Introduction: Children in the United States continue to suffer from the infectious disease of early childhood caries (ECC) despite its being 100% preventable. ECC is particularly evident in certain vulnerable subpopulations. Access to care is a difficulty not only for dentists but for physicians as well. A two-pronged effort to prevent the spread of the infectious childhood disease of caries includes greater education of both parents and health care providers. This innovative concept-based resource educates medical and dental students on the epidemiology of frequently experienced barriers to oral health care that parents and young children face. Methods: 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. A video case scenario 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. Resource files include an instructor’s guide, a facilitator’s guide, the case-based video, an evaluation template, an introduction to PBL, links to background articles and guidelines, a syllabus template, and a presentation template. Results: Until last year, this content was provided in a paper-based format. To inject new life into the content, we developed this video-based scenario providing both experiential and didactic learning. When we compared the student ratings of the course prior to last year (paper-based format) with last year (video-based format), we found that students rated the video-based format higher on several indices. They gave a higher mean rating for whether the course met its educational objective and a higher rating for the instructor’s effectiveness, reported they had spent more hours per week on the course materials, and felt that a greater percentage of those hours were valuable for advancing their education. This increased level of engagement, we believe, will lead to improved memory when faced with similar situations in years to come. Discussion: Based on the analysis we did of the students’ ratings of the course, we feel that the transition from a paper-based to a video-based format has been very effective in engaging the students and impacting their desire to learn. We have manipulated group size and have found that smaller group sizes (< 12 students) work better for engaging the students in meaningful interactions. Additionally, we have used other dental public health problem scenarios to allow this approach to be used with an entire dental school class (> 50 students).
- 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 and communities.
- Describe the associations between early childhood caries and parental access to education.
- Identify and discuss alternative points of view about a public health problem involving dentistry.
- Suggest strategies physicians might use to implement early oral health intervention programs within a medical setting.
- Illustrate ways that physicians can partner with dentists to provide consistent nutrition messaging to parents of young children.
- Prepare a coherent presentation on the public health problem and offer potential solutions using resource materials supplemented with electronic media.
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