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VOLUME 9 , ISSUE 1 ( January, 2008 ) > List of Articles


Clinical Inertia in Dentistry: A Review of the Phenomenon

D. Brad Rindal, William A. Rush, Raymond G. Boyle

Citation Information : Rindal DB, Rush WA, Boyle RG. Clinical Inertia in Dentistry: A Review of the Phenomenon. J Contemp Dent Pract 2008; 9 (1):113-121.

DOI: 10.5005/jcdp-9-1-113

License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Published Online: 01-05-2009

Copyright Statement:  Copyright © 2008; The Author(s).



Dentistry has been slow to adopt innovations in dental practice even when they are recommended by national organizations and supported by evidence-based guidelines. The objective of this review is to describe clinical inertia, a concept described frequently in the medical literature, and to use findings from tobacco cessation and dental sealant studies as evidence of its existence.

Methods and Materials

A review of the literature published during the past 30 years was conducted to determine the state of affairs of two very different areas of dental practice, tobacco cessation intervention and application of sealants, to demonstrate the concept of clinical inertia in dental practice. Factors such as over estimating services provided, unfounded reasons not to act, lack of adequate training, and competing demands that account for the inertia were examined.


Clinical inertia is a complex concept that needs more attention in dentistry. A variety of strategies will be required to overcome it in order to provide the best care for the public.


Clinical inertia is a useful paradigm for explaining delays in the incorporation of new knowledge into clinical practice. It offers a model against which the broader dental community can develop and test strategies to reduce the delays in translating best practices into daily practices.

Clinical Significance

The path to providing state-of-the-art care for the public is to engage in the discovery, dissemination, and acquisition of new knowledge then transform it into evidence-based best practices to be used in daily clinical practice.


Rindal DB, Rush WA, Boyle RG. Clinical Inertia in Dentistry: A Review of the Phenomenon. J Contemp Dent Pract 2008 January; (9)1:113-121.

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