Diagnostic and preventive service trends in private general practice: 1983-1984 to 1998-1999

D S Brennan, A J Spencer
Australian Dental Journal 2003, 48 (1): 43-9

BACKGROUND: Aggregate trends have indicated increases in the provision of diagnostic and preventive services but there have been few reports based on their component sub-categories. The aims of this study were to investigate time trends in the provision of sub-categories of diagnostic an preventive services across a 15-year period.

METHODS: A random sample of Australian dentists was surveyed by mailed questionnaire in 1983-1984, 1988-1989, 1993-1994 and 1998-1999 (response rates 71-75 per cent). Data were weighted to provide representative estimates for the age by sex distribution of private general practitioners in 1983, 1988, 1993 and 1998.

RESULTS: Rates per visit were higher, Poisson regression, P<0.05, in 1998-1999 compared to baseline for examinations, radiographs, prophylaxis and topical fluoride. Diagnostic and preventive service rates varied by age of patient: compared to patients aged 65+ years, examinations were higher among children aged <5 years to adults aged 25-44 years, radiographs were lower among children <5 years and 5-11 years but higher among adults aged from 18-24 years to 45-64 years, prophylaxis services were lower among children <5 years but higher among adolescents 12-17 years to adults aged 45-64 years, while topical fluoride was higher among children 5-11 years and adolescents 12-17 years.

CONCLUSIONS: Examination, radiograph, prophylaxis, and topical fluoride rates increased over the study period. While examination rates increased for both children and adults, and prophylaxis rates increased for adolescents and adults, rates for radiographs and topical fluoride only increased for adults. Age-specific changes in service rates over time indicate the effect of changing oral health status and population demographics on service provision.

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