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J Dent Educ. 2014 Mar;78(3):454-64.

Teaching culturally sensitive care to dental students: a multidisciplinary approach.

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Marquette University School of Dentistry, P.O. Box 1881, Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881;.


Dental schools must prepare future dentists to deliver culturally sensitive care to diverse patient populations, but there is little agreement on how best to teach these skills to students. This article examines this question by exploring the historical and theoretical foundations of this area of education in dentistry, analyzes what is needed for students to learn to provide culturally sensitive care in a dental setting, and identifies the discipline-specific skills students must master to develop this competence. The problems associated with single-discipline, lecture-based approaches to teaching culturally sensitive care are outlined, and the advantages of an interdisciplinary, patient-centered, skills-based approach to teaching culturally sensitive care are described. The authors advocate for an approach to teaching culturally sensitive care that builds upon learning in the behavioral sciences, ethics, and public health. Component skills and perspectives offered by each of these curriculum areas are identified, and their contributions to the teaching of culturally sensitive care are described. Finally, the need to consider the timing of this instruction in the dental curriculum is examined, along with instructional advantages associated with an approach that is shared by faculty across the curriculum.


behavioral sciences; cultural competence; culturally sensitive care; dental education; dental school curriculum; ethics; patient-centered care; professionalism

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