Periodontal-systemic disease education in U.S. and Canadian dental schools

Jan. 30, 2009
Survey results indicate that dental schools are "confident about the knowledge of their students regarding oral-systemic content"

Source: Journal of Dental Hygiene

Rebecca S. Wilder, B.S.D.H., M.S.; Anthony M. Iacopino, D.M.D., Ph.D.; Cecile A. Feldman, D.M.D., M.B.A.; Janet Guthmiller, D.D.S., Ph.D.; Jeffrey Linfante, D.M.D.; Salme Lavigne, R.D.H., B.A., M.S.D.H.; David Paquette, D.M.D., D.M.Sc.

Research has proliferated in recent years regarding the relationship of oral disease to systemic conditions. Specifically, periodontal disease has been studied as a potential risk factor for multiple conditions such as cardiovascular disease (CVD) and adverse pregnancy outcomes, while other research focuses on exposures or behaviors associated with oral disease. However, few articles have been published reporting how this information is integrated into schools of dentistry, both in the classroom and clinical curriculum.

For our study, a thirty-three-item survey and cover letter were electronically mailed to academic deans at sixty-five accredited dental schools in the United States and Canada in the fall of 2007. The response rate was 77 percent. According to the responses to this survey, the primary topics covered in the didactic curriculum regarding periodontal oral-systemic disease are aging, CVD, diabetes, and tobacco use.

Eighty-eight percent of the respondents reported that their students are knowledgeable about the role of inflammation and its impact on oral-systemic conditions. Forty-eight percent of the respondents said they provide formal training for their students in how to discuss or communicate aspects of periodontal oral-systemic disease with patients.

Only seven schools reported teaching didactic content to dental students intermixed with other health professions students, and only two schools reported conducting joint projects. Only 9 percent of the respondents said they think nurses and physicians are knowledgeable about oral-systemic disease.

The findings indicate that dental schools are confident about the knowledge of their students regarding oral-systemic content. However, much work is needed to educate dental students to work in a collaborative fashion with other health care providers to co-manage patients at risk for oral-systemic conditions.