Definition and Overview

A caries risk assessment is a preventative test used to evaluate a person’s risk of developing dental caries. Caries is a progressive tooth disease that may lead to permanent tooth damage when left untreated. The procedure is therefore helpful for anyone, including children, those who have had caries in the past, and anyone who wishes to protect themselves from this dental problem. This type of test is considered as an important part of long-term oral health care and the treatment and management of dental caries. Early assessment has so far helped reduce the prevalence of caries in recent years.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

Assessment of caries risk is beneficial for anyone who is concerned about long-term oral health care. It is also especially recommended for patients who meet the risk factors outlined in the risk assessment form. The test results will determine whether a person is at low, moderate, or high risk of caries.

Low risk

Low risk patients are those who:

  • Receive fluoride treatment regularly
  • Consume a moderate amount of sugary and carbonated food and drinks without prolonged exposure
  • Regularly receive dental care
  • Has no history of caries during the last 24 months

Moderate risk

Patients are said to be at moderate risk if they:

  • Do not regularly receive fluoride from toothpaste, drinking water, and professional cleaning services
  • Do not receive regular dental care
  • Have a history of dental caries in the last 7 to 23 months
  • Have special health care needs, such as children with disabilities or people who are unable to care for themselves
  • Have eating disorders
  • Are taking medications that reduce the production or supply of saliva
  • Have a history or current drug or alcohol abuse condition
  • Have had 1-2 carious restorations in the last three years or any interproximal restorations
  • Have dental plaque
  • Have some dental issues or abnormalities that make proper oral hygiene a challenge
  • Have exposed root surfaces
  • Are using dental appliances, either fixed or removable

High risk

Patients who are at high risk of dental caries are those who:

  • Receive frequent or prolonged exposure to sugary and carbonated food and drinks in between meals
  • Have had carious lesions during the last six months
  • Have special health care needs or are unable to care for themselves
  • Are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • Have had 3 or more carious restorations during the last three years
  • Have some teeth missing due to caries during the last three years
  • Suffer from xerostomia or a condition that cause severe dryness in the mouth

How the Procedure is Performed?

A dental caries risk assessment is conducted at a dentist’s office or clinic. Since it is a routine test, it is easy to schedule an appointment for it.

The assessment test takes into consideration several factors that may affect a person’s risk of falling prey to cavities. These factors include:

  • Dental care status, i.e. whether he receives dental care at a regular or ongoing basis
  • Age
  • Diet, especially consumption of refined carbohydrates
  • General health condition
  • Oral health condition
  • Past caries record
  • Family history
  • Fluoride exposure from toothpaste, drinking water, professional dental care, and fluoride supplements
  • Social factors, i.e. low level of dental knowledge or deprivation of oral care due to social reasons

The final result will depend on the dental professional’s judgment based on the above risk factors as well as his own knowledge and familiarity with the patient.

Patients who are found to have a high risk of developing caries will be given recommendations on the proper preventative management or treatment of the problem. Management may include:

  • Dental health education
  • Behavior modification, to establish positive oral care habits and get rid of harmful habits (e.g. alcohol or drug consumption, sugary food and drink consumption)
  • Dentist intervention

Dentists use the following tools to help reduce a person’s risk of dental caries:

  • Sealants
  • Fluoride supplements
  • Topical varnish
  • Chlorhexidine rinses or gels

Possible Risks and Complications

As a routine diagnostic test, a caries risk assessment comes with no risks and has no potential complications. The only possible risk is an inaccurate evaluation, which may hinder a patient from receiving the preventative treatment necessary. To help prevent this, it is best to undergo a dental caries risk assessment test with the help of a trusted dentist.

Reference:

  • American Dental Association
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