What if we could predict health problems and act on them before they happen?

have you ever wondered why some people develop a particular disease and others don't or why a particular drug or medication works for one person but it might not work as well and sometimes at all for another person or why a particular diet is good for one person and not for another person well the reason for that is that we're all genetically different but it's more than just our genetic makeup we all actually have different environments that we live in different lifestyle exposures and habits and different challenges in our lives and that affects the way our genetic risk or susceptibility to a particular condition or maybe the way that our body responds to a particular diet actually happens so risk assessment is something that is becoming very very important as a part of what we call personalized medicine and personalized medicine is about an individual and why they're different to somebody else and what the best form of treatment may be for that individual some people talk about precision medicine what particular drug is going to work in a particular individual and all of this is really about understanding the individual person the individual patient in our case themselves so here at the University of Birmingham we've had a strong interest in risk prediction and risk assessment and I'm going to tell you a little bit about that and why we think it's important so my name is Professor Ian Chappell I'm head of the School of Dentistry and I'm a professor of proton ecology which is basically the study of gum diseases in their broadest sense so risk assessment is something we regard as the foundation stone of prevention and in particular preventive dentistry and we've developed over a number of years now a number of what we call algorithms or predictive algorithms these are digital technologies and digital platforms that allow us to convey to a patient what their risk score is for a particular oral disease and in fact what their overall all health is and we convey that information through these algorithms in a very very simple color visual that may be numerical 1 2 5 or maybe rag rated red amber green rated green Bing good low-risk good health amber being in the middle somewhere and red being at the at the poor end or the more worrying end and the purpose of this risk assessment is twofold it's firstly to tell the oral health physician or clinician or surgeon exactly what that individual patient is likely to develop and so the dental surgeon or the oral health team can focus on trying to put a prevention program in place for that particular condition but the other thing it does is it allows us to convey to each individual patient why they're different from other patients and what particular aspects of their lifestyle they could change in order to reduce their genetic influence coming through for a particular disease to try and prevent that disease developing or to delay it from developing and what these systems have been shown to do is to predict tooth loss for example so we've developed a spin-out company called all health innovations and that company produces these risk driven digital platforms that are in use in dental surgeries so each patient will be able to understand why they're at risk of a particular condition and what they can do to reduce their risk these algorithms as well as being shown to predict tooth loss have also been shown to correlate very very strongly with the patient's overall health general health and well-being and they also appear to correlate very strongly with how a patient feels whether they have any discomfort whether they can eat and function normally in the mouth that is and also about how they feel about their their appearance I think however the most important aspect of these technologies is the education of the patient and helping the patient start to take responsibility for their own health and we can only really do that if we understand our health and what our risks are and so we now use these scores if you like in what we call personalized biofeedback and personalized biofeedback is telling an individual patient why they appear to be at risk of a particular condition and what they can do about it so it empowers the patient to make some lifestyle choices and to change their behavior to reduce that risk an independent studies recently have demonstrated two particular things firstly one randomized controlled trial demonstrated that using the feedback the by feedback from our technologies not only improves the patient's positive thinking about their the particular condition their suffering from but it also enables them to start thinking very positively about changes they'll make and to commit to making those changes so they understand their condition better they think more positively about the outcomes and they genuinely believe they can do something about it so psychological impact the other thing that has been shown in a separate randomized trial done again independently is that people do appear to change their behavior when they're shown the scores and the scores were explained to them and one particular study published just this month in fact in the month of May in American Journal has shown that actually people will reduce the infectious burden in the mag's they'll reduce the levels of bacteria in their mouths by cleaning their teeth better and they will also reduce the amount of inflammation in their mouths again by cleaning their teeth better so without the dentist doing anything in terms of an intervention patients can actually improve their own oral health by changing their behavior changing their lifestyle and taking control of their own health and well-being so take control of your own health and well-being get a risk assessment done it's very easy and in fact most of the big dental software providers certainly in the UK have now integrated our system into their dental software systems so perhaps if you ask your oral healthcare professional what your risk scores are it'll challenge them to share that information with you

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