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The importance of pain management for young dental patients

A recent study out of Sweden found that more experienced general dental professionals tended to be more responsive than their younger colleagues to child patients' specific needs. (Image: Kateryna Omelianchenko/Shutterstock)
Brendan Day, Dental Tribune International

Brendan Day, Dental Tribune International

Mon. 17. May 2021


GOTHENBURG, Sweden: In Sweden, free dental check-ups are provided for children and adolescents until they reach the age of 20. Whereas this means that much is known about their oral health status, there have been relatively few studies measuring consideration for the oral pain that young Swedish dental patients undergo and its treatment. A new study has shed light on this topic, suggesting that dental professionals with more experience tend to be more alert to the needs of young patients.

The study was conducted by a research team from Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg and focused on the attitudes of general dental professionals (GDPs) working for the public dental service in the Västra Götaland region. In all, 387 GDPs were surveyed for the study, 71% of whom were female.

According to the study’s authors, previous analysis of dentists in the US and Finland conducted by Murtomaa et al. found that nearly 50% of GDPs fail to routinely ask young patients about pain. A study of Swedish dentists from 2005, meanwhile, revealed that around “one-third of the GDPs [surveyed] were to some extent indifferent to young patients’ experience of pain and psychological management”.

“In the literature up until now, there are no studies offering multidimensional data on GDPs’ knowledge and attitudes,” the study’s authors added.

They stated: “Thus, the aim was to study general dental practitioners’ knowledge and attitudes on pain and pain management in children and adolescents, using a multidimensional questionnaire.”

The results of the survey showed that the age and numbers of years of professional experience of GDPs influenced how they interpreted and responded to children’s pain in a clinical setting. GDPs with more than 17 years of experience were found to be more responsive to a young patient’s particular needs—a trend that has been similarly reported across other medical professions, the authors noted.

Furthermore, it was observed that among the survey respondents, “female dentists displayed significantly more care regarding pain management” than their male colleagues, whereas the parental status of GDPs was not noted to be an influencing factor.

In their discussion, the study authors suggested that future research on this topic could “apply the questionnaire to other large GDP cohorts”. They also advised, however, that any further research should “revise, shorten and refine the questionnaire”.

The study, titled “General dental practitioners’ knowledge and attitudes on children’s pain and pain management—a questionnaire survey”, was published online on 10 May 2021 in Paediatric and Neonatal Pain.

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