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Prim Dent Care. 2003 Jul;10(3):81-6.

GDPs' self-perceived confidence and anxiety in their clinical and communication skills used when screening for oral cancer: UK variations.

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Faculty of Health and Social Work, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK.



To compare anxieties of general dental practitioners (GDPs) across the UK in communicating with patients about oral cancer and confidence in clinical skills required to perform soft tissue screening for oral cancer.


A questionnaire was sent to 2200 randomly selected GDPs from across the UK. Responses to the questionnaires were analysed using 95% confidence intervals.


Dental practitioners in general practice within England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.


The response rate varied between 57% in England and 65% in Northern Ireland. A high percentage of dental practitioners across all UK regions reported performing soft tissue examinations (range 78% to 88%). The number of soft tissue examinations per month varied between 129 (95% CI 109, 148) and 162 (95% CI 154, 170) indicating criteria when selecting patients for screening. Using a nine-point rating scale (1 = not at all, 9 = extremely), confidence in the clinical skills required during oral cancer screening was generally good (ratings varying between 5.4 and 6.7). With the exception of reporting positive findings to patients (rating 4.5 to 5.2), anxiety in communication skills used during oral cancer screening was generally low (ratings varying between 1.8 and 3.9).


While concerns over generalizing the results exist, the situation with respect to the clinical and communication skills required by GDPs during oral cancer screening is generally encouraging. An area of concern is discussing positive findings with patients. This may be overcome by developing specialist courses on breaking bad news within undergraduate dental curricula and programmes of continuing professional development.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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