Health Policy

General Dentists' Referrals of 3- to 5-Year-Old Children to Pediatric Dentists

McQuistan, M.R.; Kuthy, R.A.; Damiano, P.C.; Ward, M.M.
2006 May

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Little is known about general dentists' referral patterns. The authors explored the practice, dentist and patient characteristics associated with general dentists' likelihood of referring children aged 3 to 5 years to pediatric dentists.

METHODS: The authors sent all Iowa general dentists (N = 1,089) a 25-item questionnaire regarding the referral of children in their practices. The authors merged the resulting information with an existing database (Iowa Dentist Tracking System) to create the dataset. A total of 65.4 percent of the dentists (712) participated.

RESULTS: Logistic regression analysis demonstrated that an increase in the percentage of children in the practice decreased the likelihood of the dentist's referring the children (odds ratio [OR] = 0.93, 95 percent confidence interval [CI] = 0.90 to 0.96). Practices with more than 5 percent of patients with public insurance were more likely to refer children (OR = 1.96, 95 percent CI = 1.26 to 3.06), as were dentists with additional training beyond dental school (OR = 1.69, 95 percent CI = 1.06 to 2.69).

CONCLUSION: These data indicate that both practice and dentist characteristics are associated with the likelihood of making referals; however, there needs to be further study on general dentists' referral decisions.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: As the characteristics of the dental work force evolve, there is a need to study referral patterns and the influence they have on work force policy, patient accessibility and educational curriculum.