Orthodontic treatment provision and referral preferences among New Zealand general dental practitioners

S Aldawood, S N H Ampuan, N Medara, W M Thomson
Australian Orthodontic Journal 2011, 27 (2): 145-54

BACKGROUND: General dental practitioners (GDPs) are key clinicians in the orthodontic referral chain as they complement (and may compete with) orthodontists in providing treatment for the public.

OBJECTIVES: To determine the nature and extent of GDPs' involvement in orthodontic treatment provision and to identify influences on GDPs' choice of orthodontist.

METHODS: An email survey was conducted of actively-practising GDPs in May-June 2010. Two timelines of contact were followed, with non-responders to the first survey re-contacted three weeks later.

RESULTS: Just under one-fifth (19.3 per cent) reported providing forms of orthodontic treatment. This proportion was higher among males, more experienced practitioners, and dentists in rural locations. The percentage involvement ranged from 22.3 per cent in Greater Auckland to 10.5 per cent in Greater Wellington and 11.9 per cent in Christchurch. In the remainder of New Zealand, percentages ranged from 11.5 per cent in urban areas to 37.1 per cent in rural areas. Of those providing treatment, almost half had 1-10 patients under management, and just over one-third had greater numbers. Sixty-one per cent of orthodontically-involved GDPs in Auckland had more than 10 orthodontic patients. The most commonly treated condition was a simple crossbite, while the least commonly treated condition was the severe Class III malocclusion.

CONCLUSIONS: The provision of orthodontic treatment by New Zealand GDPs has decreased in recent years to an average of about one in five, but this figure is considerably higher in rural areas and is a notable feature of the greater Auckland area. The findings suggest that the majority of the more complex cases are continuing to be referred to specialist orthodontists.

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