The Dental Professional's Role
Dental professionals have a unique opportunity not only to influence patients’ oral health status but also their quality of life. Understanding the relationship between oral health and systemic health allows us to assess, diagnose, and treat in a comprehensive manner rather than focusing solely on the oral cavity.
Assessments – It is imperative to ask patients about any pre-existing medical conditions, medications, and other treatments that could impact oral health. Ascertaining patient compliance to medications and therapy is also helpful information to collect.
Screening – Screening is one of the most critical steps to identify early stages of disease. Examples of screenings that can be done in the dental office include oral cancer evaluations, blood pressure monitoring, and/or bone density testing.
Education – Several organizations distribute patient handouts, videos, and other materials for patients to read or access via the Internet. The ADA and the American Dental Hygienists’ Association have online patient information (www.ada.org and www.adha.org ) and www.dentalcare.com offers more than 150 continuing education courses; patient educational materials, along with oral health instructional videos and materials customized specifically for children.
Referrals – Dental professionals should refer patients to the physician or the appropriate healthcare provider if a clinical examination or screening test suggests presence of a systemic disease.
Treatment planning – Recall frequency, treatments, and home care products can be tailored to the patient’s health status and perceived compliance.