In dentistry, it can be difficult to tell what works and what doesn't when it comes to new products and recommendations. There are promotions and marketing plans to entice us with everything from mouth rinses to dental instruments. And since we're all busy, there is little time to fully examine options on our own. Fortunately, we have a system in place to help us determine what products work best: evidence-based dentistry, or EBD.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), evidence-based dentistry is "an approach to oral health care that requires the judicious integration of systematic assessments of clinically relevant scientific evidence, relating to the patient's oral and medical condition and history, with the dentist's clinical expertise and the patient's treatment needs and preferences."
We turn toward EBD to consider the best way to serve our patients with factual information and scientifically informed treatment regimens. EBD places value not only on clinical evidence, but also on listening to the patient's history and needs to help inform a treatment decision. For instance, you can use study results to wean patients off oil pulling, show them the safety of amalgam fillings, or to help choose fluoride options to prevent and manage dental caries treat gingival inflammation.
As a practitioner, it's hard to know what new dental products are backed with strong evidence and research. During a recent conference, for example, I looked at a new piece of technology that was displayed and marketed to dentists as the best way to help detect early signs of oral cancer.
I wanted to know if the product truly was effective or if it was simply hyped. I searched the ADA's Center for Evidence-Based Dentistry and read about several studies on oral cancer detection methods. The method the product in front of me promoted — using a light to detect oral cancer — proved to be less effective than a biopsy for identifying malignant tissue, according to the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs. Their evidence-based clinical practice guidelines led me to a Journal of the American Dental Association report that concludes that light-based adjuncts are not sufficiently accurate and not recommended for evaluating lesions for malignancy. Considering EBD methods helped me make an informed choice for my practice.
When we want to give our patients the best information, EBD offers well-researched answers. It also helps us make sound decisions on treatment and product options, and avoid a potentially misguided option. Although we cannot have every answer to every patient question, it's our duty to study the best research available to ensure we provide the best care and do no harm to the patients we care about.