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Beyond oral hygiene, are capacity-altering, biologically based interventions within the moral domain of dentistry?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Vitor C.M. Neves, Jonathan Pugh, Julian Savulescu

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-280
Number of pages4
JournalBritish Dental Journal
Issue number5
PublishedSep 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: Ethics declarations VN currently receives funding from the Academy of Medical Sciences; JP currently receives funding from UKRI; JS currently receives funding from the Wellcome Trust (WT203132/Z/16/Z). Publisher Copyright: © 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to British Dental Association. Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

King's Authors


Oral diseases such as dental caries (DC) and periodontitis are widely prevalent, and existing approaches to managing these conditions have only a limited effect. Accordingly, there is growing interest in the development of novel biological interventions (including, among others, CRISPR-Cas9) that might, in the future, be used to prevent the development of or cure these conditions. However, in addition to familiar concerns about using biological interventions in children who cannot provide valid consent, it is not clear whether the provision of these interventions would fall within the proper domain of dentistry. In this opinion paper, we defend the view that the provision of reasonably safe and effective novel biological interventions aimed at preventing DC and periodontitis should be understood to fall within the proper domain of dentistry. To do so, we first argue that their use would be consistent with existing practice in dentistry. We then argue that: i) they may substantially increase the recipient's wellbeing and future autonomy; and ii) that their use could constitute a form of indirect preventative medicine by addressing a threat to systemic health.

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