Talking to Your Dentist About Risk
By Dr. Brian Nový, DDS, FADI
We talk a lot about what you can do to reduce your risk for dental disease, like brushing and flossing, eating sugar-free candy, and scheduling regular dental check-ups. Now we thought we’d tell you what your dentist will do to identify your potential risk for dental disease. At DentaQuest, we support a specific risk assessment model called Caries Management By Risk Assessment (CAMBRA). The idea behind this assessment model is to treat each patient with the type ofcare that is best for that patient as opposed to a one-size-fits-all preventive plan. Each patient is unique. The risk assessment allows your dentist (and the whole oral health team) to customize your “at home” self-care to your individual needs. For example, your dentist will determine if your oral health (or oral disease) is attributed to your saliva, certain bacteria, your diet, your tooth brushing technique, or any of the other factors that play a role in your specific health and/or disease.
As part of this, your dentist should be asking you about how you take care of your mouth. Be prepared to discuss the specific type of products you use at home, and don’t be afraid to bring your toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, and floss to an appointment - your dentist can help you determine if these are appropriate products for you. If you seem to repeatedly get cavities, you probably need a more customized plan and possibly different products. Sometimes it may mean you can simplify what you are doing at home.
A question that every dentist should be asking is, “What is your beverage of choice?” Your dentist can tell a lot about the physiology of your mouth based on what you like to drink. Patients who drink water usually are at lower risk of dental disease, while patients who drink coffee with cream and sugar all day are at an increased risk. Patients who drink energy drinks or soda throughout the day are at an increased risk too.
[Dr Nový is the Director of Practice Improvement at DentaQuest Institute, and an international thought leader in the science of dental caries management and evidence-based dentistry.]