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Reasons for (not) choosing dental treatments—A qualitative study based on patients’ perspective

Felgner, Susanne; Dreger, Marie; Henschke, Cornelia

Oral health is increasingly seen as a public health challenge due to the remarkable prevalence of oral diseases worldwide, the impact on general health, and health consequences that can arise for individuals. Compared to other health services, oral health services are usually not fully covered by statutory health insurance, which is seen as one reason in decision-making on dental treatments. Nevertheless, patients’ reasons for treatment decisions are not well understood although they can provide valuable insights. The objective of this study was to identify reasons of choice for dental treatments and to explore patients’ view on cost coverage in Germany. We conducted four focus group interviews with a total of 27 participants. The interviews were audiotaped and transcribed verbatim. Data was analyzed performing conventional content analysis. As part of a qualitative analysis, subcategories and categories were formed from identified reasons using an inductive approach. Our study supports and expands research in exploring patients’ decision-making on dental treatments. It highlights a variety of 53 reasons of choice for dental treatments from patients’ perspective, split in two categories “health care service”, and “dentist & dental office”. First category includes reasons regarding dental care performance (subcategories: “preconditions”, “treatment”, “costs”, and “outcomes”). Second category demonstrates reasons regarding dentists, office structures and processes (subcategories: "professional skills", "social skills", "office staff & equipment", and "office processes”). Reasons named “most important” by the participants are out-of-pocket payments, dentists’ training, and a relationship of trust between patient and dentist. Although the participants use incentive measures to lower financial burden, several perceived challenges exist. Identified reasons for choosing dental treatments provide a basis for further studies to quantify the relevance of these reasons from patients’ perspective. Based on this, the various reasons identified can be considered in future policies to improve patients’ utilization behavior, which can range from improved information sources to increased incentive measures.
Published in: PLOS ONE, 10.1371/journal.pone.0267656, PLOS