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Dental students often only learn about the theoretical side of preventive oral health. The iTOP training programme at universities offers students the opportunity to develop practical oral hygiene skills to pass on to patients. (Image: Aditi Chopra)

“Mere theory does not benefit patients”—Putting prevention into practice with iTOP

By Curaden
October 28, 2020

ITOP, short for individually trained oral prophylaxis, is a training programme for achieving and maintaining perfect oral health. Aimed at dental students and practising professionals, the programme teaches atraumatic and efficient practical oral hygiene skills to pass on to patients. Indian periodontist Dr Aditi Chopra has introduced iTOP as part of her curriculum in the Department of Periodontology of the Manipal College of Dental Sciences in India, where she is a researcher and reader.

Dr Chopra, why did you decide to introduce iTOP in your department?
The programme provides a valuable blend of prevention theory and practical clinical skills, so it will help our students to educate and motivate their patients to achieve and maintain good oral hygiene. We want our students to become skilled clinicians who know about the latest advancements in their field when it comes to prevention.

In each iTOP session, students learn the correct oral prevention tools and techniques through hands-on practice. (Image: Aditi Chopra)

Many of the students thought that iTOP was going to be like any other theoretical lecture or clinical discussion, so they were pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be really hands-on. The programme is all about chairside demonstrations and practical training sessions, during which students learn the most effective and atraumatic brushing and interdental cleaning techniques. The students especially enjoy demonstrating brushing techniques on one another. Also, the practice sessions always take place under the supervision of experts, which helps to correct mistakes individually.

Why is iTOP’s “touch to teach” philosophy so important?
It is important to understand that mere theory does not benefit patients. Unless we literally take our patients by the hand and show them how and where to clean, even the best treatment can result in a poor outcome.

It is important to supervise patients and correct their mistakes while brushing and cleaning interdentally. Nothing can ever replace real human contact between teacher and student. Therefore, it is essential to touch in order to demonstrate the correct oral hygiene tools and techniques.

Why is it important that dental students attend iTOP?
Students are the clinicians and educators of tomorrow! Since all our students will be treating patients from their third year of their undergraduate studies, iTOP is a great way to raise awareness about preventive measures and the gingiva–general health connection among our students.

Thanks to iTOP, they also learn practical brushing and interdental cleaning skills to pass on to patients. Patients with good oral hygiene will have a better prognosis and better treatment outcomes. We’ve also noticed that, when patients receive practical instructions, they in turn pass it on to their family members and friends.

How do you think introducing students to the iTOP philosophy can help them be more prevention-minded as dentists?
I think introducing iTOP at an early stage of dental education helps students to understand the importance of oral hygiene and realise the importance of gingival health, supportive periodontal therapy, home care by the patient and, most importantly, patient education.

ITOP teaches correct mechanical plaque control exactly so that dental professionals can help to disseminate that knowledge to their students, peers and families. A well-trained clinician will be able to educate and motivate patients in a friendly and effective manner to achieve good oral hygiene, satisfaction and general well-being.

Editorial note: Dental professionals who wish to take part in an iTOP seminar can check out the dates and locations for a nearby session here.

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