“Brushing your teeth is an art”

Kriens, September 2013 - Prophylaxis is not as easy as people think. Many dental professionals are really happy if their patients actually use dental floss regularly and properly. There is an organization that aims to expand prophylaxis: iTOP. What is it exactly? Laura Breitschmid, responsible for iTOP, talks to Dental Tribune Swiss Edition. First published in ZWP online Switzerland, 2.9.2013

“Brushing your teeth is an art”

Ms Breitschmid, what is iTOP?
iTOP is individually trained oral prophylaxis. Training sessions and workshops are conducted in iTOP - where dental professionals meet to change people’s understanding of prophylaxis in the long term.

What needs changing?
Prophylaxis does not start at the dental hygiene practice or at the dentist’s but at home. Dental hygienists can do more than just determine whether there is any tooth decay or measure pocket depths. They can offer their patients real help by seeing themselves as a coach, for example.

How would you describe an iTOP seminar?
Specifically, this means that iTOP provides criteria and techniques that enable dental professionals to take better decisions on which instruments of mechanical plaque control are suitable in each individual case. The object is to raise people’s awareness that lifelong tooth preservation is possible. However, most people need a dental professional to guide them. Teaching all this and developing individual training in prophylaxis is what iTOP is all about.

What is it exactly?
Dental professionals first learn how to brush teeth for themselves and then they learn how to pass these techniques on to their patients. We also speak of coaching and instructing. It is also important to know how to motivate the patient. This is what you learn in iTOP.

How difficult is it to tell dentists and dental hygienists: you don’t know how to brush teeth properly?
It’s not that dentists and dental hygienists don’t know how to brush teeth. They all brush their teeth several times a day. This is why iTOP tends to ask: where and how did you learn to brush your teeth? When was the last time someone sat down with you and worked on your technique with you.

This is undoubtedly very unusual?
It is indeed. Brushing is something so basic that it’s second nature to us. Who likes to be quizzed about such a thing? Not to mention the fact that brushing the teeth after several years of studying dentistry is viewed as too simplistic. However, brushing is an art like salsa dancing.

iTOP regards itself as independent of products. Nevertheless, you always have Curaprox products there. Is not that subliminal advertising?
iTOP works with Curaprox products because they meet the high demands of iTOP instructors. It is a partnership that will apply as long as Curaprox products meet these requirements. The feedback from participants and instructors is very valuable for Curaprox who use it to continuously improve their products.

In other countries, iTOP events are fully booked up months in advance, but not in Switzerland. How can you explain that?
This is a difficult question. Workshop participants all have the same prerequisites; almost all are at the same level. So it is not that there is a greater or lesser need in certain countries. The varying frequency of the courses certainly plays a role. I do not know the exact reasons yet and it is an important part of my job to find out why it is so and to change it.

What is the current situation?
Really positive, because a trend seems to be developing in Switzerland: the seminars are becoming increasingly popular. And we are even holding events for entire dental practice teams. It seems to me that the value of the workshop for positioning, training and team building is being recognized and appreciated.

You studied history of art. What does that have to do with teeth?
Before iTOP, I thought they had nothing in common. Now I know that brushing your teeth is an art. And once you start to get involved with prophylaxis, an enormous wealth of opportunities and discussions suddenly opens up, just as it is with political culture clashes and opinions, for example on government funding or current exhibitions.

You also run an independent Art Space. Are there any similarities between iTOP and the Art Space?
Yes, operating an independent Art Space needs a vision and a belief that what you are doing is necessary. Running the Art Space takes time, effort and is very challenging.

And what about iTOP?
Actually, it’s just the same. iTOP has a vision, too, of course, and it will take time to implement this. It will not happen overnight.

The vision?
People who are interested should have the opportunity to receive coaching from dental professionals and this, in turn allows them to take responsibility for training people in oral hygiene. That is the vision. Dental hygienists can fulfil their responsibility to help their patients stay healthy to an even better degree. For me, looking after and continuously expanding an international network of forward-looking dental professionals is a very enjoyable job.

Thank you for this interview - we wish you all the best with your project!


Laura Breitschmid
Amlehnstrasse 22
6010 Kriens
Tel: +41 41 319 45 23
Fax: +41 41 319 45 90