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

Publication ID Published Version
9380 March 26, 2013 9
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 Publications; 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, Health Equity Research, Public Health Sciences, Population Health


  • Medical
    • Family Medicine
    • Pediatrics
    • Preventive Medicine
      • Public Health
  • Dental
    • Pediatric Dentistry
    • Preventive Dentistry


  • Interpersonal & Communication Skills
  • Knowledge for Practice
  • Patient Care
    • Promote health prevention
  • Practice-based Learning & Improvement
  • Professionalism

Professional Interest

  • Communication Skills
  • Community Health
  • Cultural Diversity/Cultural Competency
  • Health Education
  • Health Equity Research
  • Healthcare Systems
  • Oral Health
  • Population Health
  • Public Health Sciences

Instructional Methods

  • Case-based Instruction/Learning
  • Problem-based Learning (PBL)

Academic Focus

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

Intended Audience

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


  • Evaluation Tool
  • Video

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ISSN 2374-8265