History and observation and common sense have shown that the more we can sustain a dental program and build trust with individuals (and the community), we have a greater chance to move beyond emergency care to restoring teeth and restoring dignity in the individual.
Many rural/remote communities have experienced episodic dental visits in the past, building an expectation that you only go to the “dentist” when you have toothache. This is also a symptom of limited resources and personnel.
Clinicians can provide effective preventive care to children and adults following the principles of minimal intervention, and the atraumatic treatment approach pioneered by Dr Graham Craig in remote New South Wales, Australia, in the 1980s. This approach was the foundation for the development of the Atraumatic Restorative Treatment (ART) program, part of the World Health Organisation’s Basic Package of Oral Care (BPOC).
We can be guided by evidence based approaches – for example fissure sealing in children, fluoride treatments where regularity of visits can be assured, and caries arrestment – and we can learn from experienced clinicians who have focussed their efforts on restoring dignity through sound clinical care.
Instruction on good oral hygiene, diet, habits are important.
However we must be aware of the limitations of our ability to change behaviours and social norms, no matter how often we explain the correct brushing technique to someone!!