Clinical Decision-Making for Dental Caries Management

J Dent Educ. 2001 Oct;65(10):1121-5.


Scientific information on diagnosis, prevention, and management of dental caries and associated indicators of risk continues to increase rapidly. Patients vary in clinically important ways, however, and uncertainty affects our understanding of risk; diagnostic and prognostic information; efficacy and effectiveness of many preventive, diagnostic, and treatment alternatives; and outcomes associated with clinical strategies. Consequently, challenges abound for clinicians to identify, evaluate, and incorporate new information, patient preferences, and uncertainties into clinical practice. Clinical decision-making--an analytical approach that makes explicit use of information to quantify probabilities and outcomes to analyze decisions under conditions of uncertainty--can provide a framework to analyze the impact of uncertainty of clinical information. Diagnostic, effectiveness, and outcome information is quantified and combined in an explicit way to serve as a tool for clinicians, not as a replacement for clinical judgment or experience. Such an approach has the potential to improve clinical practice and help dentists do their jobs better by structuring the decision problem and assessing probabilities and utilities. Clinical decision-making also helps dentists communicate with each other by identifying clinical controversies, thereby characterizing how and why disagreements may arise and what additional data may be needed to address a clinical question.

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making
  • Decision Support Techniques*
  • Dental Caries / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Problem Solving