Dentists' Treatment of Underserved Populations Following Participation in Community-Based Clinical Rotations as Dental Students
OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to identify which underserved populations are being treated by dentists after participation in community-based clinical rotations as dental students and to determine which predictor variables are associated with dentists' treatment of these populations.
METHODS: A 25-item written survey was developed and mailed to University of Iowa College of Dentistry alumni (1992-2002; N = 745) to assess what percentage of their current total patient population was composed of each of the twelve identified populations. Separate statistical analyses (descriptive, bivariate, and generalized logistic regression) were performed for each underserved population.
RESULTS: Three-hundred seventy-two dentists responded for an adjusted response rate of 50 percent. Respondents were most likely to treat "other ethnic groups" and low income populations. In contrast, 70 percent or more of all respondents said they never treat the homebound, homeless, and incarcerated. Additionally, over 40 percent of respondents said they never treat HIV+/AIDS patients and Medicaid patients. Logistic regression models showed that comfort in treating a population, treating more than seven populations, and having the total percentage of underserved populations treated within a practice total more than 50 percent were the most frequently associated (P < 0.05) and strongest predictors of treating the listed underserved populations.
CONCLUSIONS: Although respondents reported treating most populations, community leaders and dentists should identify at-risk populations and develop protocols to help ensure that these populations are able to obtain, at a minimum, emergency care. Additionally, dental schools should develop educational curricula to help increase students' comfort in treating underserved populations.