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Young people with a high rate of dental caries can quickly adjust their oral hygiene behavior

Young people with a high rate of dental caries can quickly adjust their oral hygiene behavior

Young people with severe dental caries often have a high propensity for oral health risks. At the same time, with the right support and treatment, they can modify their unhealthy behaviors. A dissertation at the University of Gothenburg describes the challenges involved in helping patients in this high-risk group.

In Sweden, oral health has improved significantly over the past few decades. Most people’s oral health is good now; But this favorable condition is unfairly and unfairly distributed. Certain groups bear a much heavier disease burden associated with socioeconomic and other factors, than the majority.

Jenny Hagmann, who works as a dentist at the Clinic for Oral and Maxillofacial Medicine within the Swedish General Dental Care Services in Gothenburg, defended her current thesis on the subject of Dental Psychology and Public Health at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg. In her dissertation, she describes the vulnerability of the young adult population (between the ages of 18 and 25).

Many of them move away from home, get a job, and become responsible for their own finances and health. At the same time, they begin to pay for health care – when it comes to dental care, from the year of their 24th birthday. Infrequent dental consultations, a high-sugar diet, and smoking make for a bad but not unusual combination among young people with caries disease.

Immediate positive effect

Hagemann’s thesis is based on a study in the Västra Götaland region of 135 young adults with a high incidence of dental caries. All of them were provided with standardized information about oral health in general dental care within the framework of the study, and half of them were serendipitously assigned to receive treatment from a psychiatrist as well.

The form of therapy in question is known as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Treatment consists of establishing the value of patients’ good oral health and training them in mental skills, such as acceptance. These are skills that may help them establish new, healthy oral hygiene habits.

In the group receiving the ACT, the immediate effect on healthy behaviors was clear: Their brushing improved, and their use of floss, toothpicks, and fluoride increased. The behavior of the control group also changed, but to a lesser extent.

A follow-up study showed that those receiving ACT treatment improved their oral health the most, although the amount of plaque and gingivitis did not differ significantly between the two groups. The results also suggest a line between women and men: It appears that supplementation with ACT was more effective for oral health in females.

Discuss new methods

Dental care services have traditionally attempted to influence patients’ oral health behavior by providing information about the causes and progression of oral disease, and by advising patients on what they need to change if they want to maintain or improve oral health.

Over the past few decades, the effectiveness of this approach has been called into question, and other approaches have been sought to address these problems. Hagemann’s thesis is relevant to the discussion.

The results demonstrate the scope for direct behavioral modification and oral health improvement in a cohort of young adults with extensive caries problems. Their willingness to undergo psychological treatment aimed at influencing their behavior is a blessing in itself.

These findings show that there is a need to develop effective approaches and techniques to promote oral health, and that theory-based approaches aimed at modifying people’s behavior can promote both self-care and oral health.”

Jenny Hagman


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