Dentists' perception of their treatment practices versus documented evidence

Int Dent J. 2002 Apr;52(2):71-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1875-595x.2002.tb00603.x.


Objective: To compare the quality of real-life treatment practices to dentists' perceptions of treatment rendered.

Setting: One administrative unit of the Finnish public oral health service.

Methods: The original oral health records of a randomly selected sample of young adults who received treatment during 1994-1996 provided data on actual clinical examinations (n=208), radiographs (n=312), and root canal treatment courses (n=148) carried out by 50 dentists. Dentists' perceptions of the treatment rendered were obtained through a structured questionnaire completed during their working hours in 1996.

Outcome measures: Criteria for assessing the quality of treatment practices were based on Finnish health legislation, authoritative instructions, and consensus reports.

Results: Based on responses, 77% of the dentists followed the prevailing instructions on oral health record keeping (82%, if partial agreement included). Most dentists (88% fully agreed, 95% at least partly) perceived that their knowledge gained through continuing education was being applied in practice; no one answered no. A gap was found between dentists' perception of the treatment rendered and everyday treatment practices as recorded on patient documents.

Conclusions: Overall, dentists' perception of the quality of their treatment practices exceeded that found in patient documents. This gap deserves consideration while planning research, education, or quality-improvement projects that relate to dentists' opinions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Clinical Competence
  • Dental Care*
  • Dental Records
  • Dentists*
  • Education, Dental, Continuing
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Legislation, Dental
  • Patient Care Planning
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Practice Patterns, Dentists'*
  • Public Health Dentistry
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Radiography, Dental
  • Root Canal Therapy
  • Surveys and Questionnaires