‘Parallel universes’? The interface between GPs and dentists in primary care: a qualitative study

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Abstract

Background.

Patient care by GPs and dentists is organizationally separated in many health systems. Studies on how dentists and GPs cooperate and interact in daily care are scarce.

Objective.

We aimed to explore the experiences of GPs and dentists as well their views and opinions regarding the inter-professional interface.

Methods.

Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with GPs (n = 8) and dentists (n = 8). The pre-developed interview guideline included questions concerning participant’s experiences with the other specialty, important interdisciplinary medical issues and diseases and potential for improvement of cooperation. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed with qualitative content analysis.

Results.

GPs and dentists perceived knowledge deficits in members of the other specialty and frequently criticized aspects of each other’s patient management. Cooperation worked better if based on local networks of personally known colleagues. Participants reported many medical situations and diseases of common concern, most frequently diabetes and oral anticoagulation. There seemed to be considerable uncertainty about the management of anticoagulant therapy in patients undergoing invasive dental procedures in members of both specialties, despite existing guidelines. The separation of medical and dental university education and the lack of joint training were suggested by interviewees as reasons for the lack of interdisciplinary thinking.

Conclusion.

Except in cases of personal contact, interaction between GPs and dentists is often limited and sometimes difficult—despite numerous inter-professional issues. Interdisciplinary approaches in continuing education, medical and dental school teaching and guideline development are potentially promising for promoting cooperation.

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