Teaching oral health in U.S. medical schools: results of a national survey

Acad Med. 2011 Feb;86(2):226-30. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3182045a51.


Purpose: Good oral health is an important aspect of good overall health. Past studies show physicians have had limited oral health training.

Method: In 2009, the authors sent a 22-question online survey to the deans of education of 126 MD-granting and 28 DO-granting U.S. medical schools to determine the extent to which these schools have an oral health curriculum.

Results: Eighty-eight schools (57.1%) responded. Of these, 61 (69.3%) reported offering less than five hours of oral health curriculum; 9 (10.2%) offered no curriculum. Schools with greater than 150 students per class were more likely to offer five or more hours of oral health curriculum compared with small or midsize schools (P = .022). School location and having a dental school and/or residency were not significantly related to the number of hours of oral health curriculum (P = .728 and .271, respectively). Awareness of oral questions on the United States Medical Licensing Examination board exams and/or the Association of American Medical Colleges report on oral health education was also not associated with curriculum volume. In schools with an oral health curriculum, topics being covered ranged from 10.0% teaching hands-on skills training to 81.7% covering oral cancers. Only 29.9% reported evaluating students around oral health topics.

Conclusions: The majority of the responding U.S. medical schools offer very little oral health education. There are few meaningful correlations as to what contributes to schools having a more robust curriculum. Further study is needed to explore how to improve this educational void.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Curriculum / standards*
  • Dental Caries / prevention & control
  • Dental Health Surveys
  • Education, Dental / organization & administration*
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Mouth Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Oral Health*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Schools, Medical*
  • Students, Medical*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States