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BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2008 Dec 8;8:57. doi: 10.1186/1472-6947-8-57.

How confident are general dental practitioners in their decision to administer antibiotic prophylaxis? A questionnaire study.

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Faculty of Odontology, Malmö University, Malmö, Sweden.



Common dental procedures induce bacteremia. To prevent infectious complications from bacteremia in patients with specific medical conditions, antibiotic prophylaxis is considered. Recommendations are often unclear and ambiguous. In a previous study we reported wide variations in general dental practitioners' (GDPs') administrations of antibiotic prophylaxis. We hypothesized that within such a conflicting clinical area, decisions are made with a high level of personal uncertainty. This study examined GDPs' confidence in their decisions and analyzed the extent to which case-related factors might explain individual variations in confidence.


Postal questionnaires in combination with telephone interviews were used. The response rate was 51% (101/200). There were no significant differences between respondents and non-respondents regarding sex, age, or place of work. The GDPs were presented to patient cases of different medical conditions, where some should receive antibiotic prophylaxis according to recommendations when performing dental procedures that could cause gingival bleeding. The GDPs assessed on visual analogue scales how confident they were in their decisions. The extent to which case-related factors, medical condition and dental procedure, could explain individual variation in confidence was analyzed.


Overall the GDPs exhibited high confidence in their decisions regardless of whether they administered antibiotic prophylaxis or not, or whether their decisions were in accordance with recommendations or not. The case-related factors could explain between 30-100% of the individual variation in GDPs' confidence. For 46%, the medical condition significantly explained the individual variation in confidence. However, for most of these GDPs, lower confidence was not presented for conditions where recommendations are unclear and higher confidence was not presented for conditions where recommendations are more clear. For 8% the dental procedure significantly explained the variation, although all procedures could cause bacteremia. For 46% neither the medical condition nor the dental procedure could significantly explain the individual variation in confidence.


The GDPs presented high confidence in their decisions, and the majority of GDPs did not present what could be considered a justified varied level of confidence according to the clarity of recommendations. Clinicians who are overconfident in their decisions may be less susceptible to modifications of their behavior to more evidence-based strategies.

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