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Keywords:

  • Australia;
  • cultural competence;
  • dental education

Abstract

Objective

To explore Melbourne Dental School students and graduates’ self-assessed levels of competence and skill regarding cultural issues which emerge in dental treatment, and their perceptions of the dental curriculum in addressing socio-cultural issues.

Methods

Information was derived from a 59-item questionnaire consisting of three parts: socio-demographic; self-assessed level of culture competency within the clinical encounter; and cultural aspects in the dental curriculum. Data was collected from undergraduate dental students enrolled in the fourth year of 2006 and 2007 and fifth year of 2006 and from dentists who graduated in 2002 and 2003.

Results

A total of 133 students and 37 dentists took part in the survey. Response rates were 68.9% among students and 92.6% among dentists. The majority (students: 90.2%; graduates: 62.1%) indicated ‘Very often’/’Always’ treating patients from different cultural backgrounds. Distribution of competencies showed that participants felt fairly competent in communicating and establishing rapport, but less competent in dealing with patients’ cultural practices, and patients’ family involvement. The majority (students: 72.1%; graduates: 59.7%) perceived the coverage of socio-cultural aspects in the course as not adequate. Around 40% of participants indicated that inclusion of socio-cultural awareness in the dental curriculum was important or very important.

Conclusion

Although there were some significant differences in participants’ reports, they generally self-reported having good competency and skill in providing care to patients from different cultural backgrounds. Further exploration of these issues would enhance the future dental workforce's quality of care, professionalism and capacity for cultural competence.