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Am J Orthod Dentofacial Orthop. 2003 Nov;124(5):541-50.

Patient and parent understanding of informed consent in orthodontics.

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Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, University of Washington School of Dentistry, HSC Box 357134, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


In both medical and dental settings, researchers have found that patients do not adequately comprehend the information given during informed consent discussions, especially the less educated, low-income patients. Because of the importance of patient compliance with orthodontic treatment regimens, this study examined patient and parent understanding of the child's Phase I orthodontic treatment in a public dental clinic with ethnically diverse, low-income patients. Interviews were conducted with 29 children (ages 6-12) and their parents or guardians at the orthodontic case presentation appointment. The orthodontist explained the reasons for treatment, the orthodontic procedures to be used, the risks, the alternatives, and patient and parent responsibilities during treatment; the session was audiotaped. Interviews were conducted immediately after this discussion and the results compared with the orthodontists' presentations. In general, both children and parents recalled significantly fewer reasons for treatment (1.10, 1.66, and 2.34 items, respectively), procedures (1.55, 1.59, and 2.45, respectively), risks associated with treatment (0.66, 1.48, and 4.66, respectively), and responsibilities of the child during treatment (2.21, 2.07, and 3.38, respectively) than what the orthodontist had told them. They were also less likely to recall the reasons, procedures, and risks that were most frequently cited by the orthodontist. These findings raise concerns about the effectiveness of current informed consent techniques with public health populations, especially the low recall rates within 30 minutes of the case presentations. Low recall of risks by children and their parents, particularly for critical risks such as relapse, caries, and periodontal problems, raises concerns about treatment compliance, success, and more importantly, the effectiveness of the informed consent process itself. Future research should focus on methods to improve the informed consent process among children undergoing orthodontic treatment in a low-income population.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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