The Experiences of Community Dental Clinic Directors with Dental Students and Dental School Collaborations

Participation in community-based dental clinics reaps triple benefits—for students, patients and the clinics where they serve.

In February 2010, a public opinion and research company conducted telephone interviews with nine directors of community dental clinics who had students rotate through their clinics as part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s national program Pipeline, Profession, and Practice: Community-Based Dental Education.

Key Findings:

  • All clinic directors considered the dental student rotations to be mutually beneficial and wanted to continue the rotations and the collaborations with dental schools that enable the experience.
  • Almost all directors reported they were able to improve access to care in their clinic by serving more patients and reducing patient wait times.
  • The students brought energy, excitement about dentistry and knowledge of new techniques to their work in the clinics, positively affecting other staff members.
  • Students gained real-life, hands-on experience. They were exposed to a great variety of dental needs through the large volume of patients they saw. They also were opened to the possibility of practicing in a community-based clinic when they graduated.
  • Clinic directors said they derived personal satisfaction from mentoring—and challenging—younger students. They support the expansion of students participating in community-based dental programs and increased collaboration with dental schools.