Perceptions of how the Internet has impacted on dentistry

I G Chestnutt, K Reynolds
British Dental Journal 2006 February 11, 200 (3): 161-5, discussion 149

OBJECTIVES: This study sought to identify how patient information on the Internet has influenced the delivery of oral care and the use practitioners themselves make of the Internet.

METHODOLOGY: Data were collected via a self completed 18 item postal questionnaire, sent to a random sample of 620 dentists on the GDC register in Wales.

RESULTS: In total 457 (74%) of the questionnaires were returned. One half of all practitioners stated that patients had asked them about material of relevance to dentistry obtained from the Internet, although in the majority of cases this happened less frequently than once a month. The most common topics enquired after were cosmetic procedures, dental amalgam and implants. A minority of dentists, 47 (11%) viewed the Internet as a threat to the dentist-patient relationship. However, 169 (39%) agreed information gained from the Internet had led to patients demanding inappropriate care or more complex treatment (135/31%). Having to take time to discuss Internet material was viewed as a burden by 93 practitioners. The potential of the Internet to widen inequalities in access to oral health information was agreed upon by one third of respondents. Concerns over the quality and reliability of Internet derived information, together with a lack of knowledge of appropriate sites, prevented dentists using the Internet as an oral health education resource. However, only 18.7% claimed never to use the Internet for their own Continuing Professional Development. Access for CPD purposes was mainly from home. Of those working in general practice, 54 had their own practice website, and a further 103 said this was something they were considering. Email was used to communicate with patients by 42 dentists, mainly to make appointments.

CONCLUSIONS: Views on the impact of the Internet were generally positive, but there is a long way to go before its full potential is realised.


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