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J Evid Based Dent Pract. 2006 Mar;6(1):6-15.

What does the precautionary principle mean for evidence-based dentistry?

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Department of Community Health and Sustainability, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA, USA.


The precautionary principle calls for preventive actions in the face of uncertain information about risks. It serves as a compass to better guide more health-protective decisions in the face of complex risks. Applying precaution requires thinking more broadly about risks, taking an interdisciplinary approach to science and policy, and considering a wide range of alternatives to potentially harmful activities. While often criticized as antiscientific, the precautionary principle represents a challenge to scientists and public health professionals to develop newer and more effective tools for characterizing and preventing complex risks, in addition to being more explicit about uncertainties. This article examines the role and application of precaution in the context of dental practice, where activities that may convey risks also have public health benefits, and risk trade offs are a possibility. We conclude that the precautionary principle is not at odds with, but rather complements evidence-based practice in situations of scientific uncertainty and complex risks.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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