Oral Health Training in Osteopathic Medical Schools: Results of a National Survey

Lisa Simon, DMD; Hugh Silk, MD, MPH; Judith Savageau, MPH; Kate Sullivan, BA; and Christine Riedy, PhD
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: January 5, 2018

Accepted: February 13, 2018

Published: July 1, 2018

J Osteopath Med; 118(7): 463-471

Context: Oral health is a critical aspect of overall health, yet many vulnerable communities struggle to access regular dental care and instead seek urgent treatment from physicians. In addition to addressing the consequences of untreated dental disease, physicians are in an ideal position to provide preventive and referral dental services to patients. Osteopathic physicians make up a substantial portion of the physician workforce and can play a central role in increasing oral health care provision in medical settings.

Objectives: To assess the extent of oral health curricula in osteopathic medical schools in the United States, including content taught, evaluation practices, and influences and barriers to providing oral health training perceived by educators at these institutions.

Methods: An invitation to participate in the survey was sent electronically to deans of education at all osteopathic medical schools in the United States. Four email reminders followed the initial invitation. In addition to descriptive statistics, the associations between the number of curriculum hours, affiliation with a dental school, and curricular content were evaluated.

Results: Of the 42 institutions contacted, 22 responded (response rate, 52%). The majority of respondents (20 of 22 [91%]) reported the presence of some oral health education at their institutions. Eighteen of 20 respondents (90%) reported that their institution offered at least 1 hour of oral health curriculum over the course of students’ education. Greater numbers of curriculum hours were not significantly associated with dental school affiliation or a formalized relationship with oral health educators. Institutions affiliated with dental schools were significantly more likely to include oral health in interprofessional education exercises (P=.023) but were not significantly more likely to cover any specific oral health topics. Seven of 17 respondents (41%) were satisfied with the level of oral health competence their graduates possessed.

Conclusions: Oral health education is present at many osteopathic medical schools, but the content covered and the extent of training varies considerably.

Read Full Article