Periodontal-systemic disease education in United States dental hygiene programs

Rebecca S Wilder, Katherine M Thomas, Heather Jared
Journal of Dental Education 2008, 72 (6): 669-79
The relationship between periodontal disease and systemic disease has gained much attention in recent years in the dental profession and from national health care agencies. Two third-party providers are now modifying their dental reimbursements for patients who have periodontal disease and are pregnant or have cardiovascular disease. However, there are few reports in the dental or dental hygiene literature about how students are taught this information and how it is incorporated into the didactic and clinical aspects of the curriculum. A thirty-item survey and cover letter on these subjects were emailed to the directors of the 286 accredited dental hygiene programs in the United States in 2007. The response rate was 63 percent. According to these responses, the three most emphasized topics regarding oral-systemic disease are diabetes, tobacco use, and cardiovascular disease. Most programs (90 percent) use journal articles for instructional content, and 87 percent use the American Academy of Periodontology website for reference. Only 4 percent have content taught jointly with nursing, medical, or allied health students. The majority of directors (87 percent) indicated they could use more evidence-based educational materials to help teach the concepts to students. Only 9 percent of survey respondents thought that nurses and physicians are knowledgeable about the relationship of oral health to systemic disease. The findings indicate that dental hygiene program directors are confident about the education on oral-systemic content provided to their dental hygiene students, but would like additional evidence-based materials to help their students learn this topic.

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