Successful Elective Introduces Students to Trauma Treatment

Richard Gawel


Traditional dental curricula offer few opportunities for students to evaluate and treat patients with acute dental trauma. From 2014 to 2016, though, the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center School of Dentistry offered an elective for students in their final year of school that has received good marks from participants. And based on their evaluations, elements of the course will continue.

“The trauma elective content has been successful in improving students’ confidence in their ability to treat dental trauma and elevating their exposure to traumatic injuries,” said Janice A. Townsend, DDS, associate professor and chair of the department of pediatric dentistry. “Student feedback and surveys show enthusiasm for this area, which may translate into a willingness to treat traumatic dental injuries in their future dental practices.”

The course was launched with the belief that it would be an opportunity to enhance the predoctoral student experience and expose students to interdisciplinary patient care. It combined student-led and faculty-led case-based discussions of the management of traumatic dental injuries. Also, it enabled students to shadow trauma calls at the Children’s Hospital New Orleans, primarily observing and assisting residents with care as appropriate.

For example, students observed uncomplicated and complicated primary and permanent tooth fractures, as well as concussions, subluxations, and lateral luxations. An extrusion, intrusion, and alveolar fracture also were observed, in addition to multiple avulsions. Falls most commonly caused the trauma among younger children, while sports injuries and altercations accounted for the cases among older children.

Participating students offered positive comments in their evaluations.

“I do think that we learn from repetition, and dental trauma management is something that we should feel more comfortable with as graduates,” wrote one student. “We learn excellent information, but we should relearn it in different classes throughout D2 and D3 so that trauma management can become more second nature.”

“This was one of the most valuable courses I have taken in my 4 years of dental school,” wrote another. “I made contact with the residents on call in order to get experience with dental trauma. I am very happy I did. My experiences were invaluable.”

“I really think that this should be a course that everyone should take at dental school. It tied together endo, pedo, oral surgery, and ortho,” added another student. “This should be a must for any fourth year dental student.”

The faculty, which has worked across department lines to coordinate schedules and teach together, will use this feedback and other responses to modify the course. For example, the oral and maxillofacial surgery observation site—which included mandibular, Lefort, and other facial fractures—was moved to a new hospital. Townsend noted that while the didactic portion may become required, the observation will remain elective. Other changes also are underway.

“First, members from the orthodontic faculty were invited to participate in the course. Second, students were asked to prepare and submit a written summary of the trauma cases they observed during their on-call assignments, including findings, photographs, and aspects of treatment,” said Townsend. “Finally, an additional session was added to allow further discussion of luxation injuries to permanent teeth.”

The study of the course, “Interdisciplinary Approach to Education: Preparing General Dentists to Manage Dental Trauma,” was published by Dental Traumatology

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