General dentists and special needs patients: does dental education matter?

Loan P Dao, Samuel Zwetchkenbaum, Marita Rohr Inglehart
Journal of Dental Education 2005, 69 (10): 1107-15
Special needs patients are one of the underserved dental patient groups in the United States. This study investigates whether undergraduate dental education about special needs patients affects general dentists' a) professional behavior, b) practice characteristics, and c) attitudes concerning special needs patients. Data were collected from 208 general dentists (178 male/30 female; average age: 49.85 years) who were members of the Michigan Dental Association. The more the respondents agreed that dental education had prepared them well, the more likely they were to treat various types of special needs patients and to set up their practices so they could treat them and the more they liked treating these patients. In conclusion, most general dentists did not think their undergraduate dental education had prepared them well to treat special needs patients. However, the better they reported to have been educated, the more likely they were to treat special needs patients. Given the access to care problems for many special needs patients, it seems crucial to revise dental curricula and provide more didactic and clinical education concerning the treatment of special needs patients.

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