Referral Patterns of Pediatricians and General Medical Practitioners to Pediatric Dental Clinics and Oral Health Information in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: A cross-sectional study
Introduction: The single most chronic disease impacting children worldwide is dental caries. Complications caused by dental caries could be contributing factors for pediatric mortality, although this disease is completely preventable.
Aims: This study aimed to evaluate physicians’ dental knowledge, preventive measures they would provide, and their referral patterns to pediatric dentists.
Materials And Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The survey comprised 24 questions, distributed into the following five sections: demographic data, dental knowledge, participation in oral preventive measures, case scenarios, and one question about the participants’ opinion in implementing oral health rotations in the pediatric residency program.
Result & Discussion: A total of 406 physicians participated in this study. Only 4.4% of the participants correctly answered all the questions based on dental knowledge; the mean score of those with correct dental knowledge was 2.95 ± 0.9937 out of 5. No significant difference was detected in the total knowledge score according to gender (P=0.315), specialty (P=0.463), and years of experience (P=0.985). Common causes for referral were dental pain or swelling (67%) followed by a child with dental caries (43.6%). Less than 60% of the respondents would refer children to any dentist in the same hospital, while 28% only advise parents to consult a dentist.
Conclusion: The current level of oral health knowledge among physicians in Saudi Arabia is not satisfactory to effectively refer pediatric patients to dentists. The integration of oral health in medical undergraduate and specialty training programs is vital for achieving disease prevention goals.