Dentists' knowledge and opinions of oral-systemic disease relationships: relevance to patient care and education

David W Paquette, Kathryn P Bell, Ceib Phillips, Steven Offenbacher, Rebecca S Wilder
Journal of Dental Education 2015, 79 (6): 626-35
Population studies consistently support associations between poor oral (periodontal) health and systemic diseases such as cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes. The aim of this study was to assess the knowledge of dentists and document their opinions regarding the evidence on oral-systemic disease relationships. A survey consisting of 39 items was developed and mailed to 1,350 licensed dentists in North Carolina. After three mailings, 667 dentists (49%) meeting inclusion criteria responded. The respondents were predominantly male (76.3%), in solo practice (59.5%), and in non-rural settings (74%). More than 75% of these dentists correctly identified risk factors like diet, genetics, smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity for CVD and diabetes. The majority rated the evidence linking periodontal disease with CVD and diabetes as strong (71% and 67%, respectively). These dentists were most comfortable inquiring about patients' tobacco habits (93%), treating patients with diabetes (89%) or CVD (84%) and concurrent periodontal disease, and discussing diabetes-periodontal disease risks with patients (88%). Fewer respondents were comfortable asking patients about alcohol consumption (54%) or providing alcohol counseling (49%). Most agreed that dentists should be trained to identify risk factors (96%) or actively manage systemically diseased patients (74%). Over 90% agreed that medical and dental professionals should be taught to practice more collaboratively. These data indicate that these dentists were knowledgeable about oral-systemic health associations, had mixed comfort levels translating the evidence into clinical practice, but expressed support for interprofessional education to improve their readiness to actively participate in their patients' overall health management.


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