Different educational and professional developments within the dental field create different sets of missions, norms, and practices regarding dental diseases and their appropriate treatment. This review has addressed differences in dental education and professional development between mainland China and North America. Many factors influence the choice of model and it is very difficult to predict which model will become predominant. However, there is growing sentiment that the independent faculty model in North America is logical and superior to the model, which ‘integrates’ dental and medical education in mainland China.
Many North America dental schools place a high priority on preclinical and clinical training in the curriculum in order to expose students to patient oral health needs and systemic dental problems much earlier than in mainland China. North America dental schools promote and embrace students self-learning skills by the use of PBL, CRL, and TRAD education methodologies and new e-based technologies and approaches whereby students learn rather than are taught. In mainland China, the traditional lecture-based format is still employed in the majority of dental schools; however, strategies to enhance students self-learning skills is increasingly utilised in most well-known Chinese dental schools.
The Chinese dental education model, which treats dentistry as a sub-specialty of medicine, has brought about fundamental differences, with the dentist functioning essentially as a stomatologist. For example, China has built up a large oral and maxillofacial surgery society, and craniofacial surgery is performed to a much broader extent by Chinese dentists than by most North American counterparts.
In North America, dentists engage in full-time work, attend continuing training/education programmes, belong to an association, gain legal status, and construct a code of ethics emphasising the quality of care delivered to the public. Currently, continuing dental education in North America is available through a variety of venues involving licensing authorities, universities and private programmes. The concept of professional development in mainland China is relatively new and is still considered primarily in the context of promotion or achieving a higher professional title. Mandatory continuing dental professional education requirements do not guarantee the competence of members of the profession. Today, the Chinese government and society place increasing emphasis upon the accountability of self-regulating professions.
Rather than attempting to summarise the current scope of dental education and professional development between mainland China and North America, this paper hopes to enhance mutual understanding, and promote greater academic exchanges in dental education.