Objective: This study was undertaken to provide an analysis of the actual oral heath care for frail elderly people living in different settings and to explore opinions of dentists towards new concepts in developing a community approach.
Method: Data were collected from a sample of 101 dentists (15%) in the county of Antwerp using a self-administered 30-item questionnaire including questions about age, gender, education, organisational aspects of dental surgery, questions concerning dentists’ own contribution to oral healthcare services for frail elderly people and statements concerning opinions and attitude toward the organisation of oral health care for frail elderly people. At the same time, qualitative data were collected from focus group sessions with all participating dentists. Non-parametric analysis was used to explore possible relationships between opinion and possible explanatory variables.
Results: Half of the dentists offered dental services to residential or nursing homes (mean number of treatments a year: 5.4) and at home (mean number of treatments a year: 2.4). Prosthetic treatments such as relieving denture pressure points, repairing, rebasing and making new dentures were carried out in 77.4% and 76.7% of the cases in residential or nursing homes and at home respectively. Extractions were carried out in 16% and 18.6% of the cases in both living situations respectively. The main reasons for dentists refusing domiciliary oral health care were the absence of dental equipment (63%), lack of time (19%), with 11% convincing the patients to be treated in their dental surgery. Analysis showed different opinions of dentists depending on age, gender and university of education; however, statistically significant differences were only found by age.
Conclusion: The older the dentist, the greater the tendency to refuse domiciliary oral healthcare services. The younger dentists were reluctant to cooperate in the provision of oral health care in a structured community approach.