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Keywords:

  • referral;
  • children;
  • high caries risk;
  • paediatricians;
  • access to care

Abstract

Objective

This study evaluated medical interns' oral health knowledge, and other factors influencing their ability and willingness to perform oral-health-related practices for high-caries-risk children.

Methods

A 15-item survey was emailed to all eligible graduating fifth-year medical students at King Khalid University Hospital to address these areas of interest. Chi-square statistics and logistic regression models were used to analyse data.

Results

One-hundred and twenty-one (49%) usable surveys were returned from two mailings. On questions regarding comfort levels when performing oral-health-related practices on children under age 3, physicians noted high levels of comfort with all specified oral health practices. Regarding satisfaction of students with medical training, the majority of respondents (87.5%) rated their medical training as fair or poor in preparing them for oral health assessments compared to only 35%, 29% and 7% of respondents giving fair or poor ratings to child abuse identification, caring for special needs patients and primary care paediatric practice, respectively. Additionally, although 90% of respondents noted that the role of primary physicians in counselling/referring children with oral health was important, 60% did not agree with the AAPD and AAP guidelines that state that all children should be referred to a dentist by 12 months of age. Multivariate logistic regression analyses revealed several statistically significant variables that predict the likelihood of performing various oral-health-related practices. The choice of public-health-oriented future clinical goals, the level of oral health knowledge, how interns rated their oral health training in medical school and the average number of children seen per week, all – to varying degrees – proved important predicator variables for the likelihood of performing them once in practice.

Conclusions

More oral-health-related training of medical students seems warranted and could improve their interest in providing oral-health-related screening and referrals in practice. Increasing student exposure to child patients and increasing exposures to oral health knowledge and problems could be targeted towards students interested in primary care and public health to use resources most efficiently in the effort to combat the growing caries levels amongst young children in Saudi Arabia.