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J Dent Educ. 2004 Aug;68(8):819-22.

Need for genetics education in U.S. dental and dental hygiene programs.

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  • 1Northern Arizona University, P.O. Box 15065, Flagstaff, AZ 86011-5065, USA.


The two major afflictions of the oral cavity are dental caries and gingival/periodontal disease. While microorganisms have long been acknowledged as important etiologic factors, the most recent research data demonstrate that both of these pathologic conditions have a strong hereditary base, i.e., even in the presence of putative pathogenic microorganisms, if the host individual is not genetically susceptible, ensuing disease will be mild or even nonexistent. In the face of this evidence for heritability of the two major oral diseases, we evaluated what educational experiences in genetics were provided to students in U.S. dental schools and dental hygiene programs in 2003-04. Our survey of fifty-four dental schools revealed that only one requires a formal genetics course before admission, and only six incorporate a required genetics course within the dental curriculum. Of the 264 dental hygiene programs surveyed, none require a formal genetics course as a prerequisite for admission, and none require a formal genetics course within their curricula. The enormous successes, and future promise, of the Human Genome Project suggest that genetics will soon dominate the future of medicine and dentistry, in prediction of diseases, disease diagnosis, and, eventually, therapy for genetically based disorders. It is therefore incumbent upon dental and dental hygiene education programs to provide genetics education for tomorrow's practitioners.

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