Background: Dentine hypersensitivity (DH) affects people's quality of life (QoL). However changes in the internal meaning of QoL, known as Response shift (RS) may undermine longitudinal assessment of QoL. This study aimed to describe patterns of RS in people with DH using Classification and Regression Trees (CRT) and to explore the convergent validity of CRT with the then-test and ideals approaches.
Methods: Data from an 8-week clinical trial of mouthwashes for dentine hypersensitivity (n = 75) using the Dentine Hypersensitivity Experience Questionnaire (DHEQ) as the outcome measure, were analysed. CRT was used to examine 8-week changes in DHEQ total score as a dependent variable with clinical status for DH and each DHEQ subscale score (restrictions, coping, social, emotional and identity) as independent variables. Recalibration was inferred when the clinical change was not consistent with the DHEQ change score using a minimally important difference for DHEQ of 22 points. Reprioritization was inferred by changes in the relative importance of each subscale to the model over time.
Results: Overall, 50.7% of participants experienced a clinical improvement in their DH after treatment and 22.7% experienced an important improvement in their quality of life. Thirty-six per cent shifted their internal standards downward and 14.7% upwards, suggesting recalibration. Reprioritization occurred over time among the social and emotional impacts of DH.
Conclusions: CRT was a useful method to reveal both, the types and nature of RS in people with a mild health condition and demonstrated convergent validity with design based approaches to detect RS.