Increasing Allied Dental Student's Awareness and Confidence When Treating Special Needs Patients
AffiliationUniversity of Southern Indiana
TitleIncreasing Allied Dental Student's Awareness and Confidence When Treating Special Needs Patients
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Research Question and Context:
Research question: Does implementing an interactive special needs activity into the allied dental education curriculum increase students awareness of and relatability to patients with special needs?
Studies show that some dental professionals feel inadequately trained and/or lack confidence when treating special needs patients1,2,3,4,5 requiring accommodations for dental care. Due to this there can be difficulty in relating to and understanding specific patient needs. This study sought to examine allied dental students awareness of and comfort level when treating a patient with special needs.
This mixed-methods study design involved an IRB [1753391-1], [1755832-1] approved research focus utilizing pre/post surveys, faculty instruction/education, interactive student simulations, and facilitated group discussion. The convenience sample of 28 participants included 22 dental hygiene and 6 dental assisting students enrolled in their final semester of their programs. Occupational Therapy Assistant and allied dental faculty provided brief review of etiology, presentation of illnesses, and common treatment approaches for cerebrovascular accident (CVA), macular degeneration, rheumatoid arthritis, schizophrenia, and hearing impairment diagnoses. Students were paired and rotated through low fidelity simulation stations for each diagnosis listed above. At each station participants simulated the physical and mental stressors associated with the special need, and the role of oral health care provider. Facilitated large group discussion and post surveys were completed.
In 2019 the commission of dental accreditation (CODA) modified their definition of ‘special needs’ patients and added this verbiage to existing dental assisting accreditation standards. While the University of Southern Indiana dental assisting and hygiene programs were already meeting these standards, it made faculty more aware of the importance of strengthening the curriculum. Completing a data base search for best practices in oral health education for special needs patients lead to several articles explaining the need for educational projects but not their design or outcomes. Many articles surveyed dental professionals which explained they often do not feel confident, prepared, or properly trained to treat special needs patients. This project was created with the intent of allowing students to experience the barriers associated with several special needs classifications with the hope of increasing their awareness of and comfort level when treating patients with special needs.
Results, Discussion, and Lessons Learned:
100% survey response with statistically significant responses to most questions within both dental assisting and hygiene programs. Most notably are increases in: awareness of special needs (p =0.000351), comfort when treating patients with special needs (p=0.000143), Communicating with special needs patients (p=0.001061), and that they felt their classes prepared them for patients with special needs (p=0.000324). Participants also positivity responded to the project design with an average mean of 4.785 on the 5 point Likert scale Student Evaluation of Educational Quality (SEEQ) survey.
This activity and study will be repeated in the spring 2022 with minor changes. Due to technical difficulties the schizophrenia activity was completed as a group instead of pairs. Increased testing of electronic equipment will be completed prior to the event. It was observed that dental hygiene students did not completely read all direction sheets which caused them to not always accurately complete each station. Station instructions will be emphasized in the future.
Researchers hope to expand this activity in the future to include interprofessional education and collaboration between dental assisting/hygiene and occupational therapy assisting students.
- Lim M, Liberali S, Calache H, Parashos P, Borromeo GL. Perspectives of the public dental workforce on the dental management of people with special needs. Australian dental journal. 2021;66(3):304-313. doi:10.1111/adj.12836
- Lim MAWT, Liberali SAC, Calache H, Parashos P, Borromeo GL. Perceived barriers encountered by oral health professionals in the Australian public dental system providing dental treatment to individuals with special needs. Special care in dentistry : official publication of the American Association of Hospital Dentists, the Academy of Dentistry for the Handicapped, and the American Society for Geriatric Dentistry. 2021;41(3):381-390. doi:10.1111/scd.12581
- McKenzie CT, Mitchell SC. Dental Students’ Attitudes About Treating Populations That Are Low-Income Rural, Non-White, and with Special Needs: A Survey of Four Classes at a U.S. Dental School. Journal of dental education. 2019;83(6):669-678. doi:10.21815/JDE.019.074
- SRIVIDYA A, KANNAN A, LAKSHMI KC. Knowledge, Attitude and Practice Survey on Special Care Dentistry: A Cross-sectional Study. Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research. 2021;15(7):14-18. Accessed December 6, 2021. https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=sso&db=edb&AN=151925403&site=eds-live&scope=site
- Borromeo GL, Ahmad MS, Buckley S, et al. Perception of Special Needs Dentistry education and practice amongst Australian dental auxiliary students. European journal of dental education : official journal of the Association for Dental Education in Europe. 2018;22(3):e321-e326. doi:10.1111/eje.12296