Philips: The mouth is the gateway to the body

In this interview we talk to Claudia de Graaff, Professional Marketing Manager Europe for Philips Oral Healthcare.

Philips started making light bulbs before the start of the last century!  At the beginning of this century, it had a “light bulb” moment and bought Sonicare and is now into oral health. Inspired by its purpose to improve people’s health and well-being through meaningful innovation, Philips aims to improve the lives of 2.5 billion people per year by 2030. Today its growing portfolio of innovative health technology products supports value-based care to help people make healthy choices.

Last year, Philips became an EFP partner, cementing its commitment to improving the health of the mouths of the world! “The mouth is described as the gateway to the body, because it offers clues about our overall health, with strong links tying oral diseases to other systemic diseases. So within Philips, oral healthcare is an important aspect to keep people healthy.”  She adds: “it’s also part of behavioural change because prevention is key, that’s where it all starts.”

Like the EFP, our aim is to raise awareness about the importance of gum health amongst the public and to support dental professionals with the right tools to prevent gum disease and information for their patients.

The partnership with EFP is personal to Claudia. With over 30 years in oral healthcare she knew the EFP well and wanted to partner with it when she took on her role at the company. For her, taking care of teeth after treatment is almost as important as the treatment itself. “You can treat and make people’s mouths healthy, but then it’s up to the patient to make sure that at home they continue taking care of their oral health.”

That all sounds sensible, even obvious, but it isn’t that simple.  Educating patients cannot be done alone, we need to team up. Therefore, partnerships, like the one with the EFP are so important. The need for education looms large!  The average brushing time for most people is a mere 46 seconds!  You’re supposed to do it for at least two minutes! Moreover many people forget to replace their brush heads. “The replacement rate for brush heads is only 1.7 per year whilst the recommendation is 4 times a year as brushes become worn.”

Using the right brush is important, but even more, using it in the right way. Brushing across the tooth AND the gumline, not brushing too hard, not automatically going for a hard brush because that may not be best for you.  All good advice, and from a company that flogs a range of electric toothbrushes, Claudia agrees that manual toothbrushes can be effective. “You can also achieve good oral health with a manual toothbrush, but what we find is that people find it very difficult to use a manual toothbrush for long enough, to not forget some places within their mouth so sometimes they only brush their front teeth, too hard and only the outside.”

How does Philips help change this behaviour? The range of handles of its powered brushes have a variety of settings and intensities, timers etc.  This can all help as the power brush is doing the work, the person can then concentrate on going round the whole mouth and remove more plaque. What about the cost of power toothbrushes and replacement heads, especially for people on limited budgets? “At Philips we have a wide range of options, for every patient’s budget, depending on the variety of settings, intensities and accessories. And although it is still an investment, good prevention can end up in saving money for patients. It is a change of mindset.”

Learning good habits at an early age is vital too. “We have a specific toothbrush for kids, and it starts with educating the children, so they learn to take good care of their teeth in a fun way.”  Meet Sparkly!  “Sparkly really motivates children to brush twice a day and for two minutes.  It is a nice purple friend, and the better and longer children brush they can earn some food or clothes for Sparkly.” It is really about teaching people the right habits and changing their behaviour. It’s about how to brush more effectively and to make simple changes, one day at a time. 

Making oral healthcare easy for patients is what it is all about.