Objectives: To investigate age- and population-based differences in dentists' infection control practices and willingness and refusal to treat patients with HIV.
Methods: A national mailed survey of a stratified random sample of dentists in Canada (n = 6444) with three follow-up attempts. Pearson's chi-square test and multiple logistic regression were used for data analysis. Predictor variables included population, age, gender, marital status, specialty, number of patients treated per day and continuing education on HIV/AIDS.
Results: The adjusted response rate was 66.4%. The best predictors of willingness to treat patients with HIV were younger age (compared with dentists > or = 60 years of age: < 30 years, OR = 8.6, 30-39, OR = 3.4; 40-49, OR = 2.7; 50-59, OR = 1.6), attending continuing education on HIV/AIDS in the past 2 years (> 10 hours, OR = 1.6 compared with zero hours), practicing in small population centres < 10,000 (OR = 1.6 compared with > 500,000) and gender (male OR = 1.3). The best predictors of refusal to treat patients with HIV were older age (compared with dentists < 30 years of age: > or = 60, OR = 6.1; 50-59, OR = 4.1; 40-49, OR = 3.0; 30-39, OR = 2.6); and practicing in population centres > 500,000 (OR = 1.5 compared with < 10,000). However, the latter group also reported treating more HIV patients than respondents in smaller communities. Infection control practices varied significantly with age and population centre. Dentists in communities of < 10,000 were more compliant with HBV vaccination, but less compliant with handwashing after degloving and the use of infection control manuals. Similarly, dentists > 60 years of age were the least compliant with HBV immunization, routine use of barriers and sterilization of handpieces, but reported the highest compliance with handwashing.
Conclusions: Age- and population-based differences need to be considered in planning educational interventions to improve both access to care for patients with HIV and dentists' compliance with recommended infection control procedures.