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J Behav Health Serv Res. 2006 Jan;33(1):113-25.

Integration of oral health care and mental health services: Dental hygienists' readiness and capacity for secondary prevention of eating disorders.

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School of Community and Environmental Health, Old Dominion University, 140c Spong Hall, Norfolk, VA 23529, USA.


Often the first to observe overt health effects of eating disorders, dentists and dental hygienists play a fundamental role in the secondary prevention of eating disorders. The purpose of this study was to explore readiness and capacity for integration of oral health and mental health services. Employing a randomized cross-sectional study based upon the Transtheoretical and Health Belief Models, data were collected from 378 dental hygienists. Results reveal that the majority do not currently engage in secondary prevention practices. Only 18% of respondents indicated referring patients exhibiting oral manifestations of eating disorders to treatment. Significantly increasing the likelihood of assessment, referral, and case management included modifying factors regarding greater perceived self-efficacy, and knowledge of oral cues of disordered eating, as well as the individual's perception pertaining to severity of eating disorders. Implications for bridging dental care to mental health services include increasing behavioral capacity among dental hygienists via consciousness raising and improved self-efficacy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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