Altruism in Dental Students

Among dental students, women, non-Whites, and unmarried people are more likely to believe that providing oral care to all segments of society is a professional and ethical obligation.

Altruism, selfless concern for the welfare of others, is crucial to building a dental workforce that serves all citizens. However, research indicates that most dental students are motivated by the profession’s financial rewards.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the California Endowment funded a five-year initiative, the Dental Pipeline Program, to address concerns about the willingness of the dental profession to serve disadvantaged communities.

This study examined demographic characteristics that influence altruistic attitudes among dental students; also, the authors evaluated the success of the Dental Pipeline Program in cultivating altruistic attitudes in dental school graduates.

Key Findings:

  • Students were more altruistic if they graduated from Dental Pipeline Schools.
  • When their parents earned less than $30,000 per year and lacked college education, dental students were more altruistic.

The U.S. Surgeon General has called for the dental profession to take responsibility for the oral health of disadvantaged communities. The findings of this study suggest that, in order to answer that call, dental schools are compelled to recruit female, minority and low-income students.