JOURNAL ARTICLE

Dental students' beliefs about culture in patient care: self-reported knowledge and importance

Julie A Wagner, Deborah Redford-Badwal
Journal of Dental Education 2008, 72 (5): 571-6
18451080
In order to decrease the well-documented disparities in oral health and oral health care, the next generation of dentists must be prepared to serve a diverse patient population. This article describes dental students' self-reported knowledge of culture and importance of using culturally sensitive dental practices. Three consecutive graduating classes (n=111) were surveyed anonymously in their sophomore years. Students indicated their self-rated knowledge of oral health and oral health care for their own culture and the cultures of patients they are likely to see in dental practice. Students also rated their perceived importance of culturally sensitive dental practice. Overall, students reported low knowledge of the cultures of the patients they will see in practice. Few students could identify any cultural group that they knew well. However, students as a group indicated that using culturally sensitive practices in dentistry is important. Students who could identify at least one cultural group they knew well perceived cultural sensitivity in dental practice as more important than students who could not. These results suggest that students need cross-cultural training and believe that such training is important. The results also suggest that a specific curriculum that increases knowledge of other cultures may have the potential to ultimately increase the use of culturally sensitive practices.

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