The oral health of older people: general dental practitioners' beliefs and treatment experience

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The purpose of this study was to examine New Zealand general dentists' beliefs about older people's oral health and to identify the important barriers that prevent dentists from treating institutionalized older adults. A postal survey was distributed nationwide to a representative sample of 700 dentists (response rate 64.5%).Dentists' beliefs were mostly consistent with current epidemiological knowledge, although most (81.5%) mistakenly believed that the root surface caries increment was greater than that for coronal caries. One in four had visited a long-term care (LTC) facility during the previous 2 years. Over threequarters cited the inconvenience of leaving their practices as a barrier, and the lack of a financial incentive was cited by almost half. The results suggested that the areas most in need of attention were the LTC staff's oral health knowledge and attitudes, as well as government policies.Although dentists' beliefs, practices, and attitudes occasion some optimism, the increase in the dentate older population means that policymakers will need to examine efficient, dentist-acceptable ways of delivering care. The profession will need to develop and sustain an appropriate workforce.

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