Knowledge, attitude, willingness and readiness of primary health care providers to provide oral health services to children in Niagara, Ontario: a cross-sectional survey
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BACKGROUND: Most children are exposed to medical, but not dental, care at an early age, making primary health care providers an important player in the reduction of tooth decay. The goal of this research was to understand the feasibility of using primary health care providers in promoting oral health by assessing their knowledge, attitude, willingness and readiness in this regard. METHODS: Using the Dillman method, a mail-in cross-sectional survey was conducted among all family physicians and pediatricians in the Niagara region of Ontario who have primary contact with children. A descriptive analysis was performed. RESULTS: Close to 70% (181/265) of providers responded. More than 90% know that untreated tooth decay could affect the general health of a child. More than 80% examine the oral cavity for more than 50% of their child patients. However, more than 50% are not aware that white spots or lines on the tooth surface are the first signs of tooth decay. Lack of clinical time was the top reason for not performing oral disease prevention measures. INTERPRETATION: Overall, survey responses show a positive attitude and willingness to engage in the oral health of children. To capitalize on this, there is a need to identify mechanisms of providing preventive oral health care services by primary health care providers; including improving their knowledge of oral health and addressing other potential barriers.