• dental;
  • undergraduate;
  • clinical;
  • experience;
  • outreach;
  • placement


Primary care outreach placements increasingly feature in UK undergraduate dental curricula. The profile of clinical work undertaken on placement may differ from traditional hospital-based programmes and between outreach settings. An appreciation of any differences could inform curriculum development.

Objective:  To compare the profiles of clinical work experienced on a traditional hospital-based programme and outreach placements in different settings.

Setting:  One dental hospital and eight existing primary care block placements in England.

Subjects and methods:  Subjects were four cohorts of senior dental students in one UK dental school. Departmental records provided data on students’ clinical experience in different settings and their achievement of placement learning objectives. Descriptive statistics for groups were compared.

Main outcome measures:  (1) Counts of patients encountered and of clinical procedures completed in the following categories: simple plastic restorations, endodontics, cast restorations, dentures, extractions and children’s dentistry. (2) Student perceptions of placement learning reported via Likert scales.

Results:  Outreach students encountered twice as many patients and typically completed about three times as much clinical work as students in the hospital, e.g. 44 cf 16 simple plastic restorations, seven cf two endodontic procedures. There were variations in profiles by setting. For example, amalgam being more likely to be used on outreach especially in the General Dental Service; more children’s dentistry in community services and more extractions in Dental Access Centres. Students reported learning outcomes generally being achieved (average 94%) although with some variation by setting.

Conclusion:  Dental outreach training greatly increases the quantity of students’ clinical experience in everyday dentistry compared to a hospital-based programme. Placements also increase awareness of service delivery and develop clinical skills. There are appreciable variations between outreach settings possibly reflecting their purposes. Multiple contrasting outreach placements for each student might increase the uniformity of learning experiences.