Inclusion of oral-systemic health in predoctoral/undergraduate curricula of pharmacy, nursing, and medical schools around the world: a preliminary study

Casey Hein, Dieter J Schönwetter, Anthony M Iacopino
Journal of Dental Education 2011, 75 (9): 1187-99
There is increasing evidence that oral health is a critical component of overall health and that poor oral health may lead to initiation or exacerbation of chronic inflammatory diseases/conditions and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Added to this is an increasing awareness that among non-dental health care professions curricula (e.g., medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and allied health) there is an apparent lack of information regarding the interrelationships between oral health and overall health or recognition of the significance of oral health in achieving and sustaining general health outcomes. This study explored the amount of information related to oral-systemic science currently being taught in the predoctoral/undergraduate professional curricula of pharmacy, nursing, and medical schools in English-speaking universities around the world. The Oral-Systemic Health Educational Curriculum Survey was circulated online to associate or academic deans at medical, nursing, and pharmacy schools in universities across Canada, the United States, Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. The survey found that 53.7 percent of the respondents ranked the inclusion of oral-systemic science as somewhat important, 51.2 percent reported no or limited requirements to incorporate oral health education within their curricula, and 59.6 percent rated their current curricula in oral-systemic health as inadequate. The majority of students in these programs are not being instructed to examine the mouth, nor are they being taught how to perform an oral examination. Despite growing awareness of emerging evidence of oral-systemic relationships and recommendations that all health care providers should contribute to enhancing oral health, this knowledge base appears to be substantially deficient in the curricula of pharmacy, nursing, and medical students in many universities. This study provides the first formal documentation that the curricula of non-dental health care professions, specifically in medicine, nursing, and pharmacy, do not contain adequate content related to oral-systemic health.

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