Objective: To seek opinions from general dental practitioners in Calderdale and Kirklees (West Yorkshire) regarding an online orthodontic referral service and to establish the profile of dentists working in primary care who would refer patients online for a consultant orthodontist's opinion.
Methodology: All 91 general dental practices in Calderdale and Kirklees in West Yorkshire were sent a piloted questionnaire enquiring into their orthodontic treatment and referral patterns, and also into their attitudes to the use of the Internet and related technologies. Three mailings were performed, followed by telephone contact with non-responders.
Results: Usable responses were obtained from 119 general dental practitioners who worked in 71 practices (78%). Analysis of data showed that, when asked whether they would be interested in using teledentistry to obtain a consultant orthodontist's opinion online, 53/116 (46%) replied positively. The most frequently specified reason for this interest was that it would save time and would achieve a quicker opinion for a practitioner's treatment plan. These dentists were more likely to be familiar with the use of digital cameras, be using removable appliances, and currently be in the habit of referring orthodontic cases to consultants and specialists.
Conclusions: Just under half of the dentists working in primary care in Calderdale and Kirklees who responded had a positive attitude towards the benefits of a teledentistry referral scheme. However, a substantial number remained undecided, possibly because they were unsure of their information technology (IT) skills. A further pilot study is planned. It will enquire into the feasibility of carrying out such an exercise across West Yorkshire.