A Comparison of Oral Health Related Knowledge between Undergraduate Medical and Dental Students

Research Article

Austin J Dent. 2021; 8(1): 1154.

A Comparison of Oral Health Related Knowledge between Undergraduate Medical and Dental Students

Bokhari SAH1*, Bello SM2, Sanikommu S1, Hamza SA3 and Alotaibi AM4

1Department of Dental Public Health, College of Dentistry, King Faisal University, Kingdom of Saudi Arab

2Department of Biomedical Sciences, College of Dentistry, King Faisal University, Saudi Arabia

3University of Faisalabad, College of Dentistry, Pakistan

4Department of Periodontology, College of Dentistry, King Faisal University, Saudi Arabia

*Corresponding author: Syed Akhtar Hussain Bokhari, Department of Dental Public Health, College of Dentistry, King Faisal University, Al-hofuf 31972, Saudi Arabia

Received: March 01, 2021; Accepted: March 25, 2021; Published: April 01, 2021


Aim: Studies have reported that the knowledge of medical doctors about dental conditions is not satisfactory. Medical and dental students need to have and reflect good oral health knowledge as they will be major providers of health services in future. This study was conducted to assess and compare the level of oral health knowledge of medical and dental students.

Materials and Methods: Using a self-administered structured questionnaire, cross-sectional study was conducted at King Faisal University University, Saudi Arabia. The survey tool consisting of 25 items assessed knowledge about oral health problems, etiology and importance in relation to general health. Descriptive statistics were performed using SPSS version 20.

Results: Medical students exhibited a good level of oral health knowledge on 16 (64%) items, whereas dental students demonstrated on 18 items (72%) (p=0.02). In both streams, male students displayed a good level of knowledge on 17 items, while female displayed on 11 items. Mean score of male students to all the questions was 80.68% and that of females was 66.96% (p=0.001). Dental students scored marginally better than medical students for 14 out of 25 items, and mean scores was insignificant between medical and dental students (p=0.21). Students of years 2, 3 and 4 displayed better knowledge compared to those from years 1 and 5 (p=0.001). Students from any particular year did not seem to be having consistently better knowledge than the other years across all the items.

Conclusion: This study showed a moderate to good level of knowledge about oral health. Dental students and men displayed somewhat better knowledge levels compared to medical students and women, respectively.

Clinical Significance: This study highlights the importance of scientific oral health knowledge for the future health care professionals. Objective is to draw attention towards incorporation of preventive oral health sciences in medical curriculum at undergraduate level.

Keywords: Oral Health; Knowledge; Medical; Dental; Students


Oral health is an essential component and prerequisite for the overall health of a person. It is therefore important for both medical and dental students to have and reflect good oral health knowledge as they will be major providers of health services in future [1]. Usually, most of the patients including those with complaints in the orofacial region, make their first contact with a general medical practitioner [2]. Physicians offer a range of healthcare services to the patients suffering from dental problems. The services include emergency care, screening and referral. Medical professionals receive little training in addressing oral health issues during their educational programs or elsewhere; thus they display low levels of oral health knowledge and low levels of confidence in its applications [3,4]. Various studies reported that the knowledge of medical doctors about dental conditions was not satisfactory [5]. Medical schools’ curriculum was found to be inadequately covering diagnosis and management of oral disease. This concept is confirmed by a study, where fifty-four per cent of the physicians agreed that problems of teeth and gums could affect pregnancy outcomes, but in their routine practice, they failed to counsel their patients to seek dental care during pregnancy [6]. Fifty per cent dentists and physicians believed that diabetic patients are at a greater risk for tooth loss because of periodontal disease [7] and 48.4% medical interns never screened patients of periodontal illness [8]. In a study by Rabiei et al. [9] physicians agreed to know about oral health care and were willing to include preventive oral health services to their routine practice. Medical students also showed poor to moderate knowledge in medical problems in dentistry [10] and a recent study from India reported poor oral health awareness by undergraduate medical students [11].

The current curriculum of medical schools is either deficient or non-existent concerning oral health [12]. Inadequate coverage of dental content in the medical curriculum compromises the basic dental knowledge of medical graduates and impedes their confidence in offering basic oral health advice [13].

Significance of providing some dental knowledge to the medical professionals has been widely acknowledged [14] as basic knowledge and awareness of medical professionals regarding oral health and the nature of oral diseases have an essential role in comprehensive patient care. Very few studies have assessed oral health knowledge of ‘physicians’ and/or medical students in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia [15]. Therefore, this study was undertaken to observe the knowledge about the common oral and dental problems, their etiology and relation to general health among medical students as compared to dental students.


This cross-sectional questionnaire based study was conducted on undergraduate medical and dental students of King Faisal University, Saudi Arabia, in September 2019. Study subjects included medical students from 1st to 5th years of MBBS and dental students from 1st to 4th years of BDS. The institutional review board of the College of Dentistry, King Faisal University, approved the study vide letter #CoD/R/0013/2019 (04/04/19) for compliance of the ethical and research guidelines. Informed consent was obtained from the study participants after explaining them the objectives of the study and methods involved. It was explicitly stated that their participation would be voluntary. Respondents were asked to fill the questionnaires in the classroom after obtaining permission from the respective Deans and course instructors of the individual sessions. One of the investigators was present to clarify any doubts while the students filled the questionnaire. Responses were collected from those students who were available on the day of survey. Questionnaires were distributed to 200 MBBS students and 88 BDS students. The response rate was 87% for medical students and 100% for dental students. Questionnaires were collected and screened by one of the investigators (SS) for completeness. All the questionnaires with more than three unanswered questions or with multiple answers were excluded from the analysis.

A structured and close-ended questionnaire was used to assess the knowledge level of the respondents (Table 1). The questionnaire was utilized in a similar study conducted by Sujatha et al. [11]. It was pretested and validated for the present study. The questionnaire included four questions regarding age, gender, the stream of study and study year. Twenty-five questions were posed to assess knowledge related to common oral diseases or conditions, their etiology and relation to systemic conditions, dental treatment and related dietary factors. The respondents had to choose only one of the options from ‘Agree’, ‘Disagree’, and ‘Don’t know’. The questions were so designed that ‘Agree’ happens to be the correct answer for all the items, except for questions #10,12,13 and 20. To calculate the total knowledge level of the respondents, the correct answer carries 2 points, and the other two possibilities carry one and zero points. The knowledge of the students was calculated by adding the scores of all items and expressing it in percentage. Knowledge of the respondents was graded as ‘good’ (score >70%), ‘fair’ (50- 69%), and ‘poor’ (<50%).