To identify how dentists and their teams adopt evidence‐based preventive care.
A qualitative study using grounded theory methodology was conducted. We interviewed 23 participants working in eight dental practices about their experience and work processes, while adopting evidence‐based preventive care. During the study, Charmaz's grounded theory methodology was employed to examine the social process of adopting preventive dental care in dental practices. Charmaz's iteration of the constant comparative method was used during the data analysis. This involved coding of interview transcripts, detailed memo‐writing and drawing diagrams. The transcripts were analyzed as soon as possible after each round of interviews in each dental practice. Coding was conducted primarily by AS, supported by team meetings and discussions when researchers compared their interpretations.
Participants engaged in a slow process of adapting evidence‐based protocols and guidelines to the existing logistics of the practices. This process was influenced by practical, philosophical, and historical aspects of dental care, and a range of barriers and facilitators. In particular, dentists spoke spontaneously about two deeply held ‘rules’ underpinning continued restorative treatment, which acted as barriers to provide preventive care: (i) dentists believed that some patients were too ‘unreliable’ to benefit from prevention; and (ii) dentists believed that patients thought that only tangible restorative treatment offered ‘value for money’. During the adaptation process, some dentists and teams transitioned from their initial state – selling restorative care – through an intermediary stage – learning by doing and educating patients about the importance of preventive care – and finally to a stage where they were offering patients more than just restorative care. Resources were needed for the adaptation process to occur, including: the ability to maintain the financial viability of the practice, appropriate technology, time, and supportive dental team relationships.
The findings from this study show that with considerable effort, motivation and coordination, it is possible for dental practices to work against the dental ‘mainstream’ and implement prevention as their clinical norm. This study has shown that dental practice is not purely scientific, but it includes cultural, social, and economic resources that interfere with the provision of preventive care.