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J Periodontol. 2010 Mar;81(3):359-63. doi: 10.1902/jop.2009.090475.

Knowledge and orientations of internal medicine trainees toward periodontal disease.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center, Albert Einstein University, Bronx, NY 10467, USA.



There is growing evidence that periodontal disease may be a source of systemic inflammation that impacts overall health. As such, periodontal disease is associated with an increased risk of systemic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and adverse outcomes in diabetes mellitus and pregnancy. With the aim of assessing oral health knowledge and orientations of physicians in training, we surveyed incoming internal medicine trainees about their general knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors/practices about periodontal health and disease.


A 16-question survey was distributed during orientation to incoming internal medicine trainees at a single urban teaching hospital in New York City in 2007 and 2008. Questions aimed to assess the knowledge levels of the subjects about periodontal disease and their attitudes toward discussing/evaluating the periodontal status of their patients. The study was approved by the Montefiore Institutional Review Board.


Of 125 incoming medical trainees queried, 115 responded (92% response rate). Of the 115 responders, 96% were medical interns. The median age of the trainees was 27 years (interquartile range: 26 to 29 years), and 61% were female. Overall, 34% of the trainees answered all five true/false general knowledge questions correctly, 82% reported that they never asked patients if they were diagnosed with periodontal disease, 90% reported not receiving any training about periodontal disease during medical school, 69% reported that they were not comfortable at all performing a simple periodontal examination, 17% agreed that patients expect physicians to discuss/screen for periodontal disease, 46% felt that discussing/evaluating the periodontal status of their patients was peripheral to their role as physicians, 76% reported never screening patients for periodontal disease, and 23% stated that they never referred patients to dentists.


In this study, incoming internal medicine trainees had inadequate knowledge regarding periodontal disease. They were also generally uncomfortable with performing a simple periodontal examination. Oral health training in medical school and the medical postgraduate setting is recommended.

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