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A Study to Assess the Quality of Information in Referral Letters to the Orthodontic Department at Kingston Hospital, Surrey

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Aim: To assess the quality of information included in referral letters sent to the orthodontic department at Kingston Hospital, Surrey, UK.

Methods: Referral letters sent by both general dental practitioners (GDPs) and specialist orthodontists were analysed retrospectively in order to ascertain the percentage meeting the inclusion criteria as suggested by Mossey (2006) and the British Orthodontic Society (2008) for the quality of information included in an ideal orthodontic referral letter. Thirty-five consecutive letters sent between May and September 2005 and 206 letters sent in the same period in 2008 were collected by hand and analysed against the inclusion criteria. The numbers of referral letters received from GDPs, specialist orthodontists, and others sources were also determined.

Results: Most of the referrals sent in 2005 and 2008 included 40-50% of the referral inclusion points. This was despite an almost twofold increase in the number of referral letters received from specialist orthodontic practitioners in 2008. The majority of the letters, from both GDPs and specialists, did not include details of the oral hygiene or caries status of the patient, or an indication of their motivation towards treatment. None of the referral letters included a plaque score.

Conclusion: The main weaknesses in the quality of information provided in referral letters were that in more than 80% of the letters there was no mention of the patient's medical history and no comment on caries status, the standard of oral hygiene, patient motivation for treatment, or an Index of Orthodontic Treatment Need score. The quality of information included in referral letters sent to Kingston Hospital orthodontic department needs to be improved.
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Keywords: DENTISTRY; ORTHODONTICS; QUALITY OF INFORMATION; REFERRAL LETTERS

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Specialist Registrar in Orthodontics, Kingston Hospital, Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, UK 2: Eastman Dental Hospital, University of London, UK; Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, UK 3: Kingston Hospital, Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, UK; St George's Hospital & Medical School, University of London, UK

Publication date: April 1, 2010

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  • Primary Dental Care is the research journal of the Faculty of General Dental Practice (UK), and the only peer-reviewed journal dedicated wholly to research in primary care dentistry. The aim of the journal is to promote academic and research aspects of primary dental care by publishing relevant peer-reviewed papers. In addition, reviews, reports of clinical cases, book reviews, opinions, summaries and abstracts of scientific meetings and news items are included.
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