ORTHODONTIC SCREENING AND REFERRAL PRACTICES OF DENTAL THERAPISTS IN KUCHING, SARAWAK – A PILOT STUDY.
Objectives: (1) To investigate the orthodontic screening and referral practices of the dental therapists in Kuching; and, (2) to quantify the perceived need for supplementary education by the dental therapists.
Methods: A self-administered questionnaire was distributed to 78 actively practising dental therapists who are involved in School Dental Service (SDS) in Kuching. Participants answered questions related to their socio-demographic characteristics, orthodontic screening and referral practices, and further orthodontic resources.
Results: A total of 69 dental therapists completed the questionnaire, giving a response rate of 88.5%. Virtually all respondents (98.6%, N = 68) viewed orthodontics as an important treatment priority. Most (79.7%, N = 55) agreed that the orthodontic screening process should be a joint undertaking between general dental practitioners and dental therapists. Most dental therapists (75.4%, N = 52) were fairly confident in assessing cases that were suitable for orthodontic referral, but felt that they could benefit from further education, and almost all (98.6%, N = 68) believed that continuing professional development (CPD) courses in orthodontics would be beneficial. Almost all (95.7%, N = 66) were in favour of a standardised national guideline for orthodontic screening. Several patterns were observed for different therapist characteristics, particularly related to current work placement area.
Conclusions: There were differences in the orthodontic screening and referral practices of dental therapists in Kuching. There was a perceived need for CPD courses in orthodontics and the dental therapists were receptive to the idea of standardised guidelines for orthodontic screening.
Keywords: Orthodontics, Orthodontic screening, orthodontic referral, dental therapists, dental nurses, school dental service.