PURPOSE: Scientific evidence supports the application of caries-preventive agents in children and adolescents, and this knowledge must be applied to the practice of dentistry. There are few multi-region data that allow for comparisons of practice patterns between types of dental practices and geographical regions. The objective of the present study was to characterise the use of specific caries-preventive agents for paediatric patients in a large multi-region sample of practising clinicians.
METHODS: The present study surveyed clinicians from the Dental Practice-based Research Network who perform restorative dentistry in their practices. The survey consisted of a questionnaire that presented a range of questions about caries risk assessment and the use of preventive techniques in children aged 6 to 18 years.
RESULTS: Dental sealants (69%) or in-office fluoride (82%) were the most commonly used caries-preventive agents of the caries preventive regimens. The recommendation of at-home caries-preventive agents ranged from 36% to 7%,with the most commonly used agent being non-prescription fluoride rinse. Clinicians who practised in a large group practice model and clinicians who come from the Scandinavian region use caries risk assessment more frequently compared to clinicians who come from regions that had, predominantly, clinicians in private practice. Whether or not clinicians used caries risk assessment with their paediatric patients was poorly correlated with the likelihood of actually using caries-preventive treatments on patients.
CONCLUSIONS: Although clinicians reported the use of some form of in-office caries-preventive agent, there was considerable variability across practices. These differences could represent a lack of consensus across practising clinicians about the benefits of caries-preventive agents, or a function of differing financial incentives, or patient pools with differing levels of overall caries risk.