Bridging gaps in oral health education in a medical school in the United States: a pilot study

BMC Med Educ. 2022 Jul 28;22(1):578. doi: 10.1186/s12909-022-03648-5.

Abstract

Background: Oral health is an important component of medical education given its connection to overall health and quality of life; however, oral health is infrequently incorporated into medical school curricula in the United States. The aim of this study was to pilot a novel oral health care clerkship for United States medical students that implemented the Smiles for Life (SFL) curriculum, in-person clinical activities, and pre and post curricula assessments to assess knowledge acquisition, attitude change, and clinical skill development.

Methods: Third year medical students at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York, volunteered (n = 37) for a clerkship in oral health. Students completed the Smiles For Life National Oral Health Curriculum and participated in three half-day clinical sessions in a hospital-based dental clinic. The participants were evaluated on knowledge acquisition, attitude change, and clinical skill development through a pre and post clerkship assessment in order to assess the efficacy of the intervention.

Results: There was a 23.4% increase in oral health knowledge (p < 0.001) following participation in the online modules and clerkship. Additionally, attitudes in the following domains showed improved familiarity and proficiency: causes and prevention of dental caries (78.4%, p < 0.001) and periodontal disease (83.8%, p < 0.001), provision of oral health information to patients (67.6%, p < 0.001), and ability to conduct an oral examination (62.2%, p < 0.001).

Conclusions: Third year medical students who participated in a novel oral health clerkship demonstrated significant increases in basic oral health knowledge and reported increased comfort in providing oral examinations and anticipatory guidance to patients. The results support the feasibility of this approach to incorporating oral health education into a medical school curriculum in the United States.

Keywords: Curriculum Development; Interprofessional Education; Oral Health.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Clerkship* / methods
  • Curriculum
  • Dental Caries*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate* / methods
  • Health Education
  • Humans
  • Oral Health* / education
  • Pilot Projects
  • Quality of Life
  • Schools, Medical
  • Students, Medical*
  • United States