Purpose: The aims of this study were to: (1) investigate the perceptions and experiences of predoctoral dental students and advanced standing students on mentorship, exposure to prosthodontics, and future need for the specialty, and (2) establish a baseline of students’ perceptions of the impact of prosthodontics on salary, personal and patient quality of life, and the profession of dentistry.
Materials and Methods: A survey was distributed to 494 predoctoral and advanced standing students at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. Questions focused on the perceptions and experiences with the specialty of prosthodontics. A total of 410 surveys were analyzed using Chi Square tests and univariate and multivariate analysis with statistical software.
Results: Response rate was 83%. A positive initial introduction to prosthodontics was reported by 57% of students. Most students had positive experiences with prosthodontic faculty and enjoyed laboratory work and challenging/complex dentistry. A greater need for prosthodontists in the future was perceived by 82% of respondents, with 63% reporting that the future of prosthodontics had been emphasized. Students reported (1) a preclinical course directed by prosthodontists and (2) working in the clinic with prosthodontic faculty (p < 0.006) as having the biggest impact on their introduction to prosthodontics. A desire to pursue training or a career in prosthodontics was reported by 3.4% of the respondents, with 1.7% of them pursuing prosthodontics. Enjoyment of providing care in prosthodontics was the most important factor for those who decided to pursue prosthodontic postgraduate training. When compared to other specialties, prosthodontics ranked low with regards to its impact on salary (7th), personal quality of life (5th), patient quality of life (4th), and strengthening of the dental field (7th).
Conclusion: Reasons few students are interested in prosthodontics as a career, despite a positive first introduction and high perceived future need for prosthodontists may be attributed to a number of factors. These include insufficient prosthodontically, trained faculty, lack of a mentorship program, lack of an advanced graduate program, a perception of feeling unprepared upon graduation, and misconception of potential income in prosthodontics.