Predicting dental school performance based on prior dental experience and exposure

Eur J Dent Educ. 2010 Feb;14(1):1-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0579.2009.00611.x.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether the variables of students with prior dental assisting experience and students with a parent who is a dentist can be used as predictors of students' pre-clinical and clinical course performance in dental school.

Materials and methods: The study population consisted of a cohort of 159 students in the Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) DMD graduation classes of 2001-2005. Data were collected via self-report using students' applications for admission to the HSDM DMD programme on which students provided information regarding whether they had prior dental assisting experience, including the type and duration of the experience and whether one or both of their parents were dentists. Data on the students' undergraduate science grade point average, Dental Admission Test academic average, Perceptual Ability Test (PAT) score, NBDE Part I and HSDM course grades (three pre-clinical and five clinical assessment categories) were collected from the Office of the Registrar. The pre-clinical categories included the first Oral Comprehensive Exam and the first two classes of the pre-clinical portion of the dental school, Treatment of Active Disease (TxAD) and Restorative Treatment (RTx). The clinical categories included the second Oral Comprehensive Exam and the cumulative grades received for the clinical procedures performed during the third and fourth years in the fields of Endodontics, Operative Dentistry, Periodontics and Prosthodontics. Descriptive and bivariate statistical analyses were performed and included in a multiple logistic regression model.

Results: The results revealed that for the variable of prior dental-assisting experience, no statistically significant differences were noted in the pre-clinical and clinical assessment categories. However, students who had any amount of assisting experience were 2.2 times more likely to earn a grade of honours in TxAD compared with students who did not have assisting experience (P = 0.05). Students with a parent who was a dentist performed better only in Operative Dentistry clinical assessment compared with students without a dentist parent (P < 0.05).

Conclusions: Information on prior dental-assisting experience and having a parent who is a dentist have minimal merits for use as predictive agents based on these findings. Dental school admissions committees should continue to review a full spectrum of variables and ensure an applicant's true interest and motivation to pursue a career in dentistry.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aptitude Tests
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dental Assistants / education
  • Dentistry, Operative / education
  • Dentists
  • Education, Dental*
  • Education, Predental
  • Educational Measurement*
  • Endodontics / education
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Periodontics / education
  • Prosthodontics / education
  • Retrospective Studies
  • School Admission Criteria
  • Science / education
  • Students, Dental*