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Lead Public Health Service Dentists in Finland: Leaders or Dentists?
Aim: To survey the leadership roles of the Finnish Public Dental Service (PDS) lead dentists in a changing oral health
care environment. Methods: Data were collected using an Internet questionnaire from lead PDS dentists (total N=265)
on the following: how dentists became leaders in the PDS, what motivated them, their leadership styles and work wellbeing,
whether they were primarily Â“leadersÂ” or Â“dentistsÂ”, and their perceptions of their decision-making power in the
municipal health care organisation. Factor analysis, chi-square and non-parametric tests were used to analyse the data
gathered. Results: The response rate was 73%. Only 32% of the respondents had applied for a leading position in the
PDS. The remainder had been asked or were Â“forcedÂ” to take it. A third (35%) were formally qualified for the post (i.e.,
had specialist education in dental public health). Most lead dentists (90%) had to treat patients in addition to working as
leaders. Most lead dentists (66%) had good leadership motivation and appreciated the mental reward of being a lead dentist.
As regards leadership styles, 88% felt that they were good people-oriented leaders and 61% good goal-oriented managers.
Slightly more than half of the lead dentists (59%) could be identified primarily as leaders and 41% primarily as
dentists. Lead dentists considered that, in general, their power in municipal decision-making was weak. Conclusions:
Being a lead dentist in the PDS was not a highly desired part-time job in comparison with clinical work. Lead dentists
had many of the same problems that studies on lead doctorsÂ’ roles have shown.