Despite Dentists' Urging, Many Don't Take Proper Care of Teeth

Even 'behavior management techniques' can't get people to brush and floss the right way

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SATURDAY, April 28, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- There's limited evidence that so-called behavior management techniques help dentists convince patients to brush and floss their teeth properly.

That's the conclusion of British researchers who reviewed four previous studies that included a total of 344 people with periodontal (gum) disease.

In one study, patients attended five 90-minute groups sessions about proper care of their teeth and gums, while two other studies required patients to meet with psychologists to discuss periodontal care. In the fourth study, patients called or visited a periodontist twice a week.

The review authors noted that there were flaws in how these studies were conducted, which made it difficult to draw any firm conclusions.

"We need better-quality trials assessing the effects of psychological interventions to improve people's oral health. I also think we need broader research on the benefits of the application of psychological theory to dentistry, as I believe it has a great deal to offer," review co-author Dr. Peter Robinson, professor of dental public health at the University of Sheffield in England, said in a prepared statement.

"Dentistry has worked really hard at trying to educate patients to get them to change behaviors, but we have been a bit old-fashioned. We have tended to think that if we give people information, their attitudes and behaviors should change. In fact, people can change a little, but those new behaviors are difficult to sustain. We have a lot to learn from psychologists and other experts in the field if we really want to help people," Robinson said.

The findings are in the journal The Cochrane Library, published by The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research.

More information

The American Dental Association has more about oral hygiene.

SOURCE: Health Behavior News Service, news release, April 13, 2007

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