Barriers to the adoption and implementation of preventive dental services in primary medical care

Kelly Close, R Gary Rozier, Leslie P Zeldin, Allison R Gilbert
Pediatrics 2010, 125 (3): 509-17

OBJECTIVE: To determine the barriers to adopting preventive oral health procedures in medical primary care.

METHODS: Medical providers who participated in a Medicaid demonstration in North Carolina completed questionnaires reporting their experiences with providing preventive dental services for children from birth to 3 years of age. Eleven factors were established as possible obstacles to the adoption of an oral health program. After 12 months of participation in the Into the Mouths of Babes training program, providers (N = 231) from 49 pediatric practices and 28 family physician practices reported if any of the 11 factors had been an obstacle to adoption and, if so, whether these obstacles were overcome. Program adoption and implementation, defined as providing all of the services on a regular basis, were predicted by using logistic regression to analyze the responses from providers who reported 1 or more barriers, the number of barriers identified (knowledge, attitudes, and external factors), and the number that were overcome.

RESULTS: Program-adoption rates were high, with 70.3% of the participants providing dental services on a routine basis. Attitude and external factors were positively associated with adoption, particularly with difficulty in applying the varnish, integration of the dental procedures into practice, resistance among staff and colleagues, and dentist referral difficulties. From 40.4% to 61.5% of providers overcame these 4 most common barriers. Those who reported external barriers and were unable to overcome them were less likely to provide the services, compared with those providers who reported no barriers (odds ratio: 0.08 [95% confidence interval: 0.01-0.44]).

CONCLUSIONS: The number of barriers to adopting preventive dental procedures in primary care medical practices is associated with implementation. A large proportion of these barriers can be overcome, leading to high adoption rates in a short amount of time. The barriers to adoption are similar to those identified in the literature on changing patient care, with the unique aspects of fluoride application to teeth. Interventions to promote preventive dental care in medical settings should rely heavily on empirical literature. Training physicians in preventive dentistry should identify and target potential barriers with information and options for introducing office-based systems to improve the chances of adoption.

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