APH 2006, 64, 269-275:

Care for Special Needs Patients in General Dental Practice in Flanders.

D. Declerck, F. Vinckier, S. Gizani

Keywords: dental care for disabled, access to dental care

Aim: The aim of this survey was to assess professional attitudes and perceived barriers to dental care delivery for disabled and medically compromised patients, among dental practitioners in Flanders (Belgium).

Methods: A structured questionnaire consisting of items recording personal information, dental practice profile, training received, treatment delivered to special needs patients and attitude towards organisational aspects of care delivery for these patients, was completed by 157 Flemish dental practitioners out of a convenience sample of 199 dentists attending postgraduate courses (response rate of 78.9%).

Results: Most of the dentists were active as general dental practitioners (76.4%) working exclusively in private practice (80.9%). The delivery of dental care to patients with special needs was reported by 87.3% of the dentists. Referral for care delivery in a specialized centre was reported by 67.5% of dentists. The most frequently reported problem was the insufficient level of cooperation of the patient (81.5%). Professional cleaning was the most frequently performed type of treatment, closely followed by restorative treatment and dental extractions. Least frequently performed treatment was orthodontic treatment, closely followed by endodontic treatment, periodontal treatment and prosthetic
rehabilitation.

Conclusions: Further research is needed to determine the type of training needed for dental practitioners, the kind of referral facilities for special dental care that need to be developed and initiatives to consider for optimizing dental care delivery in special needs patients in the Flemish dental setting.