Purpose: The aims were to: (1) describe what dentists from a multi-region network consider as important factors when assessing caries risk in children, and (2) test for differences as a function of practice characteristics.
Methods: This study surveyed 509 Dental Practice-based Research Network (DPBRN; www.DentalPBRN.org) dentists who perform restorative dentistry on patients ages 6-18. DPBRN is a consortium of participating practices and dental organizations that comprises five regions: AL/MS: Alabama/Mississippi; FL/GA: Florida/Georgia; MN: dentists employed by HealthPartners and private practitioners in Minnesota; PDA: Permanente Dental Associates in cooperation with Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research; and SK: Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.
Results: Sixty-nine percent of network dentists reported performing on a regular basis caries risk assessment of some variety, and 12% assess caries risk using a special risk assessment form. Some regional and practice model differences were evident. Regions where dentists most often were in a private practice model (FL/GA, AL/MS) were the least likely to perform caries risk assessment. Regions consisting mostly of large group practices (PDA, MN) were the most likely to use a special form for caries risk assessment. More-recent graduates from dental school were more likely to use caries risk assessment in their practice when compared to older graduates. Current oral hygiene, decreased salivary flow, and the presence of active caries were rated as the most important caries factors. We also observed considerable variability in dentists' views of the importance of specific caries risk factors in treatment planning, and only weak evidence that caries risk assessment is driving clinical practice when preventive treatment recommendations are being considered.
Conclusion: These data suggest significant differences in caries risk assessment routines as a function of practice characteristics. Not all private practice dentists assess caries risk. Support: DE 16746, DE 16747.