Evidence of improved access to dental care with direct access arrangements

Nicola P T Innes, Dafydd J P Evans

    Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

    6 Citations (Scopus)


    Data sources
    Medline, CINAHL, PsycINFO, SCI, SSCI, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Business Source Premier, Google scholar.

    Study selection
    Primary or secondary reports and studies, published in English, after 1993, likely to include data relevant to direct access, report on empirical data relating to the operation of that system.

    Data extraction and synthesis
    After initial screening, titles and abstracts were assessed by two reviewers, and disagreements resolved by the third. Full texts of these eligible ones were then assessed by the team until consensus reached. Data extraction by one reviewer was checked by a second and disagreements resolved by discussion with the third. Study quality was assessed through reference to CASP or SIGN checklists. Descriptive analyses and synthesis of findings were given.

    From the 1,733 studies yielded from the search, over 100 research dental and other health-related papers were identified as relevant. Thirty-five studies were eligible for inclusion under dental health care direct access and 57 under non-dental health care direct access literature. The quality of the evidence was varied but on the whole assessed as moderately good quality. There was no evidence of increased risk to patient safety in any of the included seven studies. Four studies on appropriateness of DCP referrals reported a high proportion of over-referral, one study found under-referral and one good agreement regarding referral decisions. Six of the seven studies looking at DCPs' knowledge or support to patients for smoking cessation, diabetes, child abuse and domestic violence found deficiencies in DCPs' knowledge or support to patients, but these studies didn't have evidence to suggest how this compared to dentists. Increasing access to dental therapists and hygienists (whether indirect, general or without supervision of a dentist) according to ten studies, resulted in greater access to and use of dental services by underserved populations. Three studies suggested variable and, at most, modest cost savings to patients and service providers. High levels of patient satisfaction were found in all eight studies reporting this, and DCP job satisfaction was reported to be higher with direct access.

    Although over-referral of patients to dentists was suggested and a need for training on assessment and referral skills, there was no evidence of significant issues of patient safety from the clinical activities of DCPs. There was strong evidence of improved access to dental care with direct access arrangements, cost benefits to patients/service providers and high levels of patient satisfaction.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)36-37
    Number of pages2
    JournalEvidence-Based Dentistry
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


    • Dental Care
    • Great Britain
    • Health Services Accessibility
    • Humans
    • Referral and Consultation


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