Application of behavioural sciences teaching by UK dental undergraduates

Pine, Cynthia M. and McGoldrick, Pauline M. (2000) Application of behavioural sciences teaching by UK dental undergraduates. European Journal of Dental Education, 4 (2). pp. 49-56. ISSN 1600-0579 (

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From 1990, Behavioural Sciences have become a requisite subject of dental undergraduate curricula across the UK (2). However, subject matter taught varies from school to school (4). The aim of this study was to determine the views and experiences of senior dental undergraduates in applying their behavioural sciences teaching across a range of clinical situations. A questionnaire survey was designed in which 5 UK Dental Schools were included to provide a countrywide geographic distribution and where >75% of senior students in each Dental School participated. The questions required the students to evaluate their psychosocial skills in 4 main areas: dentist/patient interactions; enhancing preventive behaviour; anxiety management; coping with personal stress. 252 students participated, 43% were male. In general, students valued their behavioural sciences teaching and 84% rated its inclusion in the curriculum as important. Some patient management situations had been infrequently encountered in their clinical experience and their confidence in dealing with these situations was low. The data was entered into a stepwise logistic regression to determine which factors explained the variation in reported confidence. In relation to dentist-patient interactions and preventive aspects (9 aspects), significant variables were how well students felt they were taught and how often they encountered the situations. Gender contributed to explaining variation in 4 of these aspects. In dealing with patient aggression, men were over 7× more confident than women (Odd’s ratio 7.32), but in changing patients’ attitudes to oral health, women were more than 2× as confident as men (Odd’s ratio 2.08). In anxiety management and dealing with personal stress, additional variables entered the model and these were age, gender and Dental School. For most aspects of confidence in anxiety management, the quality of teaching to manage these situations was the key variable. In conclusion, this survey has provided an evaluation of UK students’ perceived psychosocial skills in a range of clinical settings. This should encourage educators to improve curricular content to support the development of clinical competency in this area.