Dental health professionals' treatment of children with disabilities: a qualitative study

Acta Odontol Scand. 2004 Dec;62(6):319-27. doi: 10.1080/00016350410001810.


As children and adolescents with disabilities may be difficult to treat, there is a risk that the disability may constitute a barrier preventing these children from receiving good odontological treatment in the same conditions as other children.

Objectives: To describe Swedish dental care professionals' understanding and knowledge of orofacial problems and treatment needs in children with disabilities.

Methods: In-depth interviews focusing on orofacial function, and carried out with 18 informants (dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants), were transcribed verbatim and analysed in open and focused (selective) coding processes in accordance with grounded theory.

Results: A core category labelled variability in treatment with the dimensions professional uncertainty and professional commitment emerged from the data in the analysis. Variability in treatment could be described as forming a continuum between two end-points captured in the dimensions. The dental teams' treatment of children with disabilities and their families could be placed anywhere along this continuum depending on contributing individual strategies and/or organizational conditions.

Conclusions: The dental treatment for children with disabilities varied greatly, implying a risk for inequalities in treatment as well as in oral health. There is a need for more educational opportunities, better financing, and more support on the organizational level in order to improve odontological care for young special care patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Child
  • Dental Auxiliaries / psychology
  • Dental Care for Children / psychology
  • Dental Care for Disabled / psychology*
  • Dentists / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Environment
  • Workplace / psychology