Recall intervals for oral health in primary care patients

P Beirne, J E Clarkson, H V Worthington
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, (4): CD004346

BACKGROUND: The frequency with which patients should attend for a dental check-up and the potential effects on oral health of altering recall intervals between check-ups have been the subject of ongoing international debate for almost 3 decades. Although recommendations regarding optimal recall intervals vary between countries and dental healthcare systems, 6-monthly dental check-ups have traditionally been advocated by general dental practitioners in many developed countries.

OBJECTIVES: To determine the beneficial and harmful effects of different fixed recall intervals (for example 6 months versus 12 months) for the following different types of dental check-up: a) clinical examination only; b) clinical examination plus scale and polish; c) clinical examination plus preventive advice; d) clinical examination plus preventive advice plus scale and polish. To determine the relative beneficial and harmful effects between any of these different types of dental check-up at the same fixed recall interval. To compare the beneficial and harmful effects of recall intervals based on clinicians' assessment of patients' disease risk with fixed recall intervals. To compare the beneficial and harmful effects of no recall interval/patient driven attendance (which may be symptomatic) with fixed recall intervals.

SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Oral Health Group Trials Register, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE and EMBASE. Reference lists from relevant articles were scanned and the authors of some papers were contacted to identify further trials and obtain additional information. Date of most recent searches: 5th March 2007.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Trials were selected if they met the following criteria: design - random allocation of participants; participants - all children and adults receiving dental check-ups in primary care settings, irrespective of their level of risk for oral disease; interventions - recall intervals for the following different types of dental check-ups: a) clinical examination only; b) clinical examination plus scale and polish; c) clinical examination plus preventive advice; d) clinical examination plus scale and polish plus preventive advice; e) no recall interval/patient driven attendance (which may be symptomatic); f) clinician risk-based recall intervals; outcomes - clinical status outcomes for dental caries (including, but not limited to, mean dmft/DMFT, dmfs/DMFS scores, caries increment, filled teeth (including replacement restorations), early carious lesions arrested or reversed); periodontal disease (including, but not limited to, plaque, calculus, gingivitis, periodontitis, change in probing depth, attachment level); oral mucosa (presence or absence of mucosal lesions, potentially malignant lesions, cancerous lesions, size and stage of cancerous lesions at diagnosis). In addition the following outcomes were considered where reported: patient-centred outcomes, economic cost outcomes, other outcomes such as improvements in oral health knowledge and attitudes, harms, changes in dietary habits and any other oral health-related behavioural change.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Information regarding methods, participants, interventions, outcome measures and results were independently extracted, in duplicate, by two review authors. Authors were contacted, where deemed necessary and where possible, for further details regarding study design and for data clarification. A quality assessment of the included trial was carried out. The Cochrane Collaboration's statistical guidelines were followed.

MAIN RESULTS: Only one study (with 188 participants) was included in this review and was assessed as having a high risk of bias. This study provided limited data for dental caries outcomes (dmfs/DMFS increment) and economic cost outcomes (reported time taken to provide examinations and treatment).

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: There is insufficient evidence from randomised controlled trials (RCTs) to draw any conclusions regarding the potential beneficial and harmful effects of altering the recall interval between dental check-ups. There is insufficient evidence to support or refute the practice of encouraging patients to attend for dental check-ups at 6-monthly intervals. It is important that high quality RCTs are conducted for the outcomes listed in this review in order to address the objectives of this review.

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