Aim: To determine whether or not European general dental practitioners can carry out comprehensive dental caries assessments of the teeth of selected quotas of their patients during routine dental check-ups, as an alternative or complement to the work of specialised, salaried, dental epidemiologists.
Methods: Dentists from several European countries were invited by local coordinators to be trained to carry out dental disease assessments. For caries, they used the International Caries Detection and Assessment System (ICDAS), as part of a wider oral health indicators project with a European perspective. They attended training events and recruited and examined patients in their own practices before completing questionnaires, which they returned to a central data-processing facility.
Results: Ninety-six dentists returned questionnaires giving their opinions of the data-collection system after performing ICDAS assessments on 1216 patients. Mean times for assessments varied between countries from 7.8 to 14.06 minutes and were dependent on the age of the patient and the number and general condition of the teeth present. Given a choice of six difficulty/ease options for both understanding and applying the system, 89% of the dental examiners chose one of the two categories indicating the least difficulty for understanding and 73% chose one of these two categories for applying.
Conclusion: Volunteer general dental practitioners (GDPs) from six European countries were able successfully to perform data collection for survey work in addition to their routine practice. If larger numbers of GDPs across Europe are prepared to undertake this type of work for selected quota samples, it should be possible to collect data to monitor caries levels among patients who attend dental practices at local, national, and international levels, provided that the time taken is considered and remunerated appropriately.