COMMENTARY

Dentists and Prevention: A Key Role

Marjorie Jeffcoat, DMD

Disclosures

March 28, 2012

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Hello, this is Dr. Marjorie Jeffcoat coming to you from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Today I would like to talk to you about prevention. In 1999, the CDC came up with a landmark report[1]that looked at the 20th century and the 10 most important improvements in public health that occurred. These included things you would expect: polio vaccine, for example; antibiotics; and other huge improvements. What we forget, even as dentists, is that on that list was water fluoridation. This was a huge achievement and one we must be proud of.

Even with something as established as fluoride for the prevention of dental caries, our landscape has changed since water was first fluoridated in 1945. Fluoridation resulted in a 70% decline in caries in children. But things have changed, as things always change. For example, some parents are feeding their babies and their children bottled water that has no fluoride, whereas other parents get a prescription for fluoride from both their pediatrician and their dentist, resulting in twice the amount of fluoride their children receive. Keep an eye on the amount of fluoride your patient is getting because healthy children are our goal.

More recently (and unrelated to fluoride treatment), new issues have come to light concerning the relationship between systemic disease and oral disease, and emerging evidence has shown that treating dental disease results in less severe and less expensive systemic disease in conditions such as diabetes. We can cut the cost and we can cut the severity [of these complications], which is a really good thing. If these findings hold up over the next few years, we hope these links will make the next CDC report. Remember, one thing about prevention is sure: Dentists have a role to play and dentists should embrace that role. This is Marjorie Jeffcoat coming to you from the University of Pennsylvania.

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