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Qual Saf Health Care. 2003 Apr;12(2):107-11.

Clinical practice guidelines in dentistry: opinions of dental practitioners on their contribution to the quality of dental care.

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University Medical Centre St Radboud, Department of Cariology and Endodontology, College of Dental Sciences, University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands.



To assess the opinions of general dental practitioners regarding the development and importance of clinical practice guidelines and their contribution to the quality of dental care.


A questionnaire was sent to a representative sample of 1656 dentists in the Netherlands. Factor analysis was conducted to identify scales of variables, and a reliability analysis was conducted to verify the reliability of the identified scales. The effect of the independent variables is expressed as odds ratio per scale part (standard deviation, SD). Regression analyses were conducted to study determinants of the opinions on clinical guidelines.


The response rate was 73%; 54% of the respondents supported the development of clinical practice guidelines for dentists. Most respondents indicated that clinical practice guidelines could be used as a checklist, as a support in daily clinical decision making, and as a basis for continuing dental education. The factor analyses yielded four scale factors-contribution of guidelines to effectiveness of care (OR 1.95/SD), contribution of guidelines to professional autonomy (OR 1.70/SD), contribution of guidelines to quality of care (OR 2.52/SD), and contribution of guidelines to collaboration (OR 1.49/SD)-which complied with the criterion of Cronbach's alpha >0.60. Multiple regression analysis with the four scale factors as dependent variables yielded only extremely low correlations for practice and dentist characteristics (R(2)=0.01-0.04).


Only about 50% of dentists support the development and implementation of clinical guidelines. Guidelines are seen as helpful in the provision of continuing dental education and as a support in daily clinical decision making. The most important barrier to successful implementation of clinical practice guidelines is the fear of dental practitioners that guidelines will reduce their professional autonomy. Practice and dentist characteristics are unrelated to dentists' opinions on clinical practice guidelines.

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