Treating patients with dry mouth: general dental practitioners' knowledge, attitudes and clinical management

A Abdelghany, A Nolan, R Freeman
British Dental Journal 2011, 211 (10): E21

AIM: To assess primary care dental practitioners' knowledge, attitudes and clinical management of patients presenting with dry mouth.

METHOD: A convenience sample of 200 dentists working in primary care in an NHS Health Board in Scotland was obtained. A questionnaire to assess knowledge, attitudes and clinical management of dry mouth patients was sent to all dentists on the NHS primary care service inventory. Ethical approval was obtained.

RESULTS: Two hundred questionnaires were sent to the participants and 114 were returned, giving a valid response rate of 58%. Fifty percent were woman and 80% worked in the general dental service. Seventy-nine percent had been taught about xerostomia as undergraduates but only 21% had postgraduate educational experiences of dry mouth. The majority correctly stated that patients with Sjögren's syndrome would have an increased risk of dental caries, oral candidosis, frictional oral ulcers and squamous cell carcinoma. Participants had positive attitudes with regard to the importance of treating dry mouth; that it was not a trivial complaint; it affected patients' quality of life and their general health. The dentists were not confident to manage dry mouth patients. Knowledge, attitudes, confidence and intention to treat were affected by gender and type of primary care practice. Thirty-two percent of the variance of the intention to provide treatment was explained by working in the salaried dental service (SDS), confidence and attitudes regarding severity of the condition.

CONCLUSIONS: Dentists working in the SDS had positive attitudes and increased confidence which were related to postgraduate educational experiences. Education at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels should be supported by clinical exposure to patients in order to improve dentists' confidence and competence to manage xerostomia and its complications.

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