September JADA finds more research needed to assess how motivational interviewing impacts childhood caries

September JADA cover image

More research is needed to accurately evaluate the effectiveness of motivational interviewing — a client-oriented but directive counseling strategy that helps people explore and resolve their ambivalence toward change — on the clinical reduction of early childhood caries, according to a study published in the September issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association.

The cover story, "Impact of Motivational Interviewing on Early Childhood Caries: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis," looked at 329 studies that involved the clinical assessment of the caries rate in children whose parents or caregivers received motivational interviewing as an intervention. The systematic review included 14 articles, and the meta-analysis included three.

The most common approach in childhood caries prevention is educating parents or caregivers, but research does not support the effectiveness of only providing education or information to them without attention to their readiness to change their existing behaviors, according to the study.

"[Motivational interviewing] has been applied successfully to a variety of health behaviors, including substance use disorders, smoking, diet and exercise, and medication adherence," the authors — Dr. Reyhaneh Faghihian, Dr. Elham Faghihian, Azam Kazemi, Mohammad Javad Tarrahi, Ph.D., and Dr. Mehrnaz Zakizade, all from Isfahan University of Medical Sciences in Isfahan, Iran — said in the study. "In addition, researchers have found [motivational interviewing] to be effective in directing patients to adopt changes in oral health-related behaviors, such as snacking and toothbrushing habits."

The meta-analysis of the three studies indicated that motivational interviewing is as effective as traditional dental health education in controlling early childhood caries, but five other studies included in the systematic review showed varied results that were inconclusive.

"Overall, the evidence presented in this review was limited," the authors said, adding they "need more and better designed and reported interventions to assess [motivational interviewing’s] impact on early childhood caries accurately."

The authors recommended additional research targeting specific caregivers' behaviors.

Other articles in the September issue of JADA discuss biological contamination of dental operatories, dental treatment of sickle cell disease and screening for anosmia.

Every month, JADA articles are published online at in advance of the print publication.