Behavioral sciences in the promotion of oral health

2019 marks the Centennial of the Journal of Dental Research (JDR). Over the last century the JDR has been dedicated to the dissemination of new knowledge and information on all sciences relevant to dentistry and to the oral cavity and associated structures in health and disease. To celebrate, the JDR is featuring a yearlong, commemorative article and podcast series that highlights topics that have transformed dental, oral and craniofacial research over the past 100 years.

The importance and value of behavioral sciences in dentistry has long been recognized and over time behavioral sciences have expanded our understanding of oral health beyond ‘disease’ to a broader biopsychosocial concept of oral health. In the JDR Centennial article “Behavioral Sciences in the Promotion of Oral Health,” Colman McGrath, University of Hong Kong, SAR, China, discusses how this broadened view has led dentistry away from a focus of ‘treatment’ to oral health ‘care.’

“Over the past 100 years, key oral health behaviors have been identified including diet, oral hygiene and dental services, and the relationship between individual factors and the broader environmental factors have been increasingly emphasized, leading to a united call for action in addressing oral health inequalities,” said McGrath.

“More recently behavioral therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, are increasingly being employed in dental practice in the management of dental anxiety, pain and psychosomatic dental and oral problems with promising results,” said McGrath. “There is a need to consider training for dental professionals, resources and tools for implementation and a systematic approach of what interventions to use, how to employ them, when and for how long, in addition to determining the cost effectiveness and benefits of such approaches.”

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