Background In April 2011 the Scottish Dental Clinical Effectiveness Programme published the Oral health management of patients prescribed bisphosphonates guidance document. The aims of this study were to examine whether dentists' practice and beliefs changed after guidance publication to determine whether a knowledge translation intervention was required, and to inform its development. Methods Three postal surveys sent to three independent, random samples of dentists throughout Scotland pre- and post-guidance publication. The questionnaire, framed using the theoretical domains framework (TDF), assessed current practice and beliefs relating to recommended management of patients on bisphosphonates. Results The results (N = 420) suggest that any significant impact the guidance may have had on the recommended management of patients on bisphosphonates by primary care dentists, had reached its peak ten months post publication. A more positive attitude, greater perceived ability, and greater motivation were all associated with significantly more performing of all recommended behaviours at every time point. Conclusions Prior to this study, there was little available information about how patients on bisphosphonates were being managed in primary dental care, or what beliefs may be influencing management decisions. This study was able to identify levels of compliance pre- and post-guidance publication and determine that further intervention was necessary to enable sustained uptake of recommendations. Using the TDF to identify beliefs associated with best practice made it possible to suggest theoretically informed strategies for service improvement. The next step is to test the intervention(s) in a randomised controlled trial.