$1.53 Million Grant Expands Pediatric Dentistry Training

Dentistry Today
Photo by Health Federation of Philadelphia.


Photo by Health Federation of Philadelphia.

Students at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dentistry are improving their skills and understanding in treating the youngest patients, those age 5 and under, through support from a Health Resources & Services Administration grant awarded to the school’s Divisions of Pediatric Dentistry and Community Oral Health starting this academic year

Designed to enhance the students’ coursework and clinical and community outreach experiences with young children, the program recently received a supplemental award for the first year to address childhood obesity prevention as well, bringing the total program award to $1.53 million over five years.

“While dental students provide clinical care with children as part of their dental school clinical education, they often have limited experiences with very young children,” said Joan Gluch, PhD, EdM, division chief of community oral health and project director on the grant. 

“Many areas of the country have few pediatric dentists, so many children are not getting care unless it is from a general dentist. Our view is that every general dentist should feel comfortable in examining a child at any age and referring children to specialists as needed,” said Gluch.

To reach that goal, the project has been designed to increase the knowledge, skills, and experience in treating children from birth to age 5 for all second-, third-, and fourth-year DMD students.

“We have chosen to build on coursework, clinical experiences, and community rotations throughout the second, third, and fourth years to ensure dental students gain a sufficient level of knowledge and experiences and have the time to understand and complete best practices,” said Gluch.

The project’s leaders will develop eight new educational modules in community health and pediatric dentistry regarding cultural competency, health literacy, social determinants of health, behavior management, oral health prevention, and restorative dental care. They also will collaborate with Penn’s School of Nursing on integrating childhood obesity prevention training into the coursework and clinical and community experiences.

Furthermore, the project includes a significant increase in clinical experiences in the school’s pediatric clinic and community sites. Beginning with the 2018-2019 academic year, students will double their community rotations to 24 hours, providing oral health education and preventive care to children and their families as well as observing the dental care provided by third- and fourth-year students.

Clinical experiences treating very young children for third- and fourth-year students will be expanded by eight sessions (four days) in the school’s pediatric clinic and eight sessions (four days) in Penn-affiliate community sites, including Philadelphia FIGHT; the Sayre Health Center, a school-based federally qualified health center; Homeless Health Initiative of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; and Puentes de Salud, a South Philadelphia clinic run by Penn Medicine. 

“We will be tracking outcomes, including our graduates’ practice patterns after graduation,” said Gluch. “We believe this added training, which we anticipate can be sustainable beyond the life of the grant, will help ensure our graduates are well prepared to provide care to this vulnerable population so children have a healthy start from their first tooth and dental visit.”

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