Clinical decision-making in complex endodontic cases between postgraduate students across dental specialties at a UK dental school: A pilot study

Liew, Jonathan, Abidin, Imran Zainal, Cook, Neil orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-9738-9582 and Kanagasingam, Shalini (2021) Clinical decision-making in complex endodontic cases between postgraduate students across dental specialties at a UK dental school: A pilot study. European Journal Of Dental Education . ISSN 1396-5883

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Introduction: Treatment decisions for a heavily restored endodontically treated tooth vary amongst clinicians owing to multitude of factors. This phenomenon not only often poses dilemmas to clinicians of different clinical backgrounds, but also exerts a degree of treatment difficulty to the treating clinician. Previous studies indicated that specialty training and clinical experience significantly impacted clinical decision making process.

Materials and methods: Master of Science postgraduate students in endodontics, prosthodontics, periodontics, oral surgery and implantology participated in a questionnaire-based cross-sectional study. The dental specialties were further categorised into restorative and surgical dentistry. A multiple-choice questionnaire with three clinical cases was distributed to the students. Data were analysed for trends using descriptive statistics.

Results: There was a 44% response rate; the majority of respondents were from restorative dentistry specialties. Cases 1 and 2 were rated as moderate to high difficulty, and Case 3 was predominantly rated as high difficulty with procedure predictability being the main factor affecting their clinical decision-making in three cases. Endodontic retreatment was selected as the preferred treatment in Cases 1 and 2 and periradicular surgery in Case 3. The students were fairly confident in managing Cases 1 and 2, but not in Case 3. Referral patterns were consistent in Cases 1 and 2 with endodontists being the first choice of referral except for Case 3 where 48% preferred to refer to oral surgeons and 35% choosing endodontists. Some indication of differences between specialties were noted throughout. Years in practice appeared to be related to the importance of predictability in Case 3 only.

Conclusion: Considerable inter-clinician variability was noted whereby specialty postgraduate training impacted on clinical decision-making. Overall, procedural predictability, technical difficulty, risk of damage to the tooth and patient preference were the most highly ranked factors affecting clinical decision-making. Evidence-based treatment guidelines and dental curricula should be reviewed to enhance inter-clinician agreement in clinical decision-making, ultimately improving patient care.

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