A new online tool for consumers is now available from the American Dental Association (ADA). Last June, the association released their informative, user-friendly website, MouthHealthy.org, in order to address the lack of public knowledge in the area of oral health. A wealth of information from reputable sources is available for all age ranges and backgrounds so that consumers can make informed decisions concerning their oral health. With education in mind, the website has now expanded to include the ADA Dental Symptom Checker, allowing individuals to better assess their dental care needs.
According to the ADA News article, “ADA launches Dental Symptom Checker,” patients are able to enter their age, gender, location and details of symptoms in order to read about a variety of conditions that fit the description. After consumer reports indicated a symptom checker tool was in demand from the public, the interactive Web platform was developed and vetted by several ADA member dentists and councils, and is available through the website, as well as a downloadable app on iTunes and Google Play. Critics are concerned that the tool may be used by consumers to self-diagnose or replace the role of the dentist; however the association feels that this is not the case, with many conditions emphasizing the importance of seeking professional attention. Perhaps if an individual was curious about a symptom they thought to be “no big deal,” a quick visit to the website might convince them otherwise and result in an unplanned visit to the dentist.
Out of curiosity, I decided to utilize the symptom checker even though I’m feeling fine at the moment (I’m knocking on wood as I type). I just wanted to check it out. I was pleased to see that when using the tool, a disclaimer is first produced, emphasizing that the information available was not to take the place of the professional opinion of a healthcare provider or for diagnosis. After accepting that I was responsible for how I handled the given knowledge, I entered my gender, age, and fictitious symptoms (I claimed I had bleeding, swollen gums, including a small lump which was moderately painful). The list of possible conditions was extensive, ranging from an impacted tooth to cancer, with easy to understand descriptions and pictures of each. In the event that this was an actual concern of mine, I most definitely would have called my dentist, as most of the conditions required immediate medical treatment. Let’s just hope Joe Toothache decides to schedule an appointment too. After all, the whole point of the entire website is to educate the public on the importance of oral health, and what’s more important than regular visits to the dentist?
Written by Mark Paulsort
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