UBC Theses and Dissertations
Professional uncertainty in providing dental care for children with special health care needs among general dentists in British Columbia Sun, Shan
Objective: The aim of this study was to determine whether scientific (knowledge base), practical (clinical infra-structure) or personal (sense of social justice) sources of uncertainty among British Columbia general dentists posed the greatest barriers to their ability to treat children with special health care needs (CSHCN). Methods: A 74-item self-administered electronic questionnaire was distributed to a random sample of 1200 general dentists registered with the British Columbia Dental Association. Variability in clinical practice (examine, examine and refer, refer) was assessed using three case scenarios featuring CSHCN with a 1) behavioral difficulty (autism spectrum disorder), 2) physical disability (bleeding disorder) or 3) combination (cerebral palsy). Respondents were asked to use a five-point Likert-type scale to rate uncertainty levels from scientific, practical and personal sources in each case scenario. One-sample t-tests were used to compare differences between examination/refer for examination and treat/refer for treatment group pairs. All items in the scientific, practical and personal domains were tested using multivariate analyses (logistic regression) for all three cases. Data was analyzed and classified based on a novel taxonomical approach. Results: The response rate was 20.2% (n=226). A higher percentage of dentists were willing to examine and treat a child with a bleeding disorder (59.7%) or cerebral palsy (63.0%) compared to a child with autism (54.5%). Among those who would refer, the most significant reported sources of uncertainty in general are scientific (knowledge of management, ability to diagnose disease) and practical sources (staff training, inadequate facilities, busy practice). Conclusions: While the majority of general dentists showed interest and desire to provide care for CSHCN, scientific and practical uncertainty are significant factors affecting their ability to provide care. Recognizing the presence of uncertainty in dental care can inform policy changes to help dentists either decrease reducible uncertainties or cope with those that are irreducible. Implementation of increased undergraduate curriculum hours and hands on experience with CSHCN as well as expanded coverage of public and private dental benefits may help reduce barriers to care for CSHCN, in particular for those with conditions such as autism spectrum disorder.
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