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Development of ethical practices and social responsibility in dental education at the university of Chile: student and faculty perceptions


  • M. Alcota,

    1. Department of Conservative Dentistry, School of Dentistry, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile
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  • P. Ruiz de Gauna,

    1. Department of Theory and History of Education, Faculty of Philosophy and Educational Sciences, University of País Vasco, UPV/EHU, Bilbao, Spain
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  • F. E. González

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Conservative Dentistry, School of Dentistry, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile
    2. Disciplinary Program of Immunology, Institute of Biomedical Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile
    • Correspondence

      Fermín E. González

      Departamento de Odontología Conservadora,

      Facultad de Odontología

      Universidad de Chile, Avenida Sergio

      Livingstone 943

      Independencia. 8380492 Santiago


      Tel:/Fax: 56 2 9781839


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The authors argue that dental curricula in Latin America are noted for providing highly technical and individualistic training that may fail to address society's problems or instil in the dentist the idea that he/she has a social responsibility to contribute to his/her community.


This study's main objectives were to determine whether the curriculum and the faculty teaching practices of the School of Dentistry at the University of Chile contribute to its students' commitment to ethical and social responsibility.


This was a qualitative study that investigated the perceptions of sixteen subjects (eight students and eight faculty members). Data were collected in thorough deep interviews. The interview process model conceptualised and organised the information into sets of dimensions and categories. The dimensions studied were ethical commitment and social responsibility. The categories assessed within ethical commitment were honesty, tolerance, responsibility and respect. In the social responsibility dimension, the categories were solidarity, teamwork and concern for and communication with the patient. Analysis of the textual data was performed using a method of content analysis based upon constructed qualitative matrices.


Our results show that students and scholars alike realise that ethical commitment and a sense of social responsibility are not promoted in the curriculum. They do, however, recognise the importance of these qualities in dental practitioners.


These results indicate that the current curriculum and teaching practices used in our School of Dentistry need to be reviewed and that programmes promoting professionals' commitment to their role in society need to be implemented.