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empirical treatment

The classic argument used to justify empirical treatment (a treatment based on observation and experience, but not specific diagnostic evidence) of a medical condition goes something like this:


If a patient presents with a headache, would you send him out for a battery of costly tests, or rather tell him to take two aspirins, and call you in the morning?


The implication being, of course, that it is wasteful and absurd to proceed as if there were every likelihood of a brain tumor, instead of just a plain old tension headache. And, if the aspirins do not help, tomorrow is another day, and then we can call in the cavalry.

While this argument makes sense—in a limited context—there is always the danger that the observer will discern the wrong disease, and then apply an inappropriate treatment. Indeed, misuses of empirical treatment are well-known in the world of infectious disease. Unfortunately, misuses are not unknown in the world of oral malodor.

Certain manufacturers of mouth-rinses and tongue scrapers would have you believe that a shortcut to fame and fortune is dispensing these products, on an empirical treatment basis, to patients who present with chronic halitosis. While most of these products will provide some short-term benefit, they treat only the symptoms. Moreover, most of these products are readily available in non-dental settings, at retail or online.

Consider that fully 80% of patients who present with oral malodor have some sort of gum condition, and rinses and tongue scrapers are hardly cures for gum disease! Gum conditions respond to good dentistry—the kind you already practice.

With the Halimeter®, you can determine the origin, as well as the severity of the halitosis, and monitor the efficacy of treatment. Should you encounter one of those rare malodor cases of non-oral etiology, the patient can be referred out. This, then is truly ethical, evidence-based dentistry, that can originate from a presumably humble case of chronic bad breath.

Click here to download a more commercial approach to this topic (as an Adobe Acrobat pdf file—41KB), also available as a printed flyer.