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Lansing Community College Library

Dental Hygiene: PICO

A guide to research for dental hygiene students.


Before you start your search, it is important to have a well-built question. One way to construct a well-built question is to use the PICO model. PICO stands for patient/population, intervention, comparison and outcomes. 

Patient/Population Intervention Comparison Outcomes

Who is your patient?

  • Age, sex, race or patient
  • Primary problem
  • Health status

What do you plan on doing for the patient?

  • Diagnostic test
  • Medication
  • Procedure

What alternative are you considering?

  • Another test, medication or procedure
  • Watchful waiting

What do wish to accomplish?

  • Accurate diagnosis
  • Relieve or improve symptoms
  • Maintain function

Example:  Are school based caries prevention programs effective in preventing dental caries in children?

Patient/Population Intervention Comparison Outcomes
  • Children
  • School based dental health programs


  • No comparison
  • Reduction in caries

From your question, identify the main ideas and use them as search terms. When you go to search the databases, you may start out using the terms children and caries prevention and schools.

  • If you retrieve too many results, add more terms to your search, or add more specific terms.
  • If you retrieve too few results, use fewer or more broad terms.
  • Change your search terms to change your results. Use alternative terms.

Databases for PICOT Research

These two databases are a good place to begin research on PICOT questions. 

About This Page

This page was adopted and adapted from the Evidence Based Medicine Research Guide from the Medical College of Wisconsin Libraries.