Service provision trends among Australian private general dental practitioners: 1983/84 to 1998/99

D S Brennan, A J Spencer
International Dental Journal 2003, 53 (3): 145-52

AIM: To investigate time trends in service provision.

DESIGN: Four cross-sectional surveys across a 15-year period.

SETTING: Australian private general practice.

PARTICIPANTS: A random sample of dentists.

METHODS: Dentists were surveyed by mailed questionnaire in 1983, 1988, 1993 and 1998 (response rates 71%-75%). Data were weighted to provide representative estimates for the age by sex distribution of private general practitioners in 1983, 1988, 1993 and 1998.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Services per visit, annual services per dentist, annual services per patient.

RESULTS: Total services per visit increased over the study period from 1.78 to 2.14 (Poisson regression; p < 0.05). However the annual number of services provided per dentist did not vary significantly, reflecting a trend among dentists to supply fewer patient visits per year. The annual number of services provided per patient increased over the period from 3.47 to 5.22 (OLS regression; p < 0.05), reflecting both the increased service rate per visit and increased numbers of visits by patients. Dentists provided less restorative, prosthodontic and extraction services per year, but more endodontic and crown and bridge services. The pattern of annual care received per patient also included more endodontic and crown and bridge services but differed from the dentist pattern through increased service rates over the study period in areas such as restorative, diagnostic and preventive.

CONCLUSIONS: While dentists are providing a similar number of services annually, the content of their workload has changed to include less emphasis on removal and replacement of teeth and more effort on maintenance and retention of natural dentitions.

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