Send to

Choose Destination
Am J Prev Med. 2000 Feb;18(2):159-62.

Preventive dentistry: practitioners' recommendations for low-risk patients compared with scientific evidence and practice guidelines.

Author information

Tri-County Family Medicine, Cohocton, New York 14826, USA.



The purpose of this article is to compare published evidence supporting procedures to prevent dental caries and periodontal disease, in low-risk patients, with the actual preventive recommendations of practicing dentists.


Methods included (1) a survey questionnaire of general dentists practicing in western New York State concerning the preventive procedures they would recommend and at what intervals for low-risk children, young adults, and older adults; and (2) review of the published, English-language literature for evidence supporting preventive dental interventions.


The majority of dentists surveyed recommended semiannual visits for visual examination and probing to detect caries (73% to 79%), and scaling and polishing to prevent periodontal disease (83% to 86%) for low-risk patients of all ages. Bite-wing radiographs were recommended for all age groups at annual or semiannual intervals. In-office fluoride applications were recommended for low-risk children at intervals of 6 to 12 months by 73% of dentists but were recommended for low-risk older persons by only 22% of dentists. Application of sealants to prevent pit and fissure caries was recommended for low-risk children by 22% of dentists. Literature review found no studies comparing different frequencies of dental examinations and bite-wing radiographs to determine the optimal screening interval in low-risk patients. Two studies of the effect of scaling and polishing on the prevention of periodontal disease found no benefit from more frequent than annual treatments. Although fluoride is clearly a major reason for the decline in the prevalence of dental caries, there are no studies of the incremental benefit of in-office fluoride treatments for low-risk patients exposed to fluoridated water and using fluoridated toothpaste.


Comparative studies using outcome end points are needed to determine the optimal frequency of dental examinations and bite-wing radiographs for the early detection of caries, and of scaling and polishing to prevent periodontal disease in low-risk persons. There is no scientific evidence that dental examinations, including scaling and polishing, at 6 month intervals, as recommended by the dentists surveyed in this study, is superior to annual or less frequent examinations for low-risk populations. There is also no evidence that in-office fluoride applications offer incremental benefit over less costly methods of delivering fluoride for low-risk populations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center