Today’s dentists work more like repairmen, fixing our teeth when they are damaged. Ana Stevanović, Head of Professional Education at Curaden, hopes that future dentists will no longer need to act in this role. The dentist of the future should become more of a teacher, and dental caries should become a thing of the past. In this interview, Ana talks about the everyday challenges of educating dentists and the public.

Why did you decide to study dentistry?
I come from a family of engineers and grew up with our family business, which was run by my father and now my brother. I was always crafting things with my hands, and I was fairly good at it. Dentistry allowed me to combine a passion for healing people with a love for manual work.

“Dentistry allowed me to combine a passion for healing people with a love for manual work.”

You’re the Head of Professional Education in Curaden. What do you do?
Most of my days include strategy, development and implementation of educational programmes in different countries, growing our team of educators and advancing collaboration with professional organisations. I work equally with professors and students; sometimes I lecture on different topics in dentistry or provide feedback on product development. The great thing about being a dentist in a dental company is that you can literally do everything. This is particularly true when you understand the essence, which for us is education.

Why is education so important for Curaden?
Curaden is built on a foundation of education; our success comes from it. The father of our CEO, Hans Breitschmid, used to be a dental technician. In addition to organising courses for dental professionals, he was operating his own dental depot at the same time. His son (and our current CEO), Ueli Breitschmid, continued in Hans’s footsteps until, 25 years ago, he entered into a partnership with another dentist, Dr Sedelmayer. Together, they revolutionised preventive dentistry by developing both a unique educational system and an amazing line of products to complement it. Today, we organise more than 250 courses a year in more than 50 countries worldwide.

How are the courses structured?
The core part of our courses is hands-on – we call it Touch to Teach. As the founder of iTOP, our educational programme, Dr Sedelmayer always says that you can’t learn good brushing technique from a book. Like every other area of dentistry, it has to be practised and repeated; it also must be guided by professionals and adaptable to individual needs. So, although we start the training with learning some theory, the second half is always reserved for Touch to Teach, where dental professionals can practise the techniques with one another. This approach is unique in dentistry, and it’s what sets Curaden apart from other dental companies.

“The hardest part of the job is that we are in the prevention business, where everyone believes they already know everything that needs to be known.”

What is the hardest part of this job?The hardest part of the job is that we are in the prevention business, where everyone believes they already know everything that needs to be known. As professionals, we’ve been taught that prevention is easy, and that a few hours dedicated to the topic are all that should be needed. We tend to become humble only when it comes to what we perceive as other, more impressive areas of dentistry: digital dentistry, implantology, etc. But, since we’ve managed to persuade more than 20,000 dental professionals worldwide to come and spend a full day (sometimes even four full days) and practise prevention with their colleagues, I guess we are doing a good job. It can be challenging to deal with the perception of the general public that it is the responsibility of parents to teach their children oral hygiene, and that their knowledge is sufficient to do so. And this is something that even professionals will often let slide, too.

What do you consider your personal mission?
I want to live in a world where caries and periodontal disease are the exception, not the rule. Why shouldn’t this be possible? These are preventable diseases. I see my mission as contributing to a world where every dental office represents a place for coaching and aesthetic work, not only for damage repair.

“We’ve managed to persuade more than 20,000 dental professionals worldwide to come and spend a full day (sometimes even four full days) and practise prevention with their colleagues.”

Many people today are avoiding dentists. Is it possible to change their minds and reverse the trend?
People have learned to see a dental surgery as a place of discomfort and pain. We have to start from a young age, by helping kids to see the dental professional as a teacher. We also need to foster good habits in them concerning oral hygiene, and get them to visit dentists more often just for training and fun. On the other hand, we also have to work on educating new generations of dentists to see themselves as doctors in the original sense of the word: ‘docēre’ means ‘teaching’ in Latin.

Curaden’s main claim is ‘better health for you’. What’s the link between oral health and general health? What health problems can be prevented through proper oral hygiene?
This connection is a two-way street. If, for example, you have a patient with diabetes that is not being controlled by medication, the health of the mouth will worsen. On the other hand, periodontal disease is correlated with many health issues (coronary diseases, for instance). Recent studies have found that some mouthwashes can affect microbiomes in the mouth and increase blood pressure. The mouth is connected with the rest of our body, and it is time for us to start observing the full picture. There is no oral health and overall health; there is health, period. Good oral health habits, based on mechanical plaque control, can improve the health of the rest of our body.

“There is no oral health and overall health; there is health, period. Good oral health habits, based on mechanical plaque control, can improve the health of the rest of our body.”

What are the things that people usually misunderstand about their oral hygiene?
People still believe that genetics is the cause of everything wrong with their health or teeth. It is not. Of course, genetics plays a role to some extent, but please remember: a clean tooth cannot get sick. And the second most common misbelief is that a harder toothbrush cleans better. Biofilm is soft and should be cleaned with a soft toothbrush; once it has turned into dental calculus, you need a dentist, not a harder toothbrush.

What should PROPER oral hygiene entail? What should we be doing on a daily basis for optimal oral hygiene?
In the 21st century, proper oral hygiene has to include interdental brushes. Proper daily practice includes taking the time to brush with a normal toothbrush, but also using interdental brushes, which are measured to fit our interdental spaces, once a day. Some would probably argue that flossing is better than nothing, but if our goal is to define proper oral hygiene, interdental brushes have to become a standard in everyday practice. I admit, I go a step further: along with daily brushing with a CS 5460 toothbrush and using CPS prime interdental brushes, right next to my bed is my single brush. So whenever I watch a film, I use it. It’s a great habit that can be practised anywhere – from being in a plane to sitting in the car at traffic lights. Forget the bathroom!

You’ve mentioned your daily ritual, but what’s your favourite CURAPROX product? My hero is the interdental brush. It saved my gums, and it is something I cannot imagine going a day without. My bed buddy is my single brush. I love its simplicity and effectiveness. I love them both, but if I absolutely had to choose, my choice would be the interdental brush.

Photography by Lousy Auber

From our member shop