Uptake of dental services
Previous research has indicated that the majority of the UK dentate population suffers from dental disease. This problem was examined in terms of the supply of, and demand for, dental treatment: how might the uptake of dental services be increased and dental health improved? The target population for the main survey was adolescents among whom demand for dental treatment has decreased. In 524 adolescents surveyed, fear of pain was the major deterrent to regular dental visits. The theoretical literature was explored for illuminating and practical approaches to the problem. The theory of reasoned action developed by Fishbein seemed the most promising. This theory was tested and validated on the adolescent sample identifying clear differences between regular and irregular dental attenders which could be usefully exploited by dental health education. A repertory grid analysis study further illuminated perceptions of dental treatment. A survey of a random sample of 716 dentists revealed that most dentists were in favour of delegating work to auxiliary help but few could do so. Auxiliary help would increase supply of services: data revealed an encouraging trend for younger dentists to be more in favour of delegation than older dentists. A survey was carried out of computer systems available for dentists suggesting that this might reduce the need for clerical assistance but would not ususally affect the supply of treatment. However in some dental practices computerisation might increase demand. For example a personalised reminder was developed and evaluated in a controlled study of 938 appointments demonstrating an uptake in dental services. Conclusions are that demand for treatment can be increased in various ways especially by teaching dentists' behavioural strategies to deal with fear and pain. Various recommendations on this are made. If demand were to outstrip supply increased delegation to auxiliary help could provide a viable way of increasing supply.