COVID-19 and dental education: will dental schools admit new students in 2021?


By Iveta Ramonaite, Dental Tribune International
March 03, 2021

LEIPZIG, Germany: Since the COVID-19 pandemic severely restricted access to clinical practice, students around the world have been negatively affected by the far-reaching consequences the pandemic has had on dental education. To make the most of the current situation, many schools have implemented video and virtual platforms to familiarize students with standard clinical procedures. However, the knowledge gained through online learning is limited and some students are now encouraged to repeat the 2020-2021 academic year in order to complete the necessary clinical training. To that end, some dental schools have announced that they will not be accepting new students in 2021.

Due to the high risk of the virus spreading through aerosol transmission in clinical practice, dentistry has been severely affected by the pandemic. This manifested itself in a lack of in-person training for dental students, which is crucial for the success of their studies. Students were also overwhelmed by various fears and concerns caused by factors such as the need to adapt to updated infection control protocols and the need to elevate themselves. academic challenges.

The seriousness of this situation is clearly evident in Scotland. As final year dental students were unable to graduate due to a lack of practical clinical experience, Universities Scotland, the representative body of Scotland’s 19 higher education institutions, has announced that dental schools will not accept new students in September 2021. Mairi Gougeon, The Scottish Minister for Public Health has reportedly said the decision was difficult but necessary.

“The quality and caliber of dental treatment in Scotland is exceptional and must be protected by taking appropriate educational steps to ensure that future dental professionals have reached the standards of clinical competence of the General Dental Council and can enter the labor market with confidence, ”she said. Noted.

To help avoid crippling student debt, the Scottish government will offer financial support to those who have been asked to repeat their final year. According to Gougeon, affected students will be eligible for a scholarship equal to the amount of their student loan.

Dental schools in Europe have yet to make a decision

Discussing the situation in Europe, a spokesperson for the European Association of Dental Students (EDSA) told DTI :. Every student has the right to build a successful career and receive dental education that prepares them to provide safe and effective oral health care to the population they serve. If a student does not have enough clinical experience to provide this, a limited extension of their course duration may be appropriate, depending on the local context.

According to some sources, several universities in Malta and Greece have already chosen to extend their terms. Other countries are considering taking the same step but have yet to make the final decision.

Speaking about possible extensions to the length of courses, the association noted that any extensions granted to students should be proportional to the clinical time missed. However, EDSA noted that dental schools should carefully consider all available options to safely increase the supply of clinical education and to avoid extensions where possible, as they can lead to financial burdens. The spokesperson added: “Students must be protected from the financial impact of prolonging their studies. They should not pay additional fees, and schools and governments should seek to provide financial support for living expenses, especially for those who may have difficulty in the event of an extension. “

Dental schools in the United States still accept students

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted dental education in Scotland, the situation is not the same in other parts of the world. For example, for dental schools in the United States, it’s like nothing has happened. Dr. Karen P. West, President and CEO of the American Dental Education Association, told DTI, “Dental education continues to advance in the United States and all existing dental schools across the country continue to accept new ones. students this year. In fact, applications for schools are increasing.

Students across the country quickly adapted to changes in teaching and learning and embraced the shift to virtual classrooms, with all of its possibilities. “Although the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted learning last year, schools have adapted and developed innovative educational environments in which to teach and learn. In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for patient care in the COVID-19 environment, students are providing clinical care and skill assessments are continuing, ”she noted.

“We are not asking students to repeat the 2020-2021 school year on the sole basis of COVID-19. To their credit, faculty and students quickly adapted to the changed environment, embracing virtual learning options that allowed dental education to develop and flourish in new and revolutionary ways ”, West concluded.


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