The oral health of the adult population has been improving in the United Kingdom decade upon decade. Over half of dental service activity in the National Health Service (NHS) is limited to a “check-up” without any further treatment. This raises a question as to whether “check-ups” could be provided by Dental Hygieneist-Therapists, rather than General Dental Practitioners. The aim of this study was to assess the feasibility of a definitive trial to evaluate the costs and effects of using Dental-Hygieneist-Therapists to undertake the “check-up”.
Adult NHS patients were randomised into three arms in two dental practices: patients who only saw Dental Hygieneist-Therapists for a “check-up”, those that saw the General Dental Practitioner and Dental Hygieneist-Therapist alternatively and a control, where patients only saw the General Dental Practitioner for their “check-up”. The study ran for 15 months. The primary outcome measures of the study were patient recruitment, retention and fidelity. A parallel and embedded qualitative study was undertaken which recorded the views of participating patients to determine the social acceptability of the intervention.
Sixty patients participated in the study. The initial recruitment rate for the study was 33.7%. This figure increased to over 82.1% when telephone calls or face-to-face recruitment was utilised. The retention rates were 60.0% for both the Dental Hygieneist-Therapist only group and the alternate General Dental Practitioner and Dental Hygieneist-Therapist group, compared to 70.0% for the General Dental Practitioner only group. Fifteen patients were interviewed in the qualitative study and supported a team approach to the provision of “check-ups” in the NHS.
This study demonstrates the feasibility of a definitive trial to evaluate the costs and effects of using Dental-Hygieneist-Therapists to undertake the “check-up”.