How do U.S. and Canadian dental schools teach interpersonal communication skills?

J Dent Educ. 2002 Nov;66(11):1281-8.


The status of instruction in interpersonal communication was surveyed in forty U.S and Canadian dental schools. Key faculty members were identified, and syllabi and course descriptions were collected and content-analyzed. The following findings were obtained for responding schools: 1) only one-third of schools had courses specifically focusing on interpersonal communication; 2) more than half of the schools offered these types of courses only during the first two years; 3) the most common topics were communication skills, patient interviewing, and patient education/consultation; 4) the most frequently used method of teaching was lectures; active practice was used less often; 5) written examination was the primary instructional evaluation tool, whereas more sophisticated performance-oriented assessments were used less often; and 6) about half of the teachers did not have a D.D.S. degree; those not dentists were primarily psychologists. At least eight of the forty dental schools surveyed do not appear to meet the accreditation guidelines for predoctoral programs in this area of instruction. Some could not identify a faculty member responsible for such instruction. Schools offering more extensive instruction were more likely to offer active rather than passive teaching and use more sophisticated student evaluation strategies. This research suggests a need for reevaluation of teaching in this subject area.

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Clinical Competence
  • Communication*
  • Curriculum
  • Dentist-Patient Relations*
  • Education, Dental*
  • Educational Measurement / methods
  • Faculty, Dental
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Program Evaluation
  • Psychology
  • Schools, Dental*
  • Teaching / methods*
  • United States