Risk Assessment: Terminology

To understand the role of the dental healthcare provider in assessing a patient’s risk of caries, it is important to get an overview of appropriate terminology.

Risk: This is the probability that an event will occur.1

Risk Factor: This is an environmental, biological, behavioral, or social factor confirmed by temporal sequence, which directly increases the probability of a disease occurring if it is present. If this factor is absent or removed, it will reduce the probability of a disease occurring.1

Risk Assessment: This is the qualitative or quantitative estimation of adverse effects that may result from exposure to specific hazards or the absence of biologic influences. The importance of risk assessment in clinical dental practice is recognized as relevant by dental insurers.1

Risk Survey: An ideal risk assessment tool should not be time consuming or too complex for use in a busy dental practice, and the information must be gathered in an organized, methodical manner that benefits analysis. Estimating the risk, by gathering a broad range of patient data, can result in a composite assessment of factors impacting oral health. This can serve as a guide for selecting preventive measures, as well as provide an inventory of the patient’s current preventive practices to get insight into the patient’s compliance to recommendations.2