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Dentists’ Approaches to Treatment Decision-Making for People with Dementia: A Qualitative Study

Lookup NU author(s): Andrew Geddis-Regan, Dr Clare Abley, Professor Catherine Exley, Dr Rebecca Wassall


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© International Association for Dental, Oral, and Craniofacial Research and American Association for Dental, Oral, and Craniofacial Research 2023.Introduction: Globally, the number of people living with dementia (PLwD) is projected to increase substantially. Dentists will encounter an increasing number of PLwD retaining natural teeth who need dental care. Dental treatment planning can be complex for PLwD as both oral diseases and dental treatment can be detrimental to patients’ oral and social function and comfort. In addition, patients may lack the capacity to make decisions about their treatment, posing further challenges for dentists. Objective: This study aimed to explore dentists’ approach to treatment decision-making with or for PLwD. Methods: Semistructured one-to-one interviews were completed with 22 dentists between April 2020 and March 2021. Data generation and analysis followed the principles of constructivist grounded theory with data being collected and analyzed simultaneously using a maximum variation sample. Interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim, and then analyzed, leading to a theoretical understanding of how dentists approach treatment decisions for PLwD. Results: Four data categories describe dentists’ approaches to treatment decision-making for PLwD. Dentists sought to provide individualized care for PLwD. However, they described planning care based on risk-benefit analyses that primarily considered biomedical factors and generic assumptions. There was an underemphasis on the psychological or social implications of dental care or its delivery. Furthermore, while some dentists attempted to involve patients in treatment decisions, they reported fewer attempts to identify the views and preferences of PLwD identified as lacking decisional capacity. In this scenario, dentists reported leading the decision-making process with little regard for patients’ known or identified preferences and minimal involvement of PLwD’s family. Conclusions: Dentists acknowledge the complexity in treatment decision-making for PLwD yet focused heavily on biomedical considerations, with an underemphasis on individuals’ preferences and autonomy. Considering psychosocial aspects of care alongside biomedical factors is essential to support holistic person-centered care for this growing patient cohort. Knowledge Transfer Statement: This study highlighted that dentists may only be considering biomedical aspects of care when considering what treatment is appropriate for people living with dementia. When making or supporting treatment decisions, dentists should explore patients’ preferences and actively consider relevant psychosocial factors. These can be actively identified through considered discussions with patients as well as their family members. Gathering this information should support more person-centered and value-concordant decision-making for people living with dementia.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Geddis-Regan A, Abley C, Exley C, Wassall R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: JDR Clinical and Translational Research

Year: 2023

Pages: epub ahead of print

Online publication date: 29/09/2023

Acceptance date: 02/04/2023

ISSN (print): 2380-0844

ISSN (electronic): 2380-0852

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd


DOI: 10.1177/23800844231199385


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