Objective: To investigate current GDP oral surgery referral patterns given the anticipated change since the introduction by the General Dental Council of the specialty of surgical dentistry.
Design: Postal questionnaire.
Setting: 400 GDPs in Greater Manchester.
Results: 84% participation rate. 69% of dentists made a referral because of anticipated difficulty of surgery and 49% because of the complex nature of the patients' medical history. Practitioners who had undergone some oral surgery postgraduate training were more likely to undertake more surgery in their practices (P < 0.01) and to refer more patients for specialist care (P < 0.05). While female practitioners rated their own surgical confidence less highly than male practitioners (P < 0.001), and younger practitioners less than their older colleagues (P < 0.05), there was no significant difference in the number of referrals made.
Conclusion: The most common reasons for referral were the anticipated difficulty of surgery and patient medical compromise. There was a wide variation between practitioners in the number of patients referred for specialist care. Postgraduate oral surgery training was identified as a factor contributing to this variation. Other practitioner variables, such as sex, experience and type of practice were not found to contribute.