General dentists and pediatric dental patients: the role of dental education

John P Rich, Lloyd Straffon, Marita Rohr Inglehart
Journal of Dental Education 2006, 70 (12): 1308-15
The objective of this study was to investigate whether undergraduate dental education affects general dentists' practice characteristics, attitudes, and professional behavior concerning the treatment of pediatric patients. Data were collected with a self-administered mailed survey from 241 general dentists who were members of the Michigan Dental Association (response rate=48.2 percent). While 40.4 percent of the respondents reported that their dental education had prepared them well to treat child patients, only 33.4 percent indicated that their clinical education had prepared them well. The level of educational preparedness was significantly correlated with a) practice characteristics such as how well the practice was set up to treat children and how knowledgeable and comfortable the staff was concerning providing care for children, b) attitudes concerning the treatment of child patients, and c) professional behavior such as the types of services provided for child patients versus the number of referrals made. The findings strongly suggest that educational experiences concerning the treatment of pediatric dental patients will shape future dental care providers' attitudes and professional behavior. Given the lack of access to dental care for children, it seems crucial to carefully evaluate undergraduate dental curricula to ensure that future dental care providers receive sufficient educational and especially clinical experiences concerning the treatment of child patients.

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