The objective of this study was to explore the preferred dental services of older people for when they become dependent.. It aimed to assess their preferred type of health care professional and location of dental service and relate their preferences to their willingness to pay (WTP) and willingness to travel (WTT).
Older people aged 65 years or older were invited to participate in a questionnaire-based discrete choice experiment (DCE), to measure preferences for dental examinations and treatment, defined by two attributes: type of professional and location of the activity. Hypothetical scenarios on selected attributes were displayed in a projected visual presentation and participants noted their personal preference using a response sheet. Data were analyzed using random-effects logit model.
Eighty-nine participants (mean age 73.7±6.6 years) attended focus group sessions. Respondents preferred the family dentist (β: 0.2596) or an auxiliary (β: 0.2098) to undertake the examination and wanted to avoid the medical doctor (β: -0.469). Preferred location for dental examination was at a dental practice (β: 0.2204). Respondents preferred to avoid treatments at home (β: -0.3875); they had a significant preference for treatment at the dental office (β: 0.2255) or in a specialist setting (β: 0.1620). However, the type of professional did not have a significant influence on overall preference. Participants with a low WTP preferred examination at home (β: 0.2151) and wanted to avoid the dental practice (β: -0.0235), whereas those with a high WTP preferred the dental office (β: 0.4535) rather than home (β: -0.3029). WTT did not have a significant influence on preference.
The study showed that older people generally preferred receiving dental services in a dental practice or specialist setting, and do rather not wish to be treated at home. Continuity of dental services provided by the family dentist should therefore be prioritized where possible and further studies should examine the role of domiciliary care at home.