An Educational Approach to Cavity Prevention
Why we educate our patients about cavity prevention
Many of our patients don’t know the steps they should be following at home to prevent cavities. They may believe that just brushing once a day, or just using mouthwash is all they need. One of the best ways we’ve found to prevent cavities is by educating our patients to take control of their oral health. We actually show them good brushing and flossing technique, and then ask them to demonstrate it back to us. And we’ll make little corrections along the way. Sure, it takes a little longer, but it’s well worth it, and our patients appreciate the personalized approach.
"I make it my personal mission to show our patients not only what they need to know for good oral hygiene but also why it’s important." says Amy Nowinski, UIC dental hygienist. "I grew up being told to brush and floss, but never really understood why it’s so important. At UIC, we give patients the knowledge to understand the why, because our evidence shows they are more likely to adopt healthy habits when they understand why it’s important to their health."
Video: UIC's Approach to Cavity Prevention
Using a scientific, evidence-based approach to prevent cavities
UIC College of Dentistry uses a modern approach to dental cavity prevention called Caries Management by Risk Assessment, or CAMBRA. It is an evidence-based approach to preventing and treating cavities with a focus on catching the problem at its earliest stages, and on using actual evidence gathered from each patient’s case to tailor the treatments and preventive actions we take.
Here's how it works:
We assess what the patient already has going on in their mouth, along with their oral health history and current health status, medications and lifestyle to calculate a risk level that will determine a personalized treatment regimen. We also explain to patients that their level can change over time. The risk levels are:
- Low – doing a great job, keep up the good work, and keep up 6 month checkups.
- Moderate – same + adding over-the-counter fluoride mouthwash; recommend sugar reducing products
- High – prescribe special fluoride toothpaste, microbial reducing mouthwash
- Extreme – treatments – fillings, etc.
The goal is a low risk level of getting cavities.
Having an evidence-based risk level ahead of time allows us to tailor treatments and educational interventions in ways that best serve each patient’s particular needs. The higher the risk, the more often the patient comes in and the more opportunities there are to educate them, and tailor the approach based on new data, and responses. We give each patient a readout of their individual risk assessment data to help them understand the recommendations. And we remind them that there is always some level of risk of tooth decay – no one is completely risk free from cavities. This is because of the bacteria and acids always existing in the mouth from eating and drinking.
Did you know?
There are an estimated 300 different species of bacteria living inside our mouths, totaling a billion or more at any given time.
Read more: The True Story of Why You Get Cavities, According to a Billion Microbes
Incorporating education into the approach
We measure the results of treatments and educational intervention through patients’ response. We compare their responses to questions about how they are brushing and flossing (how often, for how long, after meals, etc.) before and after our educational interventions. We then analyze the responses, and share additional recommendations with them - along with their most recent evaluation results - to further reinforce recommended habits. Additionally, we provide recommendations on related conditions, such as dry mouth, and helpful information about risk factors such as smoking and diabetes. We also talk about possible obstacles at home getting in the way of good oral care, and ways to overcome them.
It's important that the approach is highly personalized to each patient. Along with differences in our mouth anatomy, immune response and health status, every person also has their own way of learning, so our tailored educational approach works well for a variety of patient needs and learning styles.
Preventing cavities is in your hands!
It’s never too late to start a new healthy habit! Why? Because at any age, we all want to have good quality of life, and it’s never too late to prevent future oral health problems. Our mouth health is constantly changing because of what we eat, changes in our health, and how well we take care of our teeth and gums.
At UIC, we want to help our patients take responsibility for their oral health through regular checkups, treatments, and providing them with the information to make their best decisions. Every day, new patients come in and we assess their risk for cavities. This lets us know if we should be checking x-rays for the potential beginnings of cavities, the frequency of additional checkups, and any other treatments or prescriptions needed.
At the end of the day, we want our patients to know that we’re here to help, and we understand that it can be hard to change and adopt new habits.
We take pride in seeing our patients responding to this new approach in such a positive way. Their oral health is improving, and they see it every day. And, maybe most importantly, they are eager to take responsibility for their own oral health.
Exams and preventative care
Regular dental exams are important for detection and prevention of oral diseases. During the dental exam, we will ask you about any health problems you have or medications you're taking and discuss how they might affect your oral health. If you have diabetes, for example, you're at increased risk of gum disease. We verify stability of fillings or other restorations, and evaluate your risk of tooth decay, root decay, and gum or bone disease. We will evaluate need for tooth restoration or tooth replacement, and check your bite and jaw for problems. During the dental exam, we will also look for signs of oral cancer in the mouth and throat areas. We may also take digital X-rays, or perform additional diagnostic procedures to develop a comprehensive treatment plan, which will be reviewed with you at the completion of the exam. Note: more than one visit may be needed to provide a full evaluation and comprehensive treatment plan.
Regular exams allow our dentists to keep your mouth in good shape and monitor conditions that may get worse or lead to problems elsewhere in your body. We can also share recommendations for good nutrition and oral hygiene, and provide counseling on special oral health care needs, such as tobacco cessation.
Regular cleanings help in removing the buildup of plaque and tartar, both of which can lead to cavities and gum diseases like gingivitis or periodontitis. Our hygienists will remove any stains or deposits on your teeth, and provide instruction on proper brushing and flossing. In addition to the cleaning, we can also provide a fluoride treatment to strengthen the tooth enamel against decay and reduce enamel demineralization.
University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Dentistry
We provide comprehensive, personalized and preventive dental care and education - for the whole family - to protect and improve oral health.
Through regular examination, cleanings and preventative treatments, our goal is to develop a comprehensive treatment plan to resolve dental issues in the early stages. We provide a wide range of general dental treatments for the whole family.
More about our comprehensive general family dental care services in Chicago