Dentists’ Knowledge, Attitude and Practices Regarding Dental Care for Children with Special Healthcare Needs in Saudi Arabia
Prathibha Anand Nayak,
Associate Professor, Department of Oral Basic and Clinical Sciences, Ibn Sina National College for Medical Studies, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Jeddah, Makkah, Saudi Arabia.
Introduction: Despite advancements in dentistry, children with special needs continue to have poor oral health, with a higher prevalence of untreated dental caries and periodontal disease. Many treating dentists and the parents of these children encounter difficulty managing these children and the quality of their oral health will be determined by this. Hence, identifying and overcoming the barriers of managing children with Special Healthcare Needs (SHCN) can be assessed as important step in addressing their treatment needs.
Aim: The study investigated the perceptions of general and paediatric dentists in Saudi Arabia, regarding the treatment needs and challenges posed while providing dental care to children with special needs.
Materials and Methods: A cross-sectional, questionnairebased study was conducted among 447 general dentists and 76 paediatric dentists in Saudi Arabia during five month period between 15th October 2021 to 15th March 2022. A prevalidated questionnaire consisting of 18 close-ended questions assessing the knowledge, attitude and practices of the dentists related to children with SHCN was emailed to each dentist. The data was analysed using the IBM Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) version 22.0 (IBM, Chicago, USA). The threshold for significance was established at 5%. The significance of study variables was determined utilising Chi-square test.
Results: Most paediatric dentists and general dentists were of the opinion that mental/behavioural/cognitive disability was the most difficult to manage (p<0.001). Out of the total, 66.2% of the dentists were aware of the dental home concept in managing children with SHCN. The knowledge related factors that were significantly associated, included type of impairment most difficult to manage (p<0.001) and awareness of the dental home concept (p<0.001). Regarding attitude, both general and paediatric dentists agreed that providing oral care is as important as providing medical care and that they were confident in treating these children (p<0.001). The practices related factors that were significantly associated included supporting staff's comfort in treating these children (p=0.004), accessibility of clinic (p<0.001), the availability of equipment to treat (p=0.02), and the techniques most commonly used for managing the behaviour of SHCN children (p<0.001).
Conclusion: The two most significant challenges to a SHCN child receiving dental care were a lack of access to a dentist who can provide oral care and limitations in the child’s cooperation during the procedure. The unmet treatment needs of these children can be considerably reduced by improving parental awareness, facilitating approaches that enhance patient compliance and providing convenient access to dental care.