Variation in periodontal referral by general dental practitioners

G J Linden
Journal of Clinical Periodontology 1998, 25 (8): 655-61
This study investigated the extent of and reasons for variation in the periodontal referral patterns of general dental practitioners in Northern Ireland. A questionnaire was circulated to all general dental practitioners in Northern Ireland. This questionnaire investigated the management of periodontal disease in the general dental service and referral for specialist periodontal advice and treatment. A usable return was made by 355 (68%) of those surveyed. The mean number of periodontal referrals by each respondent in the past year was 6.5 (SD 7.7), range 0 to 80. Backward stepwise logistic regression analysis indicated that independent predictors of high referral rate were practice location close to the referral centre (p<0.0001); dissatisfaction with ability to treat periodontal disease under the National Health Service (p=0.001); that previous refusals of referral had not dissuaded a dentist from continuing to offer referral (p=0.002); not offering root planing as a treatment (p=0.005); and perceived inadequate postgraduate education in periodontology (p=0.03). It is concluded that considerable variation exists between general dental practitioners working in Northern Ireland in relation to the referral of patients for specialist periodontal advice and treatment. It is further concluded that in many cases non-disease factors, such as the accessibility of the specialist service, have powerful effects on the decisions made by dentists and patients in relation to periodontal referral.

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