Contemporary dental practice in the UK: demographic details and practising arrangements in 2008

P A Brunton, T Burke, M O Sharif, E K Muirhead, S Creanor, N H F Wilson
British Dental Journal 2012 January 13, 212 (1): 11-5

OBJECTIVES: To determine, by postal questionnaire, the demographic profile and practising details of general dental practitioners in the UK in 2008.

METHODS: A piloted 89 question postal questionnaire was distributed in 2007/2008 to 1,000 dentists, with effective addresses in the UK, whose names and addresses were obtained by random selection from the General Dental Council (GDC) register.

RESULTS: Six hundred and ninety-one questionnaires were returned, of which 662 were useable - an acceptable 66% useable response rate. Of the respondents, 69% were male and 59% were practice principals. Fifty-three percent of the respondents' practices were in town or city centres with a wide geographic distribution. Single-handed practitioners accounted for 17% of respondents, with the mean number of dentists per practice being 3.6 (median 3.0). Typically, respondents' practices provided a mean of 26 patient care sessions per week, with each dentist treating on average 15 patients per session - 16 minutes per patient on average including surgery turnaround time, assuming 4 hour sessions. Hygienists typically treated seven patients per session - 34 minutes per patient on average including surgery turnaround time, assuming 4 hour sessions. Respondents stated that 57% of patients were treated under the NHS arrangements, with 28% being private, 7% independent and 7% insurance-based. Responses indicated that 73% of the respondents used a computerised patient management system, 67% had an internet connection and 60% used email, principally for correspondence, ordering materials and other uses such as referrals and research. Forty-five percent of respondents owned an intra-oral camera, with 45% of those using it routinely. Regarding new concepts, the use of nickel-titanium endodontic files (61%), digital imaging (28%) and zirconia all-ceramic bridgework (27%) were the most frequently cited innovations currently used by the respondents. Regarding the most notable changes in findings when compared with a related study conducted in 2000, these were connected to the method of payment with the proportion of NHS patients dropping to 57% compared with 86%; the volume of postgraduate education undertaken by dentists, with a 50% increase in the proportion of respondents having attended five or more courses each year (63% compared with 40% in 2000); and the use of zirconia all-ceramic bridgework (27% of respondents).

CONCLUSIONS: The findings of the present study are considered to indicate increasing commercialism of dentistry in the UK, with evidence of many practitioners adopting new technologies, underpinned by substantial participation in postgraduate education.

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