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Introduction to Prevention

What is Prevention?

Prevention is any effort taken to deter the development or continued expansion of oral diseases. Brushing your teeth allows you to remove dental plaque, a film on your teeth that contains harmful bacteria. Removing plaque can prevent the development of cavities. When you brush your teeth, you are employing a primary preventive intervention to diminish the influence of a known risk factor such as dental plaque in an effort to prevent the occurrence of oral diseases such as dental decay or gum disease.

Risk Factors

As mentioned, many oral diseases have more than one risk factor. For example, risk factors for dental decay include the accumulation of dental plaque, an unhealthy diet high in sugars, and dental enamel that is susceptible to dental decay.

Primary Prevention

It is possible for you to help prevent the occurrence of dental decay by modifying the previously mentioned risk factors. These modifications could include practicing good oral hygiene, eating a healthy diet, and improving the ability of your teeth to resist decay through the application of fluoride. These are all forms of primary preventive interventions.

Screening for Risk Factors

For you to practice prevention you need to know which risk factors you have and the significance of these risk factors. Part of the responsibility of your oral health care provider is to screen you for risk factors and assess their relative importance during oral examinations. Once this is done, you will be in a position to discuss what steps can be taken to eliminate or lessen the effects of your risk factors and help prevent the development of oral disease. Therefore, visiting your oral health care provider regularly, to be examined for risk factors is important!

Sometimes public health officials purposely screen populations for risk factors and provide primary preventive interventions to reduce the burden of oral disease in that population.