Assessment of oral health conditions presented in photographs-is there a difference between dentists and non-dental professional caregivers?

Stefanie Krausch-Hofmann, Trung Dung Tran, Dominique Declerck, Johanna de Almeida Mello, Anja Declercq, Emmanuel Lesaffre, Jan De Lepeleire, Joke Duyck*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background Photographs can help non-dental professional caregivers to identify problems when inspecting the mouth of care-dependent older individuals. This study evaluated whether the assessment of oral health-related conditions presented in photographs differed between dentists and non-dental professional caregivers. Materials and methods One-hundred-and-seventy-nine photographs were taken from long-term care facility residents and from patients at the Department of Dentistry of a University Hospital. The following oral health aspects were depicted: denture hygiene, oral hygiene, teeth, gums, tongue and palate/lips/cheeks. Collection continued until for each oral health aspect a pool of photographs was available that showed conditions from perfect health and hygiene to severe problems. A segmented Visual Analogue Scale was applied to assess the conditions presented in the photographs. Each photograph was assessed by each participant of this study. The benchmark was established by three dentists with academic-clinical expertise in gerodontology, special needs dentistry and periodontology. For each photograph, they provided a collective score after reaching consensus. Photographs were assessed individually by 32 general dentists and by 164 non-dental professional caregivers. Linear mixed effects models and generalized linear mixed effects models were fitted and mean squared errors were computed to quantify differences between both groups. Results For the different oral health aspects, absolute distances from the benchmark scores were 1.13 (95%CI:1.03-1.23) to 1.51 (95%CI:1.39-1.65) times higher for the caregivers than for the dentists. The odds to overestimate the condition were higher for the caregivers than the dentists for oral hygiene (OR = 0.72, 95%CI = 0.62-0.84) and teeth (OR = 0.74; 95%CI = 0.61-0.88). The odds to underestimate the condition were higher for the caregivers than the dentists for gums (OR = 1.39; 95%CI:1.22-1.59) and palate/lips/cheeks (OR = 1.22; 95%CI = 1.07-1.40). Over all assessments, the variance in caregiver scores was 1.9 (95%CI:1.62-2.23) times higher than that for the dentists. Conclusion Small but significant differences were found between dentists and non-dental professional caregivers assessing oral health-related conditions presented in photographs. When photographs are used to aid non-dental professional caregivers with the oral health assessment, these visualizations should be complemented with comments to facilitate accurate interpretation.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalBMC Oral Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Caregivers
  • Dentists
  • Oral health assessment
  • Oral photographs

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