Dental public health
Dental public health (DPH) is a non-clinical specialty of dentistry also known as Community Dentistry.
One of the controversial subjects relating to dental public health is fluoridation of drinking water. Commercial mouthwashes have also been a cause for concern, with some studies linking them to an increased risk of oral cancer.
There seems to be a lot more that can be done to help individuals prevent tooth decay based on what is already known.
Even with fluoridation and oral hygiene, tooth decay is still the most common food – related disease affecting all families, having the economic impact of heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
However decay is easy to prevent by reducing acid demineralisation from food left on teeth, neutralising acid after eating, or at least twice a day chewing a special form of toothpaste before or after brushing.
All cavities occur from acid demineralisation of teeth where chewing leaves food trapped on teeth. Though more than 95% of trapped food is left packed between teeth after every meal or snack, over 80% of cavities develop inside pits and fissures in grooves on chewing surfaces where the brush and fluoride toothpaste cannot reach.
Fissure sealants painted over chewing surfaces blocks food being trapped inside pits and fissures and changed to acid helping prevent acid demineralisation and tooth decay about as much as fluoridation where over 80% of cavities occur. Sealants forced inside pits and fissures under chewing pressure penetrate deeper inside chewing surfaces where food is forced under chewing pressure where brushing cannot reach as seen with a glass model of a fissure.
Chewing fibre like celery after eating helps force saliva inside pits and fissures and between teeth to dilute carbohydrate like sugar in trapped food, neutralise acid and remineralise tooth better than chewing gum that cannot absorb or expel saliva.
Chewing toothpaste before or after brushing would help fluoride remineralise susceptible tooth surfaces between teeth and inside pits and fissures where brushing cannot reach.
Public health dentistry, dental specialty concerned primarily with prevention of dental decay and of periodontal disease (disease of the tissues surrounding the teeth). Public health dentistry is practiced generally through governmentally sponsored programs, which are for the most part directed toward public-school children in the belief that their education in oral hygiene is the best way to reach the general public. The pattern for such programs in the past was a dentist’s annual visit to a school to lecture and to demonstrate proper tooth-brushing techniques. The 1970s saw the emergence of a more elaborate program that included a week of one-hour sessions of instruction, demonstration, and questions and answers, conducted by a dentist and a dental assistant and aided by a teacher who had previously been given several hours of instruction. Use was also made of televised dental health education programs, which parents were encouraged to observe.
On a larger scale, public health dentistry has been concerned with the improvement of oral health in large populations. Thus, the fluoridation of municipal water supplies in the mid-1940s resulted from research studies conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service. This service is also involved in the delivery of dental care to specialized populations, including Native Americans on reservations, as well as the Eskimo population of Alaska.
Scope of the dental public health
Major areas of dental public health activity include:
- Oral health surveillance.
- Assessing the evidence on oral health and dental interventions, programmes, and services.
- Policy and strategy development and implementation.
- Strategic leadership and collaborative working for health.
- Oral health improvement.
- Health and public protection.
- Developing and monitoring quality dental services.
- Dental public health intelligence.
- Academic dental public health.
- Role within health services.
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