Stress Study Prompts Dental School Curriculum Changes

Dentistry Today


The first two years of dental school often are the most stressful of a student’s academic career, though few studies have examined the pressures of dental school and their causes. Research at the University of New England College of Dental Medicine, however, is changing the school’s own approach to alleviating stress.

“My primary interest is educational research,” said Yang Kang, DDS, PhD, assistant clinical professor and one of the leaders of the project. “I want to help students address their challenges in dental school.”

The researchers performed a cross-sectional study during the fall and spring semesters of the 2015-2016 academic year to better understand the relationship between curriculum and stress among first-year and second-year students.

The study revealed that the second-year students felt more stress than the first-year students overall. Also, the second-year students experienced more anxiety in their spring semester. In general, students who lived with their immediate family felt less stress, and those age 25 and older experienced less stress than their younger classmates.

Curriculum changes prompted by these results include moving Pediatric Dentistry from the summer semester to the fall and Endodontics from the fall to the summer. Endodontics also was changed from eight credit hours to 12 to give students more time each week to acquire knowledge and practice their skills. 

Also, another eight-credit course for second-year students that included multiple medical disciplines was divided into two courses to help students better balance their lives and their intense course load. 

The study, “Curriculum Setting and Pre-Clinical Dental Students’ Stress Level,” was published by the Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.

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