Locus of Control

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Locus of control beliefs can be either external or internal. An external locus of control means a patient believes some force from the environment is in control of their behavior. An internal locus of control refers to the belief a person is in control of his or her own behavior. The locus of control belief is an important determinant of whether or not a patient takes responsibility for their oral healthcare. Patients with an internal locus of control are more likely to be successful in implementing changes in oral health habits and place a high value on dental health.13

Some examples of questions that might be used to assess the dental locus of control include:8

  • Do you believe the dentist or dental hygienist is the only one that can prevent cavities?
  • Do you believe by flossing your teeth you can prevent gingivitis?
  • Do you believe you can prevent the loss of your teeth?
  • Do you believe the health of your teeth is a matter of luck?

The answers to these types of questions can help the dental professional in determining whether the patient has an internal or external locus of control.