Dental education should update both its curriculum and delivery methods to prepare oral health professionals to succeed as part of multi-disciplinary health care team serving an increasingly diverse U.S. population—and, ultimately, to improve oral health care access and outcomes, according to articles released online today and publishing in the June 2022 issue of the Journal of Dental Education (JDE).
The articles were published as part of a coordinated initiative among four dental journals to draw attention to, and provide fresh insights about, a 2021 report, Oral Health in America: Advances and Challenges, published by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), part of the National Institutes of Health.
In the JDE review article “Oral health in America 2021: Making a case for curricular change,” the authors call on dental schools to provide research training opportunities and recruit students who are interested in research. Additionally, they urge an integration of basic and clinical science training, with special attention to instruction on health disparities, safe pain management, addiction science, social determinants of health, use of digital and clinical technologies such as electronic health records and teledentistry, and treatment of diverse populations and patients with complex health needs.
They also write that dental schools should expand interprofessional education to prepare students for health care environments that integrate dental, behavioral and medical services in non-traditional settings such as schools and community centers. Dental schools, they add, can also help remedy the underrepresentation of certain groups in the dental profession through targeted recruitment efforts and by seeking financial support for scholarships.
“While we never envision ourselves becoming obsolete or our dental school curriculum becoming obsolete, the scientific advances of today and tomorrow will require that we rethink what we are teaching our students, why we are teaching them, and how we are teaching them,” they write.
A guest editorial publishing in the same issue of JDE amplified that point, stressing that the changing landscape—in both demographics and technology—requires “new ways of thinking about the goals of oral health care.” That editorial—“The decades ahead for dental education”—urges dental schools to consider ways they can transform findings in the NIDCR report and journal articles into action.
ADEA President and CEO Karen P. West, D.M.D., M.P.H., stressed the fundamental role of dental education in improving oral health. “Further gains in oral health care start with dental education,” said Dr. West. “And advances in dental education start with a greater awareness and knowledge of the challenges we face, the patients we serve, the students we train and the technology we use. I urge everyone in academic dentistry to read the oral health report and journal articles to consider what they can do to prepare the next generation of oral health professionals to best serve their patients and communities.”
The other journals publishing perspective papers and editorials about the oral health report are Journal of Dental Research, Journal of Public Health Dentistry, and Journal of the American Dental Association.
NIDCR Director Rena D’Souza, D.D.S., Ph.D., said she hopes the report and journal papers can help to construct a path forward for improved oral health.
“The Oral Health in America report showed that although some measures of oral health have improved over the last 20 years, there is still much work to be done,” said Dr. D’Souza. “The papers published today serve as a framework to guide our community in creating an oral health ecosystem that ensures all Americans can enjoy the benefits of good oral health.”
Access the papers and their accompanying editorials below to learn more:
Journal of Dental Research
- “Finding Knowledge to Improve Oral Health for All”
Bruce A. Dye and Judith Albino
- “Translating Science into Improved Health for All”
Laurie K. McCauley, Michelle Robinson, and Rena N. D’Souza
Journal of Public Health Dentistry
- “Oral Health is for All of Us”
Judith Albino, Bruce A. Dye, and Rena N. D’Souza
- “The 2021 report on oral health in America: Directions for the future of dental public health and the oral health care system”
Carlos Quiñonez, Judith A. Jones, Marko Vujicic, Scott L. Tomar, and Jessica Y. Lee
Journal of Dental Education (JDE)
- “The decades ahead for dental education”
Judith Albino, Bruce A. Dye, and Rena N. D’Souza
- “Oral health in America 2021: Making a case for curricular change”
Linda C. Niessen, Margherita Fontana, Robert J. Weyant, Paul S. Casamassimo, Jocelyne Feine, and Nadeem Karimbux
Journal of the American Dental Association
- “Facing the future and deciding what we want oral health to become”
Bruce A. Dye, Rena N. D’Souza, and Judith Albino
- “Oral health in America: Implications for dental practice”
Jeffrey L. Fellows, Kathryn A. Atchison, Jeffrey Chaffin, Elisa M. Chávez, and Norman Tinanoff
The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) is the voice of dental education.
Our mission is to lead and support the health professions community in preparing future-ready oral health professionals. Our members include all 78 U.S. and Canadian dental schools, more than 800 allied and advanced dental education programs, more than 50 corporations and approximately 18,000 individuals.
Our activities encompass a wide range of research, advocacy, faculty development, meetings and communications, including the esteemed Journal of Dental Education, as well as the dental school application services ADEA AADSAS, ADEA PASS, ADEA DHCAS, and ADEA CAAPID.
For more information, visit adea.org.