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J Dent. 2000 Sep;28(7):453-68.

Decision analysis in dentistry--the last 30 years.

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Faculty of Odontology, Malmö University, Malmö, Sweden.



To review publications in dentistry of decision analyses during the last 30 years.


A systematic review of the English literature from 1969 to 1998 was performed using specified indexing terms. The number of retrieved articles in dentistry was compared with the number of articles in medicine. The quality of articles in dentistry presenting a decision tree with utilities and a sensitivity analysis was judged using a published peer review process. We report weaknesses of the analyses together with selected applications.


Sixty-seven articles were published on decision analysis in dentistry. Whilst the number of articles published in medicine has accelerated there has been a decline in the last four years in dental publications. Only 22 of the articles in dentistry presented a decision analysis with utilities and a sensitivity analysis.


Current weaknesses of the decision analyses reported were: opaque basic assumptions in the description of the analysis, lack of data on patient preferences and of reliable data on the chances of the long-term effects and side effects of intervention together with an absence of sensitivity analyses. The decision analysis approach complements that of "evidence-based health care" by enabling the best empirical evidence to be used in clinical practice. Formal methods such as decision analysis will promote the rational use of existing knowledge. For it to do this the quality of research data will have to improve in dentistry. Furthermore decision analysis is important in education to demonstrate explicitly how decisions might be arrived at and improved.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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