Background: Integration of oral health promotion into general health care has been highly recommended by the World Health Organization. Primary-care physicians can as part of their general health care promote and contribute to improved oral health care. Our aim was to investigate primary-care physicians' knowledge of oral health, their attitudes toward delivering oral health care (OHC), and their willingness to obtain more education in this field.
Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey of all primary-care physicians working in the public health centers of Tehran city. An anonymous self-administered questionnaire queried their knowledge in pediatric- and general medicine-related areas of dentistry, providing knowledge scores to be calculated for three domains. The physicians' attitudes toward OHC and willingness to pursue continuous education underwent evaluation with statements utilizing a 5-point Likert scale. Totally, 220 physicians took part in the survey (response rate: 92%). Chi-square test, linear and logistic regression, and t-test served for statistical analyses.
Results: The physicians' knowledge score was significantly lower in the pediatric domain than in the dental and medical domains (p < 0.001). The number of physicians answering correctly to the pediatric questions was less than 40%. Almost all physicians (95%) reported it necessary for a physician to know about OHC and admitted (78%) that physicians' general knowledge in this field is inadequate. Further, 77% of the physicians expressed a will to implement preventive oral health activities in their practice, and almost two-thirds (62%) of them showed a willingness to pursue further education about OHC. Those with higher knowledge scores had a greater willingness to deliver oral health care to their patients.
Conclusions: Physicians' lack of knowledge of OHC and their generally positive attitudes toward it revealed a great need for planning of a continuous medical education program in primary care.