Working Together to Access Dental Care for Young Underserved Children: A Problem-Based Learning Approach to Increase Health Professional Students Awareness

Format Publication ID Version Published
Case, Evaluation Tool, Video 9380 1 March 26, 2013
University of Washington


The course uses a problem-based learning (PBL) approach to introduce students to the process of critical thinking and its application to clinical problem solving in a public health context. Students are expected to critically evaluate a dental public health case involving biological, behavioral, social, ethical, and cultural elements; seek resources and information to develop an understanding of patient needs; develop hypotheses regarding the nature and complexity of the problem; prioritize goals and objectives relevant to the problem; and develop a solution. The centerpiece of this curriculum is a novel video case scenario that highlights the real-world consequences of the lack of parental knowledge and dental community cultural awareness on the oral health of young Hispanic children from lower socioeconomic families in rural communities. The mother is well-meaning and concerned. The dentist is well-meaning and accommodating. Yet problems emerge. Immediate issues such as clinical hours that are conducive to hourly rate farm worker’s, to longer range issues such the fact that the older daughter, who had her dental needs treated in an emergency room situation acts as the interpreter for her non-English speaking mother are portrayed. Important consequences of other facilities and services not communicating clearly and not attending to cultural sensitivities are also able to be presented effectively. The video case scenario has successfully been used to teach dental students about oral health disparities.


Pickrell J, Spector G, Chi D, Riedy C. Working Together to Access Dental Care for Young Underserved Children: A Problem-Based Learning Approach to Increase Health Professional Students Awareness. MedEdPORTAL; 2013. Available from:

Educational Objectives

  1. Attain an awareness and understanding of dental public health principles and problems in rural United States, including how oral health problems affect particular vulnerable subgroups (e.g.,racial/ethnic minorities, low-income) and communities.
  2. To describe the associations between early childhood caries and parental access to education.
  3. Identify and discuss alternative points of view about a public health problem involving dentistry.
  4. Be able to suggest strategies physicians might use to implement early oral health intervention programs within a medical setting.
  5. Illustrate ways that physicians can partner with dentists to provide consistent nutrition messaging to parents of young children.
  6. Prepare a coherent presentation of the public health problem and offer potential solutions using resource materials supplemented with electronic media.


  • Vulnerable Subgroups, Minority, Low-Income, Caries, Building Oral Health Capacity (BOHC) Collection


  • Medical
    • Family Medicine
    • Pediatrics
    • Public Health


  • Dental
    • Assessment, Diagnosis & Treatment
    • Dental Public Health
    • Establishment & Maintenance of Oral Health
    • Health Promotion
    • Pediatric Dentistry
    • Preventive Dentistry
    • Preventive Medicine

Competencies Addressed

  • Medical
    • Interpersonal & Communication Skills
    • Medical Knowledge
    • Patient Care
    • Practice-based Learning & Improvement
    • Professionalism

Academic Focus

  • Basic Sciences
    • Psychology/Behavioral Science
    • Sociology
  • Clinical Sciences
    • Clinical Skills/Doctoring

Professional Interest

  • Communication Skills
  • Community Health
  • Cultural Diversity/Cultural Competency
  • Health Education
  • Healthcare Systems
  • Public Health Sciences

Intended Audience

  • Professional School
    • Dental Student
    • Medical Student
    • Nursing Student
    • Public Health Student

Instructional Methods

  • Problem-based Learning

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