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J Physician Assist Educ. 2010;21(2):22-30.

Oral health curricula in physician assistant programs: a survey of physician assistant program directors.

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Medical University of South Carolina, Department of Health Professions, Division of Physician Assistant Studies, SC 29425-9620, USA.



a review of the medical literature indicates that physician assistants (PAs) are not educationally prepared for oral health issues. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the status of oral health curricula and the knowledge and skills taught within PA curricula.


a survey examining oral health curricula in PA education was distributed electronically to the directors of all 142 accredited PA programs in the United States. The survey focused on aspects of oral health that programs currently teach and aspects that merit future inclusion. The survey data were analyzed using SPSS version 17.


eighty-three of the 142 PA program directors (58.4%) responded to the survey. Over 74% believed that dental disease prevention should be addressed in PA education, yet only 21% of programs actually did so. Most respondents (94.7%) also agreed that PAs should routinely assess and screen for early signs of dental disease and counsel patients on preventing dental problems. Currently, over half of PA programs teach examination of children's teeth for cavities (55.6%), dedicating on average 3.6 hours toward oral health education. Most respondents (more than 90%) expressed a desire to implement an oral health module in their programs. On average, program directors felt that 5.3 hours should be dedicated to oral health.


many PA program directors believe that PA programs are responsible for educating students about oral health; however, most PA program directors report a lack of oral health education within their curricula.

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