It’s been less than a year since the last time the patient has been in your chair. They seem calm, no complaints, and everything was fine at the last visit. Things are a little backed up in the office; there were more emergencies this morning than there were emergency visit slots. This time, just to save a few minutes, you can skip the detailed risk assessment.
While that may seem like a good idea for a split second, the few moments you would save are not worth the risk to your patient’s oral health. There are 5 solid reasons why you should not skip that risk assessment.
1- Eating Habits Change
A year ago, that patient was living in a soda free home. Now, they’re enjoying a soda filled dining hall, along with sports drinks at the gym, lattes at the library, and late night energy drinks at the dorm. But, without a risk assessment, it’s easy to miss the shifts in diet that may radically change caries risk.
Even without a major life change, like a move to college, people’s eating habits tends to shift over time. It’s worth a regular check-in to see if a patient’s diet has changed, for lesser or greater cavity risk.
2- Healthy People Get Ill
Patients may minimize the heart condition they recently started treating. They may not want to talk about their chemo. They may not realize that a newly diagnosed case of diabetes can have a significant impact on oral health.
People may not think about how oral health and overall health are connected, so it’s unlikely they’re deliberately withholding information. A regular risk assessment can help you gather information that you need to help patients mitigate risks from their overall health conditions.
3- Medications Change
Much like health changes, patient’s medications can change over time. Because so many medications can cause or contribute to dry mouth, a regular check-in with your patients about their medications can help open a dialogue about treating dry mouth before it has a chance to cause painful or dangerous complications.
4- An Ounce of Prevention…
Any dentist can drill and fill a cavity. The real blessing for your patients is your vigilance in helping them prevent the caries in the first place. A caries assessment is a tool that lets you really help your patients by helping them control risk factors that encourage caries to develop. Your patients will appreciate the feeling that they can actively help avoid cavities by knowing the risk factors and mitigating them whenever it’s possible.
5- Worth a Pound of Cure
The caries assessment is also a valuable tool when monitoring an early, low grade lesion. Catching problems early and interrupting the disease process and remineralizing non-cavitated lesions is a much more pleasant way to approach dental health for your patients. Start every appointment with a caries assessment and make dental visits nothing for your patients to avoid. The best reason of all to start every visit with a caries assessment is that it’s the best care you can give to your patients.