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Dental public health    

Dental public health is basically involved in the assessment of dental health needs of the population rather than individuals and also includes taking necessary measures to improve the dental health of this population. Public health dentistry is a clinical specialty within dentistry. One of the most commonly observed dental public health issues is dental issues caused on account of fluoridation of drinking water. Another cause for concern in the field of dental public health is the use of commercial mouthwashes as there is research that shows that these mouthwashes may increase the possibility of oral cancer. Dental hygiene education also forms an important part of dental public health programs as tooth decay in the form of cavities, plaque etc are one of the most common food related dental issues that are faced by families all over which also have an economic impact as they may result in or be a side effect of diseases such as obesity, diabetes or heart disease.
Cavities are known to occur in one’s teeth on account of acid demineralization of teeth caused by particles of food that remain trapped on teeth. Dental public health programs will hence recommend that families increase the consumption of fiber rich foods such as celery as these foods force the saliva into the fissures and pits between the teeth and thereby dilute carbohydrates in the form of sugar which may be present in the trapped food, neutralize the acid in these foods and also remineralize the tooth.

Dental hygienists who are part of dental public health programs tend to provide dental hygiene care involving five steps wherein the first step would include assessing the patient which may include a clinical exam, reviewing the patient’s medical history and even an X-ray as required. Thereafter the dental hygienist and dentist will help identify the problem faced by the population and then systematically create a sequential treatment plan for successfully addressing the problem. The plan will be designed in such a manner so as to address the population’s immediate dental care needs. Once the dental public health program is implemented the hygienist and the dentists will then evaluate the progress and success of the plan to check if there are any alterations to the plan that need to be made. Usually the dental hygienist will be licensed to perform some common procedures thereby assisting the dentist, such as scaling and root planning, prophylaxis, dental sealants, providing instructions for proper oral hygiene and also administration of fluoride.

Programs aimed at addressing dental public health issues try to change the perception of the public towards oral disease and health so that oral health is also given due importance along with general health. These programs also aim to accelerate the building of scientific research and studies in the field of dental health as well as to build and effective dental health infrastructure to meet the needs of the population. Many public dental health programs also seek to reduce the disparity between sections of the population in terms if access to dental public health services. This is usually achieved by using various public-private partnerships. There are various known educational institutes that offer educational programs in dental public health which are designed to prepare dental hygienists and dentists for a wide range of supervisory, research, academic and administrative roles in the field of dental public health. The various educational programs in dental public health include Master of Public Health (M.P.H) specializing in dental public health, PhD in dental public health and even and Advanced Dental Residency Education and Community Health (ADREACH). The main purpose of any dental public health program is to improve the oral health of the population through research, education and application of public health principles.

Submitted on January 16, 2014