National survey of Korean dentists' knowledge and opinions: dental caries etiology and prevention

H Moon, D Paik, A M Horowitz, J Kim
Journal of Public Health Dentistry 1998, 58 (1): 51-6

OBJECTIVE: Dentists have the potential to influence what their patients know and do regarding dental caries prevention. The practices of dentists and what they tell their patients are influenced, in part, by their own knowledge and opinions. The purposes of this study were to determine the level of knowledge and opinions about caries etiology and prevention among Korean dentists and to describe related factors.

METHODS: A pretested, 27-item questionnaire was mailed to 2,047 dentists, selected by a stratified random sampling allocated proportionately. A postcard reminder was sent to all dentists after one week. Nonrespondents were sent additional complete mailings after three, seven, and nine weeks. The response rate was 83 percent (n = 1,700 dentists).

RESULTS: Analysis of six factors thought to be related to knowledge about caries etiology and prevention showed that recent graduates and dentists who worked in public health centers were likely to be more knowledgeable about caries etiology and prevention than their counterparts (P < .05). In regression analysis of perceived effectiveness of caries-preventive procedures for children, recent graduates, males, and dentists who worked in public health centers tended to rate caries-preventive procedures more effective than other dentists (P < .05). Dentists who had experience with school-based preventive programs and dentists in rural areas were likely to rate caries-preventive procedures for adults more effective than other dentists (P < .05).

CONCLUSIONS: Overall, results of this study suggest that the majority of dentists do not know current information concerning etiology and prevention of dental caries, mechanisms of action of fluoride, and effectiveness of preventive procedures for children and adults. Efforts to enhance the level of knowledge and practices of Korean dentists about caries prevention should focus on strategies to educate older graduates and female dentists, especially those in private practice.

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