The main aim of this thesis was to investigate how attitudes influence the latent and manifest need, desire, demand, and utilization for dental implant treatment, considering the gatekeeping process between need and demand, and between demand and utilization of dental treatment.
A conceptual analysis of the need and demand concept from the literature was a first step in the study. A second step was to examine changes in attitudes toward desire for implant treatment over time, also in relation to dental status, in a population of middle aged and older individuals in Sweden based on two questionnaire studies, one in 1989 and the other in 1999 among the same 3000 participants. The individuals who responded both in 1989 and 1999 constituted a panel of 56% of the 1989 survey sample. Logistic regression models were done with desire of implant treatment as dependent variable. In paper V, a qualitative study using grounded theory was done on the treated patients' subjective perspective on receiving a fixed implant-supported denture.
An emancipatory perspective with the patient-dentist dialogue was regarded as central for an optimal treatment result in the prosthetic treatment decision-making process. A main finding was that need is established only in a communicative dialogue with mutual respect between the profession and the patient. The study implied that the gatekeeping concept relates to a complex process rendering great differences between demand and actual utilization. The main result from the questionnaires was the huge increase in interest for implant-treatment from 1989 to 1999. In 1999 almost all (94%) of the study population expressed desire for implant treatment; as many as 92 % percent of those who did not express a desire for implants in 1989 had changed their mind 10 years later. The regression analysis showed that older people, non-city residents, and those with one or several missing and unreplaced teeth, changed desire for implant treatment between the study years. Effects of age, residence, and better dental status disappeared during the ten year study period. Those edentulous and those with removable dentures expressed less desire than those with all teeth remaining, or only one or a few teeth missing, in 1989. High income significantly increased the probability to desire implant treatment for the study panel at both study occasions. The qualitative study, using the method for grounded theory, gave as core category and main finding the importance of the patients' trust and confidence in the dentist and his/her staff, in the process of transforming desire for dental implant treatment into manifest demand, and also making it more likely for the patients' to become satisfied with the treatment result regardless of complications.
There is no objective need in prosthodontic treatment. Manifest need and demand change over time, and are influenced by the patients' attitude and situation, and by the dentist's practice profile. True need can only be identified in a dialogue between the professional and the patient. Income and dental status, but not age, place of residence, nor concern for dental appearance, influence desire for implant treatment at the end of the studied 10-year period. Individuals with removable dentures, or those being edentulous in one or both jaws have a lower probability to desire implant treatment than those with all teeth remaining, or with missing teeth replaced by fixed partial dentures. The qualitative study underlined the importance of the relationship between the professional and the patient. The patients' trust and confidence in the dentist and his/her staff were decisive in the process of making a demand for implant treatment manifest and turning it into actual utilization. The informants from this study described their confidence and trust as dependent on a communicative dialogue with mutual respect between the patient and the professional.