OBJECTIVE: This cross-sectional study assessed the use of caries preventive services by Northwest PRECEDENT dental network practitioners and compared the caries experience of patients who received such services in the past 12 months with those who had not.
METHODS: An oral health survey was conducted on approximately 20 patients seen by each of 97 private practice dental practitioners in the network. Eligible patients (total of 1877 aged 3-92) were randomly assessed for the occurrence of one or more new caries lesions as well as having received the following preventive services within the past 12 months: fluoride varnish or gel, sealant in molar or premolar, and prophylaxis. Patients were stratified by gender and age (1-17 years old, 18-64 years old, and 65+ years old). Logistic regression was used to investigate the association between the practitioner characteristics and the use of preventive services, as well as the preventive services and the presence of a new caries lesion in the past 12 months.
RESULTS: The percent of patients in age category 1-17 years old/18-64 years old/65+ years old receiving each preventive treatment varied as follows: 95%/85%/81% for prophylaxis, 87%/24%/22% for fluoride, and 27%/2%/0% for sealant. There was a very limited association between the use of a specific preventive service and practitioner gender, and no significant association between use of services and practice location (rural, urban or suburban). There was a significant association between greater use of sealants for dentists with 0-15 years of practice experience as compared with those having more than 25 years of experience. For the 1-17-year-old age group, boys had about 1.7 times the odds of having a new lesion than girls in the past 12 months, and patients receiving a sealant had 1.9 times the odds of having a new caries lesion. In the 18-64-year-old group, receiving a prophylaxis in the past 12 months was significantly associated with lower odds for having a new lesion (odds ratio = 0.57).
CONCLUSIONS: This study reports that aside from prophylaxis, which more than 85% of the patients had received, about one-third of the patients overall received preventive services consisting of either sealants or some type of fluoride treatment in private dental practices in the Northwest PRECEDENT network.