Oral Health Group

How do we know what we know?

December 1, 2013
by Dr. Fay Goldstep

As busy practicing dentists we are bombarded with information on new products and techniques daily: email blasts, snail mail flyers, company reps with brochures and samples, new features at conventions, and the list goes on. How do we know what works, why it works or how it works?

Some of us rush out and buy every new product and try every “game changing” technique. Others wait and wait and never vary their practice methods. And many are stuck in the middle not knowing what to try.


Enter investigative scientific research, based on what has come to be known as the “scientific method”. Humans have been asking the question ” how do we know what we know?” for millennia. There is even a fancy philosophical term for it — epistemology.

The “scientific method” is defined as the: “systematic pursuit of knowledge by the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses”. This has been the system for advancing knowledge and improving quality of life for over three hundred years.

Science gives us the logical steps to test innovations and determine how useful they actually are. This is just what we need in order to answer our questions about new products or techniques.

Clinical dentists and researchers work in separate worlds. We do not speak the same language. We need to open up lines of communication, learn each others’ language and discover from one another. Clinical dentists know what the problems are; scientists can find the solutions.

This issue of Oral Health will start the conversation, focus on periodontal disease, and use a proactive intervention approach.

Using scientific evidence, we can establish a thorough understanding of the underlying causes of periodontal inflammation and follow the devastating effects on the oral and systemic health of the patient. Are there proactive treatments that can stop inflammation in the periodontal pocket and potentially stop systemic disease? How effective is the innovative treatment that uses laser light and specific dyes to heal periodontal pockets? What are the probiotics that strengthen the beneficial inhabitants of the oral environment and tip the balance to oral health? What is the most judicious way of using antibiotics to improve outcomes in certain types of periodontal disease? Is grafting for ridge preservation necessary and/or effective at the extraction appointment?

These questions underlie the concerns of the clinical dentist. With the information gleaned from science, the clinical dentist can be the judge of whether a treatment will work or not.

We need knowledge and science is the means to this knowledge. The busy dentist’s time is at a premium. With a one-stop approach, this issue of Oral Health opens the door to revisiting some basic and applied science, as it pertains to minimally invasive periodontal treatment.

Walk in … take a look … then dive in and enjoy the ride. It will be rewarding and ultimately beneficial to patient care. Have fun!OH