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Although dental students are well aware that a proper oral care routine is key to a healthy mouth, hands-on instruction is usually absent from the curricula. The iTOP—short for individually trained oral prophylaxis—prevention programme fills this gap, teaching students perfect oral hygiene skills and how to instruct patients and motivate them to sustain lifelong oral health. Dental Tribune International spoke to Dr Tihana Divnic-Resnik, a senior lecturer and co-ordinator at the University of Sydney. She has introduced iTOP at the university's Dental School to benefit her students, as well as their future patients.
Dr Divnic-Resnik, how would you explain iTOP to those who do not know what it is?
ITOP is a training programme for achieving optimal oral health through practical training using the most efficient, atraumatic tools and techniques. Individual prophylaxis is the main pillar of good oral health. However, correct biofilm management needs to be learnt by doing. This is necessary if dental students want to be able to instruct future patients and guarantee or maintain successful treatment results.
What was the need for iTOP in your dental faculty’s curriculum?
Dental students learn how to drill and fill teeth over many practical training sessions. When it comes to hygiene techniques, however, practical training is largely absent. It seems that students are expected to be proficient by themselves and be able to instruct patients. Without practical instruction, however, this cannot be the case.
I had also noticed that it was impossible to engage students and equip them with practical brushing skills through the traditional textbook approach. By compleenting our existing education approach with iTOP, we achieved comprehensive, cutting-edge prevention training that has improved our students’ confidence and skills in the clinical environment.
Why is iTOP’s “touch to teach” philosophy so important?
Can you learn to ride a bike by reading a textbook? The same logic applies to learning efficient oral hygiene techniques. Correct mechanical plaque control is complex and involves practice. “Touch to teach” is a unique approach to mechanical plaque control that is based on literally taking students by the hand while instructing them, teaching them perfect prevention by doing. If you are unable to perform oral hygiene correctly, you won’t be able to teach others. And if you don’t clean your own teeth perfectly, then how can you expect patients to do so?
How have the reactions of students been so far?
The profession is always moving forward. Still, both students and experienced dental professionals are often convinced that they know everything about prevention and mechanical plaque control—until they attend an iTOP course.
In the end, students appreciate being sure which tools and techniques to recommend based on the latest scientific evidence. Their patients too are grateful when our students instruct them and correct their oral hygiene techniques.
How do interested universities go about introducing iTOP?
Those who are interested in taking part in a session or setting up their own iTOP programme can visit www.itop-dental.com. There, they can learn about iTOP’s network of licensed and experienced lecturers all over the world, who are eager to assist.