Dental materials science focuses on the study of materials used to restore or replace missing tooth structure, bone and soft tissues in relation to the maintenance of health and prevention of further disease.1 Dental professionals strive to provide quality dental health care to patients, including education on how to maintain a healthy dentition.

Dental assistants and dental hygienists frequently have contact with the patients first and are in a position to provide education to clinical patients. They often explain treatment procedures, dental materials used in these procedures and the need for the treatment planned by the dentist. Additionally, they are the primary providers of education on how to care for these newly-placed restorations.

Patient education is a necessary component for promoting long-term dental health.2 Without adequate home care, many restorations are likely to fail as long-term solutions to dental issues. Inadequate homecare around dental restorations can lead to recurrent decay, dental infections and eventual tooth loss if the decay is left untreated.3 Therefore, providing optimum dental treatment is only part of the solution. The delivery of effective education on the materials, procedures and homecare is equally important as the initial treatment. Education alone does not ensure adequate home care in all cases. Often times, patients require motivation and encouragement to change behaviors that will help improve overall health. Health education theories and motivational techniques will be discussed later in the course.