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Interview: “People are genuinely surprised at the illusions they had about toothbrushing”

For over 12 years, Dr Mia Girotto has been teaching and training dental professionals worldwide as part of Curaden’s hands-on iTOP training programme. (Image: Mia Girotto)
Kasper Mussche, DTI

Kasper Mussche, DTI

Wed. 29 August 2018


With an estimated 50 per cent of the European population suffering from some form of periodontal disease, and a big majority suffering or having suffered from caries at some point in their lives, it is fair to say that effectively instructing and motivating patients to achieve good oral health can be a challenge. However, with the techniques, knowledge and use of proper tools as taught in iTOP, it is possible to maintain a healthy oral hygiene regimen aimed at keeping teeth for a lifetime. To find out more about the initiative, Dental Tribune Online spoke to iTOP veteran Dr Mia Girotto, who, in addition to her activities as a dentist, periodontal specialist and implantologist, travels the world as an iTOP top-level international lecturer and instructor.

ITOP stands for individually trained oral prophylaxis. What does that mean?
First of all: iTOP is a hands-on preventative training programme for perfect toothbrushing. It was developed by Dr Jiří Sedelmayer and is now organised by Curaden. ITOP means you have to keep in mind that each person is unique, as is the setting of the teeth in that person’s mouth. So, in short, in order to get maximum oral care results, we have to get to know our patients and get them acquainted with their mouths, so that they will be able to maintain the highest possible level of oral hygiene they need, with the tools and the techniques we taught them to use. As such, visitors to an iTOP training session can expect to finally learn how to brush their teeth correctly. The “whys”, the “whats” and the “hows” are debated and put into practice. After their first iTOP session, people are genuinely surprised at the illusions they had about toothbrushing, as well as at the simplicity behind iTOP’s philosophy.

How would you describe this iTOP philosophy and what do you like about it?
The philosophy is simple: with efficient, atraumatic, adequate, regular brushing, you will be able to maintain your oral health for a long, long time!

How and when were you first introduced to iTOP?
While I was working at the University of Rijeka as an assistant at the Department of Periodontology, I met Mr Ueli Breitschmid, owner of the Curaden company, who introduced me to Dr Jiří Sedelmayer in Lucerne, in August 2006. This was when I first heard Jiří talk about iTOP, which was very appealing to me as it was the subject of my personal interest, owing to my profession and vocation. Over time, iTOP has changed my life and become a true passion.

At what kind of people are the seminars aimed?
ITOP is for everyone, but for now, the main goal is to teach the new paradigm that is iTOP to dental students and professionals first. After all, they often forget they are patients as well. Once they accept the iTOP principles as a part of their own oral health routine, it becomes logical, unavoidable even, to spread them and teach others.

Can you explain the “touch to teach” motto?
In iTOP, we believe we cannot teach the person properly if we literally don’t guide the person’s hand with the brush: we teach the correct technique, the correct pressure, the correct fitting and angulation of the brushes, etc. All these things would be rendered useless if just talked over, or just read from the book, even watched from the screen. Again, could you surf the waves in the ocean, for example, if you’ve just heard, read or seen on TV how it’s done?

It is easy to imagine what we as educated iTOP coaches need to do when you think like this: if you would like to become a top contestant in some sport, what would you need to do? The answer is, of course, lots of tailor-made, individual training, to get you to the top as soon as possible.

How important is motivation in iTOP?
Motivation is a driving force behind anything we do in our lives; motivation in iTOP is essential, as our goal is to change a default, a habit, that needs to be replaced with conscious action. As toothbrushing is a repetitive task, humans tend to form a “default”, a non-conscious action, an automated process with it, which, over time, slides back to old routines and habits, as with all other similar, repetitive actions. In order to form a new habit in an adult, let alone keep it on the perfect level, it takes a lot of support, remotivation or guidance from the professional, along with the patient’s understanding of the situation.

What advice would you give to professionals and patients?
Know that you will need patience and training, no matter how simple and easy things might look in the beginning. Nobody is perfect, and that is ok, as long as you are aware of it. Practice makes perfect, and it is not possible to change a habit (that is in some cases 40 years old or more) in only one iTOP seminar.

Lastly, how can professionals and students sign up for a seminar?
They can visit the iTOP-website for more info on iTOP seminars near their locations and just sign up from there.

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