Risk Assessment: Terminology

To understand the role of the dental healthcare provider in assessing a patient’s risk of caries, it is important to get an overview of appropriate terminology.

Risk: This is the probability that an event will occur.1

Risk Factor: This is an environmental, biological, behavioral, or social factor confirmed by temporal sequence, which directly increases the probability of a disease occurring if it is present. If this factor is absent or removed, it will reduce the probability of a disease occurring.1

Risk Assessment: This is the qualitative or quantitative estimation of adverse effects that may result from exposure to specific hazards or the absence of biologic influences.1

Risk Survey: An ideal risk assessment tool should not be time consuming or too complex for use in a busy dental practice, and the information must be gathered in an organized, methodical manner that benefits analysis. Estimating the risk, by gathering a broad range of patient data, can result in a composite assessment of factors impacting oral health. This can serve as a guide for selecting preventive measures, as well as provide an inventory of the patient’s current preventive practices to get insight into the patient’s compliance to recommendations.2

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