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Research Article Open Access
Special Needs Dentistry has recently been recognised as a dental specialty in Australia. In states other than Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia, this patient cohort would predominately be managed by the general dentist, making a study into aspects of their perception with this patient group pertinent in other States of Australia. This is further reinforced by the fact that there are no registered Special Needs specialists in Western Australia. This study aims to investigate the perception of Special Needs Dentistry amongst general dental practitioners in Western Australia. Materials and methods: A postal questionnaire was distributed to 1000 dentists practicing in Western Australia. The questionnaire recorded sociodemographic characteristics, perceptions of Special Needs Dentistry (awareness and definition of), perception of Special Needs Patients (clinical exposure according to the categories of aged care, physically disabled, intellectually disabled, medically compromised, infectious diseases, and psychiatric problems), criteria for referral of Special Needs Dentistry patients, and perception of Special Needs Dentistry education. Quantitative data was analysed using Chi-squared statistical analysis (p ≤ 0.01). Results: Approximately a third of dentists received undergraduate training in Special Needs Dentistry. The majority demonstrated adequate knowledge in defining Special Needs Dentistry and reported providing treatment to such patients. Inadequate experience and difficulty in managing behavioural problems were quoted as the main reasons for not treating patients with SN although a high percentage of dentists felt positive in providing treatment to most groups except those with psychiatric issues. While most dentists expressed interest in undergoing continual professional development courses in Special Needs Dentistry, most were not keen on pursuing postgraduate education in this field. Conclusion: Dentists in WA were variable in their approach to those with special needs. University curricula and continual professional development in Special Needs Dentistry may improve dentists’ knowledge, attitudes and skills in managing these patients. However, in order to further direct the growth of Special Needs Dentistry, more research is needed into factors that may influence dentists’ willingness to treat this patient cohort.
Clinical Geriatrics,Critical Gerontology,Geriatric