What influences dental students to serve special care patients?

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ARSTRACTThis study examines factors associated with graduating dental students' motivation to deliver services to special care patients. We investigated community context and student characteristics, which would influence potential behavior. Higher percentages of older adults and low-income residents in the community were positively correlated with interest in serving special care populations. Factors which correlated with individual student characteristics included having a father with at least a college education, a higher number of weeks spent in extramural clinical rotations, preparedness to provide care to disabled patients, and service orientation and socially conscious attitudes.Frail elderly and disabled persons have limited access to dental care, which is compounded by a shortage of skilled dental professionals who are willing to treat these populations. Our findings suggest that interest in special care dentistry is partly conditioned by the dental school's demographic and dental market context. This study is important to dental educators and policymakers because the challenge of providing care to the “special patient” will increase in the future.

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