General dentists' referral of children younger than age 3 to pediatric dentists.
PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to assess which variables are associated with Iowa general dentists' referral of children younger than age 3 to pediatric dentists. METHODS: A survey was mailed to all Iowa general dentists (N=1,089). Respondents were asked how likely (never, sometimes, often, always) they were to refer children younger than age 3 to pediatric dentists in the past 12 months. Associations between referral patterns with practice, dentists,' and patients' characteristics were determined. RESULTS: The adjusted response rate was 65%. Nearly 50% of all dentists reported often or always referring children younger than age 3. Dentists who referred were more likely to be males and to have been in practice longer. Dentists who perceived that they had not received adequate exposure to preschool children younger than age 3 in dental school were more likely to refer. Dentists with smaller percentages of children within their practices were more likely to refer. Dentists most often referred children who were uncooperative, had severe decay, or had special needs. CONCLUSIONS: About one half of Iowa's general dentists refer children younger than age 3 to a pediatric dentist. Initiatives need to be undertaken to address dentists' reluctance to care for young children.