Glossary

cognitive dissonance – Knowing one thing and doing another, or living in hope that the one thing does not apply to you.  Most smokers are true examples of cognitive dissonance.

contemplation – Acceptance that a problem exists and that commitment to a change in behavior may help reduce or remove the problem.  To reach commitment to act may take months or even years.

oral health education – The science and art of educating individuals or groups of people to learn to act and behave in a manner conducive to good oral health.  Oral health education is largely based on improving knowledge so that life skills can develop which are conducive to good oral health.  Examples would be educating individuals that tobacco use causes periodontal diseases and oral cancer, that sugar use causes caries, and that lack of oral hygiene leads to gum disease.  Life skills that can be taught may include how to avoid tobacco use, how to identify sugar-free foods and beverages, and how to practice the correct methods for plaque removal in daily oral hygiene.  Oral health education has typically been more limited to the increase in knowledge rather than behavior change itself.  Cognitive dissonance tells us that many people do things they already know they should not.  Nearly every smoker knows that tobacco use leads to heart disease and lung cancer, but smokers still choose to smoke despite having this knowledge.

oral health promotion – The science and art of helping people change their lifestyles to move toward a state of optimal oral health.  This is a very broad and encompassing definition, and reaches far beyond the bounds of the dental office.  Health promotion is typically targeted at communities or groups at risk for a disease or condition, and seeks a small degree of action by many people, irrespective of their own risk of disease.  Oral health promotion should be linked closely to general health promotion, and is delivered to schools, workplaces, community centers, etc.

oral hygiene instruction – Instruction in the correct methods to remove plaque.  Often unsuccessful, as the instruction overlooks the need and motivational elements of behavior change.

precontemplation – Not yet knowing that there is a problem, or possibly knowing there is a problem but denying it.