New Weapon in the Battle Against Oral Disease

The oral health crisis in America is not something to take lightly. With nearly half of all adults suffering from oral disease, there has been a recent push for more public initiatives to improve the situation. Many feel that ignorance is the root of the real problem and that the majority of people aren’t aware of the importance of oral health and its connection to the rest of your body. If you subscribe to this theory, then education is the key, but according to new research, simply handing out informative brochures isn’t enough. The results of a Danish study published in Clinical Oral Investigations and discussed in a Medical News Today article, found that so-called health coaching is the way to go when trying to significantly make a change in oral health habits.
The research was conducted using a group of high risk individuals, diabetics. Previous studies have found that those suffering from diabetes are at a much higher risk of developing periodontitis, caries, dry mouth, fungal infections, and poor wound healing. 186 subjects, all with Type II diabetes, participated in the study. They were split into two groups, one given traditional health information, such as a brochure on good dental hygiene, and the other was offered motivational health coaching. The coaching was delivered in the form of 3-6 sessions over a six-month time frame, and focused on personal “guidance,” such as diet, stress management, and dental care. At the end of the study, individuals who were given personal health coaching showed a reduction of periodontitis symptoms by as much as 50%. They also had a significant decline in long-range blood sugar levels and an “increased self-efficacy in relation to handling illness and health issues.” The patients who received only literature saw no change, what-so-ever.
These results have huge implications for future health campaigns. Health brochures are fine and definitely serve a purpose, but I think it’s clear that nothing compares to face-to-face interaction. It’s naïve to think that you can pass along a pamphlet and expect the recipient to not only read it, but take it to heart and actually follow through. One of the study’s researchers stated that “the patients we are in contact with are often both socially and financially vulnerable, and for them health coaching and follow-up can make a considerable and marked difference, both to their physical and mental health.” If we want to see real change in the state of oral health in America, it’s going to take more than just literature and a website. Nothing beats a good, down-to-earth chat with a dental professional. Let’s start the conversation!

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