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Interview: Dentists will be recognised as oral physicians in the future

According to IDEC speaker Dr Rajiv Saini, there should be greater focus on oral health in developing countries and children’s oral health education. (Photograph: Dr Rajiv Saini)
Dental Tribune International

Dental Tribune International

Thu. 14. September 2017


Specialised in periodontology and oral implantology, Dr Rajiv Saini is an avid lecturer in both fields. He is Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Experimental Dental Science and the Journal of Clinical Periodontology and Implant Dentistry. In anticipation of his presentation on the link between oral hygiene and systemic health at IDEC 2017 in Jakarta this weekend, Dental Tribune Online spoke with him about patients’ knowledge, treatment expectations and the changing role of the dentist.

In your lecture abstract, you write that “Dentistry has experienced the greatest era in its history over the last 30 years”. Can you explain that?
Dentistry has changed a great deal in areas such as diagnosis, prevention and treatment over the last three decades. Now, we are in the era of cellular- and biotechnology-based diagnosis, novel preventative measures, such as advanced dental biofilm elimination and new treatment modalities, including artificial intelligence in dentistry.

There is increasing awareness of the link between oral health and systemic health. Where are we in this regard today?

We are in a very dynamic time! We are experiencing new scientific evidence every day that adds to the body of knowledge on the link between oral and systemic health.

Apart from affecting overall well-being, diseases such as periodontal disease have been associated with cardiovascular disease and several types of cancer. Do you think the important role dentistry plays regarding systemic health has already been recognised by the public and among policymakers?
No! The public is still very much unaware of the bidirectional impact of this strong oral–systemic connection. Regarding policymakers, I personally believe more emphasis should be given to preventative strategies rather than treatment modalities.

What are the most common misperceptions regarding oral hygiene regimen and oral health that you encounter regularly?
Many people, especially in the Asian region, believe that through regular professional cleaning they will develop sensitivity or mobility of their teeth. Secondly, people are not consistent and thorough with their oral hygiene regimen. In order to change that, I believe there should be significantly more education through the media and public campaigns.

Dentistry has continued to see a digital leap, yet many countries still experience great inequalities in basic dental care. Where will this development lead in your opinion?

We should consider it a joint effort to advocate preventative measures in the profession. In addition, there should be greater focus on oral health in developing countries and children’s oral health education.

Caught between preventative dentistry and an ever-growing demand for aesthetic procedures, what will the main challenges of the profession be in the future?

The main challenge will be balancing patients’ expectations on the one hand and necessary oral health procedures on the other. For example, dental implants are increasingly facing failure challenges owing to poor oral hygiene. More consideration should go into seeking a balance between patients’ expectations and realistic oral health outcomes.

How will the role of the dentist change? Will or should there be more interconnectedness between dentistry and medicine?
The role of the dentist has significantly changed over the last decade, and the dentist’s role and responsibility are now to maintain overall health rather than focus on oral health only.
Yes. In the years to come, dentists will play an integral part in the preservation of systemic health, and I believe, they will be recognised as oral physicians.

Editorial note: At the Indonesia Dental Exhibition and Conference, Dr Rajiv Saini will be presenting a lecture titled “Oral hygiene and systemic health” on 17 September from 11.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. in the Merak room.

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