great passion for supporting patients in achieving dental health and for the dental profession.


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