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Background: Some patients with oral diseases present initially to a general medical practitioner who is expected to refer the patients to the appropriate dental specialist for management. Thus they are expected to have a good knowledge of the different specialties in dentistry. This study was designed to determine the knowledge of medical house officers about the specialties in dentistry and how this will influence their ability to make appropriate referral.
Methods: Two hundred structured questionnaires were distributed to medical house officers in six teaching hospitals in Nigeria. The questionnaire items include: age, sex, university attended, extent of dental education received and the knowledge of oral diseases. Responses were scored and transferred to a microcomputer and analyzed with SPSS.
Results: Response rate was 146 (73.0%), 83 respondents (56.8%) had exposure to dentistry, while 64 (43.2%) did not. Majority of the respondents scored below 39.0%. When the responses were analyzed, the best performance was in the identification of oral diseases managed by the oral and maxillofacial surgeon (31.7%). The worst performance was recorded in the area of preventive dentistry (9.0%). The proportion of those who scored 50% and above was more among those who were exposured to dentistry.
Conclusion: The knowledge of medical house officer about oral diseases and the specialties that manage such diseases was poor. Exposure to dental education appears to have some benefit.