Dentists' attitudes toward chairside screening for medical conditions

Barbara L Greenberg, Michael Glick, Julie Frantsve-Hawley, Mel L Kantor
Journal of the American Dental Association 2010, 141 (1): 52-62

BACKGROUND: of previous studies demonstrated the effectiveness of chairside medical screening by dentists to identify patients at increased risk of experiencing cardiovascular-associated events. In this study, the authors assessed dentists' attitudes, willingness and perceived barriers regarding chairside medical screening in the dental office.

METHODS: A national, random sample of U.S. general dentists was surveyed by mail by means of an anonymous questionnaire that involved a five-point Likert scale (1 = very important/very willing; 5 = very unimportant/very unwilling). Friedman nonparametric analysis of variance was used to compare response items within each question.

RESULTS: Of 1,945 respondents, most were male (82.3 percent), white (85.7 percent) and 40 to 60 years old (59.4 percent) and had practiced for more than 10 years (84.5 percent). The majority thought it was important for dentists to conduct screening for hypertension (85.8 percent), cardiovascular disease (76.8 percent), diabetes mellitus (76.6 percent), hepatitis (71.5 percent) and human immunodeficiency virus infection (68.8 percent). Respondents were willing to refer patients for consultation with physicians (96.4 percent), collect oral fluids for salivary diagnostics (87.7 percent), conduct medical screenings that yield immediate results (83.4 percent) and collect blood via finger stick (55.9 percent). Respondents were significantly more willing (P < .001) to collect saliva than height and weight measurements or blood via finger stick (mean ranks: 2.05, 2.96 and 3.05, respectively). Insurance was significantly less important (P < .001) than time, cost, liability or patients' willingness (mean ranks: 3.51, 2.96, 2.94, 2.83 and 2.77, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS: Dentists considered medical screening important and were willing to incorporate it into their practices. Additional education and practical implementation strategies are necessary to address perceived barriers.

CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: The findings of this study regarding chairside medical screening may lead to changes in our approach to dental education and may help define the practice of dentistry in the future.

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