Surveillance Techniques for Studying Periodontal Diseases – Dental Health Example

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"Surveillance Techniques for Studying Periodontal Diseases" is a gorgeous example of a paper on dental health. Periodontics relates to the study and treatment related to gums and tissues at the neck and root of a tooth. This is a very important branch of dentistry for many reasons, some of which are: Periodontal diseases cause loss of teeth It can lead to adverse birth outcomes Researches strongly link it to cardiovascular diseases as well as diabetes It is estimated to affect 75% of the American population to some extent, and 20% to 30% of adults suffer moderate to severe forms of this disease These high risks deem periodontology very important in terms of knowing about it and learning how it can be controlled. All this has been known for a long time now, to both the public health workers, as well as the policymakers in the government.

This indicates that we should be quite far ahead in determining the causes and finding remedies to periodontal diseases. Also, we should have large amounts of statistical data to work with, so the status of this disease can be monitored. Yet, remarkable as it may seem, we are nowhere close to being able to perfectly diagnose this disease, nor do we have enough public surveillance data to be able to monitor, predict and prevent potential outbreaks of this disease.

To identify periodontal diseases, a periodontal probe is inserted into multiple sites around each tooth. But this method is still in its primitive stages, as the probing sites have not been correctly identified yet, nor does the periodontal index obtained provide clear enough data that can be explained to the public and policymakers. National Oral Health Surveillance System was developed by the CDC and The Associate of State and Territorial Dental Directors to research upon oral health issues, but its agenda does not include any monitoring system for periodontal diseases. A recent publication by Scott L.

Tomar on the topic “ Public Health Perspectives on Surveillance for Periodontal Diseases” discusses the issues related to the collection of public health surveillance data on periodontics. The writer also identifies four alternative ways of collecting data, commenting on the validity of the data provided by them and their feasibility in the light of the data provided by them. Before discussing the methodology, we first need to identify the aspects required as a result of the adopted methodology.

Summarily, the data collection method and the results obtained should be simple, flexible to technological and logistical changes, accurate, acceptable in their manner of conduct, able to identify a large fraction of actual patients, able to monitor and predict abrupt changes, represent the whole community which is sampled, and be able to provide timely and reliable data. The five surveillance methods identified by the publication are: Oral Public Health Surveillance System: Ideally, if this system is applicable to a certain disease, then it is the best system to monitor that certain disease.

It collects clinical data on the disease from a large very large batch of participants. Its requirements are: Logistical: A lot of examiners are needed to conduct such a clinical examination. Also, thousands of willing participants need to be recruited as representatives of the whole community that they belong to. This has to extend to the county, state, and national levels. The clinical history of all the patients has to be recorded and gone through. This system has to be set up in a manner that provides regular timely data. Monetary: All the participants and examiners need to be compensated. Necessary equipment has to be bought for such a large scale endeavor. Technical: It has already been identified that the clinical technique for identifying periodontal disease is not reliable enough.

It also depends upon probability samples of adults and it requires a lot of expertise.                       All the requirements make sure of the fact that this technique of data collection for periodontal diseases is not simple, flexible, timely, stable, or sustainable and it requires a lot of resources, which is unjustified keeping in mind the results obtained through this research. Data Collection through Existing Dental Records: A large percentage of the population has dental records.

So in theory, all this data can be studied to obtain vast amounts of data on periodontal diseases. But there are two major problems with such a line of work: There are no uniform data recording methods, diagnostic codes, or electronic data sharing systems, as most of the dental services are provided through private practices.

This diminishes the reliability of the data collected through such means. The data seldom records periodontal data. This totally blows away the validity of the data taken out of such records, as they do not represent the public as a whole. Such data is thus not useful in obtaining proper data for predictive and preventive measures. Using Administrative and Insurance Claims Data: The use of insurance claims data might seem a good idea as it provides valid data on the surveyed party. But it includes only those people who have enough money to afford insurance.

Most of the people who actually need treatment for such diseases are unable to afford any dental services. Thus this data is invalid and unreliable in terms of being representative of the whole. Sentinel Report: Sentinel surveillance systems involve a limited number of selected reporting sites, reports from which may be generalizable to the whole population. This is carried out by recruiting health care workers/providers and getting data from them on a certain disease/s, which in this case would be periodontal diseases. Although this is a good idea, the necessary infrastructure for this is lacking and requires a lot of investment.

This again makes it unsustainable for long periods of time, as with Oral Public Health Surveillance measures. Self-Report: In self-reporting, a representative sample of the target population is selected and is asked about diseases, health-related behaviors, or other characteristics. Such measures are the least expensive, most complete, and thus the most representative of all the surveillance methods. This is because it does not require any infrastructure and also includes data on those people who do not have health insurance.

Although this data has certain questionable aspects of data validity because of lack of medical awareness of participants, it has proved to be a very good tool thus far, as with the CDC data collection on morbidity and mortality due to cigarette smoking. Analysis of previous records suggests that individual self-reported data might not be valid on their own, but when analyzed on a whole as a model-based system, this might be a very useful method in predicting and monitoring periodontal diseases. In comparison to other techniques, self-reported data is estimated to be reliable and valid as a representative of a whole.

Also, it is the least expensive method of them all and has proven to be a vital surveillance tool in the past. So in conclusion, I suggest that this method be adopted in setting up and aiding the public health programs on periodontics, as this is the need of the nation.

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