Hygiene-therapists could be used to screen for dental caries and periodontal disease

Derek Richards

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Methodology: A purposive sample of large NHS dental practices with a minimum of three surgeries employing at least one hygiene-therapist (HT) was taken. Asymptomatic patients attending for routine checkups who consented to the study underwent a screen by H-T for dental caries and periodontal disease (index test) followed by a screen by a general dental practitioner (reference test). Patients were recruited consecutively. H-Ts and dentists attended a compulsory training day, which covered recruitment, consenting, screening process, calibration using stock photographs and patient record form completion. Diagnostic threshold for caries was any tooth in the patient's mouth that showed evidence of frank cavitation or shadowing and opacity that would indicate dental caries into the dentine. The diagnostic threshold for periodontal disease was any pocket in the patient's mouth where the black-band of a basic periodontal examination (BPE) probe (3.5 to 5.5 mm) partially or totally disappeared (ie BPE code 3). The index test was compared with the reference test to determine true-positive, false-positive, false-negative and true-negative values. Sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, negative predictive value and diagnostic odds ratios are shown in Table 1.
Results: Eighteen hundred and ninety-nine patients consented to dental screening with 996 patients being randomly allocated to see the dentist first and 903 H-T first. The time interval between the index and reference test never exceeded 21 minutes. With the exception of two practices failing to collect data on smoking and dentures there were no missing results regarding the outcome of a positive or negative screening decision. No adverse events were reported. Mean screening time was five min 25 s for H-Ts and four min 26 s for dentists. Dentists identified 668 patients with caries (Prevalence of 0.35) while H-Ts classified 548 positive and correctly identified 1,047 of the 1,231 patients with no caries. Dentists identified 1074 patients with at least one pocket exceeding 3.5 mm in depth. Of these 935 were correctly identified by the H-Ts. For the 825 screened as negative by the dentist H-Ts correctly identified 621.
Conclusions: The results suggest that hygiene-therapists could be used to screen for dental caries and periodontal disease. This has important ramifications for service design in public-funded health systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-117
Number of pages2
JournalEvidence-Based Dentistry
Issue number4
Early online date20 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Dentistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Hygiene-therapists could be used to screen for dental caries and periodontal disease'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this