By Tony Edwards, DrBicuspid.com editor in chief

January 7, 2019 -- One way to improve patients' oral health might be for family physicians to pass along useful information promoting better oral care. But with all the issues these practitioners face on a daily basis, do they retain the oral healthcare information they learn? Researchers conducted a study to find out.

Physicians who participated in an oral healthcare continuing medical education (CME) seminar did a better job of retaining oral healthcare information than those who were only given materials to review, they found. The study was published in BMC Oral Health (December 14, 2018).

"The primary care physicians' [oral healthcare] knowledge improved considerably after an educational seminar with a reminder," wrote the authors, led by Simin Mohebbi, DDS, PhD, of the Research Center for Caries Prevention at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences Dentistry Research Institute in Iran.

Patient care

Some patients see their family physicians more often than they do a dentist. The researchers wondered how much these practitioners knew about certain oral healthcare issues and if they could help improve patients' oral health if they retained information about these issues.

To find out, the researchers created a self-administered questionnaire about pediatric dentistry, general dental, and dentistry-related medical knowledge. They also created an educational seminar for physicians about oral healthcare and then measured the impact of the materials on physicians' knowledge retention.

“The primary care physicians' [oral healthcare] knowledge improved considerably after an educational seminar with a reminder.”
— Simin Mohebbi, DDS, PhD, and colleagues

They then divided more than 100 primary care physicians working in public health centers in Tehran, Iran, into three groups. Those in group A received the educational intervention, which included an information booklet, CME seminar, and pamphlet. The booklet contained evidence-based information in six parts: oral health and diseases in adults, oral health and diseases in children, oral health in pregnancy, fluoride and dental caries, dental emergency, and the relationship between oral and systemic diseases. The pamphlet included the most important parts of the booklet. Those in group B received only the oral healthcare pamphlet. Group C served as the control.

The researchers surveyed the physicians four months later to see how much information about oral healthcare they retained. The intervention significantly increased the physicians' oral healthcare knowledge scores (p < 0.001), they found. The physicians who had lower knowledge scores at baseline showed a higher increase in their knowledge after the study period.

However, the physicians who received only a pamphlet (group B) did not retain the information, as total scores before and after the intervention were about the same as in the control group (see table below).

Percentage of correct responses to select questions before and after intervention
  Group A: Intervention
(n = 38)
Group B: Pamphlet only
(n = 32)
Group C: Control
(n = 36)
Statement Before After Before After Before After
The bacteria that causes dental decay usually transmit from mother to the child. 16% 84% 22% 31% 33% 42%
Sealants are effective in the prevention of pit and fissure caries in newly erupted molars. 61% 92% 59% 72% 64% 64%
Using fluoride toothpaste is more important than the brushing technique for preventing caries. 0% 63% 3% 13% 17% 17%
The main cause of periodontal diseases is dental plaque. 82% 100% 72% 84% 86% 89%
Periodontal diseases can cause problems in diabetes control. 63% 97% 75% 75% 75% 78%
Antidepressants increase the risk of dental caries. 47% 87% 53% 59% 58% 67%

Continuing education

The study authors noted that one of the interventions, the continuing medical education seminar, may suffer from the limitation of an inattentive audience and may not be the most effective method for increasing the physicians' awareness.

They concluded that the physicians' oral healthcare knowledge improved considerably after an educational seminar with a reminder.

"These findings suggest that [oral healthcare] topics should be included in physicians' CME programs or in their curriculum to promote oral health," the authors wrote.


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