Alerting patients to disease risk improves dental hygiene and oral inflammation, study finds

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Alerting patients to disease risk improves dental hygiene and oral inflammation, study finds


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Communicating the risk of disease to dental patients has been shown to improve dental hygiene and oral health, according to the results of a recent study. (Photograph: George Rudy/Shutterstock)

Thu. 18. April 2019


LONDON, UK: As dentistry becomes more technologically advanced, the importance of having an informed patient continues to grow. With this in mind, a new study has found that using psychological techniques to communicate the risk of developing periodontal disease to patients improved their dental hygiene and was associated with reduced scores for gingivitis over a three-month period.

The study, which was led by a team from the Faculty of Dentistry, Oral and Craniofacial Sciences at King’s College London, tested a group of 97 adults with moderate periodontal disease who were registered patients at a London general dental practice. The participants received treatment as usual, an individualised report on their periodontal disease risk, or an individualised report plus a programme of goal setting, planning and self-monitoring based on psychological theory.

The results of the study showed that, over 12 weeks, dental plaque was reduced significantly in the two groups to whom risk of disease was communicated, but there was no change in the group who received treatment as usual. In addition, the frequency of interdental cleaning improved only in the intervention groups.

Lead author of the study Dr Koula Asimakopoulou, Reader in Health Psychology at King’s College London, said: “Our study shows that by adopting a simple psychological intervention, aided by the use of an online risk assessment tool, we can significantly improve measurable clinical outcomes and reduce initial signs of gum disease in patients seen routinely in general dental practice.”

Dr Matthew Nolan, the dental practitioner who delivered the intervention, added: “Shaping how health information is presented to our patients appears to influence their subsequent behaviour. Patients are naturally concerned about their risk of periodontal disease; we have found that coupling their concern with a structured discussion of coping strategies and simple behaviour change techniques may be a useful driving force in improving health outcomes within a routine dental consultation.”

“At a time when the best way to improve the periodontal health of the majority of people is being considered, this paper demonstrates how interdisciplinary teams of psychologists and dentists working together can deliver improvements in patients’ oral health and periodontal status,” added Dr Mark Ide, President of the British Society of Periodontology.

“Good daily oral care is a core element of achieving and maintaining good oral health, and this may have an impact on other aspects of health as well,” he concluded.

The study, titled “The effect of risk communication on periodontal treatment outcomes; A randomized controlled trial”, was published online in the Journal of Periodontology yesterday.

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