Online oral health education tools: Part 1, Opportunity

April 10, 2012
Dr. Fred Ferguson begins a two-part series on online health assessment for pediatric patients.
By Fred Ferguson, DDSProblem: Even people who have regular health-care visits often do not get preventive care and suffer poor oral health literacy. Given the nature of common oral illness, dentists should be looking forward to the use of online personal health tools to improve patient oral health and enhance practice management and patient care efficiency. For years, policymakers have urged American health care to adopt Electronic Medical Records systems (EMR) and Personal Health Records (PMR) that remind doctors and patients about needed care and make it easier for doctors to share information with one another. Dentistry has lagged significantly behind. Increasingly, American health care is shifting to information- and network-based patient care. The slow but steady adaptation of the use of EMR, PMR, among other tools, is intended to address one of the biggest flaws in modern health care. Solution: Use practice-based online tools to track patient self-assessments and dental visit examination outcomes to provide the most effective and efficient method for monitoring patient health and enhance practice management and patient care efficiency.The very nature of common oral illness and the proven beneficial effect of timely preventive dental visits dictate that online health records could have tremendous benefit for promoting health literacy/behaviors and timely dental visits from birth through the senior years. This is just the beginning. As we know, poor oral health is a cofactor for chronic health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, pneumonia, low birth weight, and brittle bones. Additionally, medications prescribed for chronic health problems can be harmful for oral health, but online tools can alert primary physicians of the situation. Patient self-assessment and outcome data could help dentists and physicians bridge the communication gap that exists between the professions.More to be addressed in “Online oral health education tools: Part 2, Why should we care?”Author bioDr. Fred Ferguson is president of AboutSmiles, Inc., an information and communications company focused on oral health through He is the creator of, a secure interactive oral health risk assessment and dental examination outcomes tracking tool that integrates oral and general health. My SmileGuide provides individuals, caregivers, and families a personal oral health record. Dr. Ferguson is also a professor of pediatric dentistry at Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, N.Y. You may contact him at [email protected].