A taxonomy for lay risk perceptions of dentistry

S. Thomas Deahl, Megan E. Kromer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: This paper aims to develop and organize a set of variables that can be used to: (1) test the widely held but unproven assumption that lay risk perceptions can adversely affect dental care, (2) investigate the possible influence of lay risk perceptions on dental care, and (3) permit the evaluation of risk communication strategies in dentistry. Methods: We reviewed the literature regarding risk perception and risk communication in health care and technology. We then selected a set of variables that could be measured in a study of the general public and organized these in a taxonomy to suggest likely relationships among the variables. Results: The central relationship of the proposed taxonomy is between a lay person's perception of dental risk and a set of measurable outcomes that could affect that person's dental care. The taxonomy lists three possible influences on the lay person's risk perception: attributes of the individual, attributes of the dental procedure or technology perceived as risky, and attributes of the dental practice. Conclusions: Systematic testing of the proposed variables should demonstrate whether lay risk perceptions substantially influence dental care, and if so, which factors most strongly influence risk perceptions. A model of lay risk perceptions of dentistry then could be developed and strategies could be devised to minimize the detriment, if any, to dental care from risk perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-218
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Public Health Dentistry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1996


  • Classification
  • Decision making
  • Dentistry
  • Risk communication
  • Risk perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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