Since 2000, reports have documented the challenges faced by many Americans in receiving oral health care and the consequences of inadequate care such as high levels of dental caries among many U.S. children. To help address this problem, many dental schools now include community-based dental education (CBDE) in their curricula, placing students in extramural clinics where they provide care in underserved communities. CBDE is intended to both broaden the education of future oral health professionals and expand care for patients in community clinics. The aim of this study was to develop a three-year profile of the patients seen and the care provided by students at extramural clinics associated with one U.S. dental school. Three student cohorts participated in the rotations: final-year students in the Doctor of Dental Surgery, Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene, and Master of Dental Therapy programs. The study was a retrospective analysis of data retrieved from the school's database for three consecutive academic years. The data included patients' demographics and special health care needs status (based on information collected by students from their patients) and procedures students performed while on rotations. For the three-year period, the results showed a total of 43,128 patients were treated by 418 student providers. Approximately 25% of all encounters were with pediatric patients. Students completed 5,908 child prophylaxis, 5,386 topical fluoride varnish, and 7,678 sealant procedures on pediatric patients. Annually, 7% of the total patients treated had special health care needs. The results show that these students in CBDE rotations provided a substantial amount of oral health care at extramural sites and gained additional experience in caring for a diverse population of patients and performing a wide range of procedures.
Keywords: clinical teaching; community-based dental education; dental care access; dental education; oral health education; underserved populations.