Acceptance of psychology teaching in paediatric dentistry by undergraduate dental students

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  • Eur] Dent Educ 1997; 1: 13-17 Printed in Denmark. All rights reserved

    Copyrigkt 0 Munksgaad 1997

    E U K O P E A Y J O l l R h A L O r

    Dental Education ISSN 1396-5883

    Acceptance of psychology teaching in paediatric dentistry by undergraduate dental students

    Matthias Kalwitzki Department of Conservative Dentistry, Faculty of Dentistry, University of Tiibingen, Tabingen, Germany

    By means of a questionnaire, 4 cohorts of undergraduate stu- dents (n=144) were asked before and after the clinical course in paediatric dentistry about their acceptance of the teaching of psychological aspects in dentistry. A generally very high interest was found for psychology as well as for child-related psychology. The teaching of this topic by means of lectures was thought to be useful, but other didactic means were demanded to supplement teaching. For many of the aspects taught, more information was requested. Moreover, teaching of aspects not taught in the lec- tures was also requested. The more obvious the practical rel- evance of each topic appeared, the greater was the students interest. Psychology was thought to be useful as an aid to paedi-

    atric treatment. However, interest dropped after the completion of the paediatric dentistry course. It is concluded that undergrad- uate dental students have no particular inclination towards the treatment of children but rather a need for guidelines to avoid potential problems in dealing with this demanding group of pa- tients.

    Key words: psychological teaching: dental students; paediatric dentistry.

    0 Munksgaard, 7997 Accepted for publication 27 March 1997

    It has been well-established by numerous studies that the successful dental treatment of children requires a sound knowledge of clinical psychology. Numerous ideas and methods have been discussed and recom- mended for the cooperative and the non-cooperative paedodontic patient (1-5). In order to be successful, the practitioner has to be able to cooperate with the most diverse stages of development, reactions and situations, taking into consideration that children are subject to a continuous personal development. Fur- thermore, dental treatment in the early stages of life is of fundamental significance for the later adult attitude towards dental treatment (6-8).

    Thus, psychological training has been included in the dental curriculum in many countries (9, lo), de- spite a common belief among many dentists that den- tistry is a profession requiring mainly mechanical skills. In Germany, there is still no generalised pro- gramme in psychology in the dental curriculum; how- ever, different programmes were created in some uni- versities with a growing tendency for exchange and standardisation. Thus, the inclusion of psychology is a fairly new addition to the German dental curricu- lum and the purpose of this study was therefore to evaluate the acceptance of this subject by the 5th year dental students at the University of Tiibingen, who had not been exposed to any previous training.

    Aim of study Clarification of the following questions was sought:

    1. Is the teaching of psychological aspects in dentistry thought to be a necessary part of the curriculum?

    2. Is the teaching of particularly child-related psycho- logical aspects thought to be a necessary part of the curriculum?

    3. Is teaching by means of lecturing thought to be useful? If not, what alternatives are desired?

    4. Which aspects presented in the lectures are of greater, which of lesser, interest?

    5. Is there a shift between the topics perceived as most important by the students before and after the completion of the clinical course?

    6. Is there a desire to learn about further psycho- logical aspects not presented within the lectures? If yes, which ones are desired?

    Material and methods Over a period of 2 years 4 classes with a total of 144 students attending the clinical course for paediatric dentistry (10th semester, final semester before gradu- ation) participated in this study. Within this course,


  • Kalwitzki

    students initially receive a theoretical introduction and are subsequently required to treat paediatric pa- tients under the supervision of experienced clinicians. Patient age in this course varies between 2 and 16 years, including also mentally and physically handi- capped children.

    During the theoretical introduction to paediatric dentistry and before the start of the clinical course, all students were asked to answer a questionnaire. The same questionnaire had to be answered again after the completion of the clinical course at the end of the semester with an additional question about the practi- cal use of the given information.

