Infrastructure for a Community-Based Dental Education Program

Careful planning and preparation are necessary for dental students, community members and dental schools to maximize the benefits of community-based dental education (CBDE).

Before entering rotations in community clinics, students must undergo cultural training and understand the basic functions of a dental clinic. Proper student orientation and a good match between student and clinic are essential components of CBDE infrastructure.

This chapter of this special issue of the Journal of Dental Education on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Pipeline, Profession, and Practice: Community-Based Dental Education program discusses the necessary infrastructure of any CBDE program. The authors consider how students prepare for working in the community and the selection of community sites. In addition, the authors compare the experiences of students who participate in shorter and longer rotation cycles. Other topics include: transportation and housing; pre-rotation orientation; legal liability; and the memorandum of understanding that forms a partnership between a dental school and a community clinic.

Key Findings:

  • At Boston University, 10-week rotations resulted in greater clinical productivity and clinical experience for students compared to six-week rotations; students in the 10-week rotations performed 35 percent more procedures per week and 122 percent more procedures overall.
  • The selection of a clinical dental mentor is a crucial factor in a successful CBDE program.
  • Community sites that are a contrast to a school’s educational environment will expose students to unfamiliar systems and people.

When a community dental clinic decides to host a dental student, the site becomes an educational facility. This chapter on the Pipeline CBDE program, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson foundation and the California Endowment, explores issues related to setting up a successful CBDE.