Dental practice in the UK in 2015/2016. Part 4: changes since 2002?

Objectives To determine, by means of anonymous self-report questionnaires, the changes in demographic profile, practising details and utilisation of clinical techniques/materials of general dental practitioners (GDPs) in the UK between 2002 and 2015. Method A wide-ranging, validated questionnaire, designed to elicit information on the practising arrangements and techniques and materials used, was distributed to UK-based GDPs in 2002, 2008 and 2015 with a request that they complete the questionnaire and return it by post in the reply-paid envelope to the corresponding author. Results Questionnaires were distributed by post to 1,000 UK-based GDPs in 2004 and 2008, with an additional 500 questionnaires being distributed at postgraduate meetings in 2015. Response rates of 70%, 66% and 78% were achieved, respectively. Of the respondents, 73% were male in 2002, while 67% and 60% were male in 2008 and 2015, respectively. In 2002, 65% were practice principals, falling to 51% in 2015. Regarding how patients paid for their dental care, 86% of respondents in 2002 treated patients within the NHS arrangements, compared with 57% and 50% in 2008 and 2015, respectively. The data collected in 2015 indicated that 55% of respondents had an intra-oral camera; while, with regard to recently introduced concepts and techniques, 80% used nickel-titanium files, 47% used zirconia-based bridgework, 25% used tricalcium silicate, and 17% used CAD/CAM restoration. Of great interest, perhaps, is the response to digital radiography/imaging, with the results indicating that, by 2015, 74% of respondents used this form of radiography. Conclusion Results from the three surveys indicated that NHS service provision has dropped to 50%. Regarding the staffing of dental practices, just over half the respondents were practice principals. The results also indicated that UK dentists continue to be innovative and forward-looking in the techniques that they employ.

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Correspondence to F. J. Trevor Burke.

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