NATIONAL SURVEY OF FOURTH-YEAR DENTAL STUDENTS ABOUT THEIR KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS, SELF-EFFICACY AND INTENTION TO USE SELECTED COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUES AND CARIES PREVENTIVE REGIMENS
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Background: Most dental school curricula do not emphasize communication skills and dental caries (tooth decay) prevention. Dentists play a vital role in educating patients about how to maintain good oral health. Thus, they must have knowledge of evidence-based regimens to prevent and manage oral diseases such as dental caries and they must be able to communicate this information to all their patients at a level the patient understands. Clear and effective communication is critical to delivering quality dental care to all patients, especially those who have low health literacy. There is limited information about how dental schools teach the communications skills and caries prevention competencies.
Methods: This 2018 national study used a 34-item online survey to assess fourth-year dental students’ behavioral capability, self-efficacy and behavioral intention related to seventeen communication techniques and three caries preventive regimens – fluoride varnish, dental sealants and silver diamine fluoride. The survey link was emailed to 6,061 students. Statistical analyses included descriptive statistics, analysis of variance and logistic regression. The level of significance was set at p<0.05 for all analyses. This study was exempt from review by the University of Maryland Institutional Review Board.
Results: The response rate was 4.0 percent (n=242). Eighty-six percent of students indicated they had received communication skills education and training in their dental program; 21.9 percent reported having a communications course in dental school; and ninety-seven percent reported education and training related to the three caries preventive regimens. Students who reported higher self-efficacy were 9.2 times as likely to report higher behavioral intention to use the communication techniques than those who reported lower self-efficacy, p<.01. For the caries preventive regimens, students who reported higher self-efficacy were 21.3 times as likely to report higher behavioral intention than those who reported lower self-efficacy, p<.01.
Conclusion: Dental schools have a responsibility to educate and train students about evidence-based caries preventive regimens and how to effectively communicate with patients. Our findings suggest some students need additional education and training related to the communication techniques and use of silver diamine fluoride. Findings from this assessment can help inform curricula development, implementation and content for board examinations.