Public health aspects of third molar surgery. The effect of surgeons' treatment thresholds on efficiency and effectiveness.
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Disease associated with third molars is being recognised increasingly as a public health problem in terms both of rising incidence and of appropriate use of resources. Since minor alterations in treatment philosophy can have a substantial impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of oral surgery services, this study examines the sensitivity and specificity of oral surgeons' decisions and uses Receiver Operator Characteristics (ROC) analysis to investigate their ability to detect and make appropriate judgements about teeth which need extraction according to established criteria. The study shows that the seniority of the surgeon making the treatment decisions had no significant effect on the decisions made and also demonstrated wide variations between the treatment plans made by individual clinicians. It is clear from this study that if an efficient and effective service for the treatment of third molar disease is to be commissioned, policy decisions about criteria for intervention must be made by health service purchasing authorities, adhered to by secondary care providers, and shared with the primary care practitioners who refer patients for treatment.
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