The Case researchers visited and collected data from 120 practices in a dental research network established by the Case dental school in 1998 to have access to what dentists actually do in their practices. Researchers reviewed the practices of 124 dentists and 128 hygienists during 3,400 patient visits. The data was collected between June 2004 and September 2005.
"Preventive counseling is the major method by which people learn self care and self care can prevent the majority of dental disease," said Wotman.
According to a 2000 U.S. Surgeon General Report, some 70 percent of dental disease can be prevented through an individual's efforts to brush, floss, conduct self examinations for oral cancers and stop using tobacco products.
How this information reaches the patient is a concern for the profession.
"We believe that at the high end of preventive counseling there is a 'champion' in the office," said Wotman.
He added that from observations it usually is the hygienist, but when the hygienist and dentist battle dental disease together, the patient wins.
One of the nine studies found that a prevention procedure was performed in 78.1% of the hygienist visits compared to 14.4% of the dentist visits and prevention counseling was done in 87.7% of hygiene visits compared to 28.7% of dentists' visits.
Many people find visiting the dentist stressful, with 65% of the patients feeling some level of anxiety.
One study examined how dentists and hygienists make their patients comfortable. Some of those strategies include distractions in the office environment, verbal reassurances and relaxation techniques. The researchers reported that all dentists use some form of comfort-giving with their patients.
In April, Case will host two educational sessions where every dentist and hygienist in the study will receive a written report about their preventive practices and se
Contact: Susan Griffith
Case Western Reserve University