    Practical study design 3 lectures (1 hour each) were compiled in consul- tation with the Department of Psychology of the University of Tubingen. These comprised the most important issues and aspects derived from the pae- dodontic literature (2,4,6,7,9) and our own clinical experience. A concise summary of these issues was given to the students before the lectures were held, in order to assure a smooth introducion to this matter.

    The following nine topics were presented: As an introduction, the necessity of psychology in

    dentistry, and in particular, the necessity of child-re- lated psychological aspects were stressed. Subse- quently, the students were introduced to different the- ories of child development. Part 4 dealt with the vari- ous influences by family, friends, former experiences with medical or dental treatment, etc., on child behav- iour. Part 5 explained aspects of child behaviour within dental surroundings according to the different stages of development. Part 6 was dedicated to the problem of fear and its causes. The 7th part explained aspects of interactions between the dentist and the paediatric patient, e.g., significance of voice, speech, physical contact. In part 8 methods to increase the compliance of the paediatric patient were presented. In part 9, a (successful) example demonstrated the practical use of one of these methods in a case report taken from our clinical course (systematic desensitis- a tion).

    Personal codes were used for both questionnaires so as to preserve anonymity.

    Questionnaire After a pilot test (one class), the questionnaire was designed under the supervision of the Department of Psychology of the University of Tubingen. For reasons of standardisation, the method of answering consisted in offering different options for each question from

    which the student could choose only one (except for Other didactic means (Table 1)).

    The questionnaire basically addressed 3 topics with a total of 23 questions before the clinical course and 24 questions after the clinical course: (i) Accept- ance and didactics of the lecture series (6 questions). (ii) Acceptance of contents and extent of the lectures and the specific aspects presented (10 questions). (iii) Desire to learn about psychological aspects not presented in the lectures (7 questions). (iv) Evalu- ating the practical use of the given information was answered only in the 2nd questionnaire after the completion of the clinical course (1 question).

    Analysis of the questionnaires was carried out by logical evaluation. Therefore, .if the teaching of psy- chology in paediatric dentistry was deemed to be use- less, only this information and the data about the teaching of psychological aspects .in dentistry were taken into consideration. The question concerning the extent of a specific aspect was of no further relevance if the question about the contents of this specific as- pect had been answered with not necessary. The responses from students repeating the course were re- corded only once.

    Results The response rate was 100%. However, 5 students had to be ruled out for filling out their questionnaires in- correctly. The remainder comprised a total of 144 stu- dents. The analysis was done separately for each class.

    TABLE 1. Results concerning the acceptance of teaching psychology and didactic means

    Beginning End YO YO

    psychology in dentistry necessary 98.6 95.8 not necessary 1.4 4.2

    psychology In paediatric necessary 98.7 96.4


    lecturing as a didactic useful 93.6 90.2

    not useful 6.4 9.8 other didactic means r61e plays 14.3 22.6

    film 47.1 57.1 47.1 47.4 seminar

    concise summary useful 97.1 98.5 not useful 2.9 1.5

    Other didactic means were only marked where students found lee- turing to be not sufficient. However, Percentages were taken from

    dentistry not necessary 1.3


    100 Yo (n=144).


  • Acceptance of psychological teaching in paediatric dentistry

    As the differences between the 4 classes included in this study could not be verified statistically, all infor- mation shown in the following represents the pooled data from all 4 classes.

    General acceptance and didactics of the lecture The teaching of psychological aspects in dentistry was thought to be necessary by 98.6% (n=142) in the beginning and 95.8% (n=138) at the end of the semester. The teaching of psychological aspects in paediatric dentistry was thought to be necessary by 98.7% (n=140) in the beginning and 96.4% (n=133) at the end of the semester. Lecturing was an accept- able didactic means for the teaching of this matter for 93.6% (n=131); later the figure dropped to 90.2% (n=120). In descending order other didactic means mentioned were: film, seminar, rdle plays. The printed abridged lecture content given to the stu- dents before the lecture was found to be helpful by 97.1% (n=136) in the beginning, and 98.5% (n=131) at the end (Table 1).

    Contents and extent of the lecture An acceptance of close to 100% was found for almost all the pres


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