A survey of general dentists in Ontario, Part II: Knowledge and use of topical fluoride and dental prophylaxis practices

P A Main, D W Lewis, R J Hawkins
Canadian Dental Association Journal 1997, 63 (8): 607, 610-7
A mail questionnaire was used to assess variations in the knowledge and practices of Ontario dentists with respect to topical fluoride and prophylaxis procedures. The questionnaire was answered by 1,276 general dentists. A high percentage (72 to 83 per cent) of respondents identified six months as the optimal time interval at which both procedures should be repeated for all patients under 19 years of age. Relatively few dentists (< 10 per cent) indicated that there should be no specific time interval for re-treatment (i.e. that it should be individually selected). The respondents' preventive knowledge was found to be deficient in two areas: few dentists (16 per cent) knew that it is not necessary to provide a prophylaxis prior to topical fluoride application to achieve maximum caries protection; and most dentists overestimated the speed of caries progress from outer enamel to the dentinoenamel junction (DEJ) in both primary (83 per cent) and permanent (82 per cent) approximal tooth surfaces. In bivariate analysis, three variables were found to be consistently and significantly related to optimal time intervals selected for both topical fluoride application and prophylaxis procedures: year of graduation from dental school; level of hygienist employment; and percentage of patients with private insurance. Multivariate analysis also identified three significant variables: year of graduation from dental school; level of dental hygienist employment; and practice business. Continuing education courses are suggested as a means of updating dentists' knowledge regarding preventive services. Studies are needed to determine the extent to which recent recommendations regarding the professional application of topical fluorides have been followed.

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