Partners in Care: A Survey of Health Promotion and Patient Education in the Modern Practice of Dentistry
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Dental caries are now an extremely common disease, affecting most people by the time they reach adulthood. Though one may view the wide prevalence of this disease as indicative of its inevitability, the nature of the disease suggests otherwise. Dental caries arise from the demineralization of tooth tissue, wherein the layers of tooth tissue become eroded, posing a danger to the nerve and blood vessels within the tooth. Demineralization occurs through the metabolic activities of a group of bacteria, collectively known as Mutans Streptococci (MS), which colonize the tooth surface. When a dental carie forms as a result of tooth demineralization, a dentist typically restores the tooth tissue; however, even the best restored tooth is inferior to the durability and natural structure of non-restored teeth. For dentists interested in maintaining the oral health of their patients, it is of fundamental interest for such dentists to focus on preventative efforts by their patients against the development of dental caries. As dental caries are a multifactorial bacterial disease with a strong behavioral component, steps such as improved methods of oral hygiene, the integration of fluoride, and an improved diet can decrease the likelihood of developing dental caries. As such, dentists should empower their patients with the tools required to learn to improve their oral health and to develop appropriate hygiene habits. Through the use of proven methods of patient education, such as communication techniques, dietary counseling, and motivational interviewing, such empowerment can prevent the future development of dental caries. The goal of this discussion is to examine the possible role of dentists as key figures in the Saketkhou 5 prevention of dental caries. The dentist of today is responsible for not only responding to the development of dental caries (including, when necessary, the performance of restorations) but also for educating and empowering patients to take the steps required to decrease their likelihood of developing dental caries.
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