The Efficacy of Screening for Common Dental Diseases by Hygiene-Therapists: A Diagnostic Test Accuracy Study.

R Macey, A Glenny, T Walsh, M Tickle, H Worthington, J Ashley, P Brocklehurst

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    Regularly attending adult patients are increasingly asymptomatic and not in need of treatment when attending for their routine dental examinations. As oral health improves further, using the general dental practitioner to undertake the "checkup" on regular "low-risk" patients represents a substantial and potentially unnecessary cost for state-funded systems. Given recent regulatory changes in the United Kingdom, it is now theoretically possible to delegate a range of tasks to hygiene-therapists. This has the potential to release the general dental practitioner's time and increase the capacity to care. The aim of this study is to compare the diagnostic test accuracy of hygiene-therapists when screening for dental caries and periodontal disease in regularly attending asymptomatic adults who attend for their checkup. A visual screen by hygiene-therapists acted as the index test, and the general dental practitioner acted as the reference standard. Consenting asymptomatic adult patients, who were regularly attending patients at 10 practices across the Northwest of England, entered the study. Both sets of clinicians made an assessment of dental caries and periodontal disease. The primary outcomes measured were the sensitivity and specificity values for dental caries and periodontal disease. In total, 1899 patients were screened. The summary point for sensitivity of dental care professionals when screening for caries and periodontal disease was 0.81 (95% CI, 0.74 to 0.87) and 0.89 (0.86 to 0.92), respectively. The summary point for specificity of dental care professionals when screening for caries and periodontal disease was 0.87 (0.78 to 0.92) and 0.75 (0.66 to 0.82), respectively. The results suggest that hygiene-therapists could be used to screen for dental caries and periodontal disease. This has important ramifications for service design in public-funded health systems.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)70S-78S
    JournalJournal of Dental Research
    Volume94
    Issue number3 Suppl
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2015

    Keywords

    • caries
    • dental hygienists
    • health workforce
    • healthcare disparities
    • periodontal diseases
    • sensitivity and specificity

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