Dental practitioners' use of health risk assessments for a variety of health conditions: Results from the South Atlantic region of The National Dental Practice-Based Research Network

J Am Dent Assoc. 2021 Jan;152(1):36-45. doi: 10.1016/j.adaj.2020.09.003. Epub 2020 Dec 1.


Background: An important step in integrating dental and medical care is improving understanding of the frequency and characteristics of dental practitioners who conduct health risk assessments (HRAs).

Methods: From September 2017 through July 2018, active dentist and hygienist members of the South Atlantic region of The National Dental Practice-Based Research Network (N = 870) were invited to participate in a survey evaluating their HRA practices (screening, measuring, discussing, referring patients) for 6 health conditions (obesity, hypertension, sexual activities, diabetes, alcohol use, tobacco use). For each health condition, the authors used ordinal logistic regression to measure the associations among the practitioner's HRA practices and the practitioner's characteristics, barriers, and practice characteristics.

Results: Most of the 475 responding practitioners (≥ 72%) reported they at least occasionally complete 1 or more HRA steps for the health conditions except sexual activities. Most practitioners screened (that is, asked about) and gave referral information to affected patients for diabetes (56%) and hypertension (63%). Factors associated with each increased HRA practice for 2 or more outcomes were non-Hispanic white compared with Hispanic practitioner (cumulative odds ratio [COR] obesity, 0.4; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.2 to 0.8; and COR diabetes, 0.3; 95% CI 0.2 to 0.8), male compared with female practitioner (COR tobacco, 0.3; 95% CI, 0.2 to 0.7; and COR hypertension, 0.4; 95% CI 0.2 to 0.8), and practitioner discomfort (COR, obesity and alcohol use, 0.7; 95% CI, 0.6 to 0.9; and COR, sexual activities 0.6; 95% CI 0.5 to 0.8).

Conclusions and practical implications: Dental practitioners are conducting HRA practices for multiple conditions. Interventions should focus on reducing practitioner discomfort and target non-Hispanic white, male practitioners.

Keywords: Health risk assessment; comfort; dental practitioners; discussion; integrated care; referral; screening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Dental Hygienists
  • Dentists*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Professional Role*
  • Risk Assessment