Theories That Are Applied in Dentistry

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The application of different social and psychological theories in medical practice helps the specialists to adopt the techniques and methods that may positively impact patients’ health conditions, reduce various risk factors, promote appropriate health behaviors, and support for the provision of effective interventions. The theories that can be applied in dentistry are Health Belief Model (HBM), Transtheoretical Model (TTM), Precaution Adoption Process Model (PAPM), Social Cognitive Theory (SCT), and Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB). All the five theories and models offer different approach towards the improvement of medical treatment and correction of behavior in patients.


As the recent studies findings identify, a person’s oral health affects his/her quality of life (Giddon, Anderson & Will, 2007). Therefore, the formation of the health-oriented behaviors in people of different ages, genders, and social roles is vital. HBM focuses on explanation, prediction, and shaping of the individuals’ attitudes and beliefs regarding the health care issues and health-related actions. It is observed, that the human behavior is largely dependent on the preconceptions of the personal and social character that affect decision-making (Solhi, Zadeh, Seraj, & Zadeh, 2010). According to Solhi and his colleagues (2010), the implementation of educational programs and instruction helps patients to understand advantages of health-related behavior improvement and plays a crucial role in disease prevention (p. 118).


Similarly to HBM, the main principle of TTM is focused on the intentional behavior change. However, when HBM emphasizes the social aspects influences the human behavioral patterns and decisions, TTM attempts to integrate the elements of different disciplines and fields of knowledge to provoke the adoption of the right behavior in the population. In this way, the model includes biological, social, medical, legal, and even political aspects. The model consists of five stages of behavior change: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance (DeBate, Tedesco, & Kerschbaum, 2005). According to research findings, the provision of the individual patient-oriented oral care instructions at the early stages can help to avoid the secondary intervention (DeBate, Tedesco, & Kerschbaum, 2005).


The model emphasizes the importance of the preventive behavior development. According to Weinstein (1988), overlooking the risk factors is costly, and the adoption of the prevention programs in medical settings thus is beneficial (p. 355). Based on the principles of the theory, the physicians need to assist patients in raising their awareness regarding the multiple issues and lead him/her to the actual change in behavior through the compliance with the designed action plan. The model has proved to be effective in the adoption of new values by individuals and increase in the quality of experience and actions (Weinstein, 1988).


Each ethnic, racial, social, and age group has its distinctive features affecting the health conditions of its members to some extent. It is considered that the physicians need to take into account the cultural and racial differences in their patients as they influence the treatment procedures efficiency. According to Tilashalski and his colleagues (2007), the patients of different races have distinct preferences in medical treatment, and the consideration of these preferences leads to increase in satisfaction with the provided services (p. 108). However, the findings of the theory research are scarce and characterized by a high level of relativity, and that makes its application of SCT less appropriate than the other theories.


The theory states that the individual’s behavioral pattern is based on his/her intentions that are formed under the influence of the accepted norms, values, and beliefs (Su et al., 2015). As many other behavioral theories, TPB regards the social influence as the critical factor affecting human behavior and decisions. “The recognition and management of psychological antecedents and behavioral responses” in medical practice can improve the effectiveness of treatment procedures and provoke positive outcomes (Su et al., 2015, p. 44). Therefore, the integration of the TPB principles can be beneficial in terms of improvement of the physicians’ performance and patients’ response.


DeBate, R., Tedesco, L., & Kerschbaum, W. (2005). Oral health providers and secondary prevention of disordered eating: An application of the Transtheoretical Model. Journal of Dental Hygiene, 79(4), 2-10.

Giddon, D., Anderson, N., & Will, L. (2007). Cognitive, affective, and behavioral responses associated with mechanical tooth movement. Seminars in Orthodontics, 13(4), 212-219.

Health Belief Model in oral health education. Iranian Journal of Public Health, 39(4), 114–119. Web.

Solhi, M., Zadeh, D. S., Seraj, B., & Zadeh, S.F. (2010). The application of the

Su, X., Li, L., Griffiths, S., Gao, Y., Lau, J., Mo, P. Smoking behaviors and intentions among adolescents in rural China: The application of the Theory of Planned Behavior and the role of social influence. Addictive Behaviors, 48, 44-51.

Tilashalski, K.R., Gilbert, G.H., Baykin, M.J., & Litaker, M.S. (2007). Racial differences in treatment preferences: Oral health as an example. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, 13(1), 102-108.

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