Senior Scholars Program

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Family Medicine and Community Health

Faculty Mentor

Hugh Silk

Publication Date


Document Type



Dental Public Health and Education | Medical Education


Background: During the past decade, national initiatives have called for improved oral health (OH) training for physicians. However, how Family Medicine residency programs have answered this call is unknown.

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to determine how much oral health education is being provided to Family Medicine residents, if the program directors are aware of the importance of oral health, and if there are specific barriers to teaching oral health curricula in these programs.

Methods: 452 Family Medicine residency directors were surveyed about numbers of hours of OH teaching, topics covered, and perceived barriers to this education.

Results: 72% of respondents agreed that OH is an important topic, but only 32% were satisfied with their residents' competency in OH. All but 4% of programs address OH in their curricula; 52% reported 1-2 hours and 45% reported 3+ hours of OH teaching. Most commonly covered topics were prevention and care of caries (89%) and pediatric screening (85%); less covered topics included fluoride varnish (58%) and pregnancy and oral health (61%). Barriers to OH education included competing priorities (85%), inadequate time (69%), and lack of faculty expertise (52%). Awareness of the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine's Smiles for Life (SFL) curriculum and the use of SFL modules were associated with increased hours of training. Training in fluoride varnish, but not the application itself, was associated with more hours of OH curriculum. Residency directors who indicated competing priorities or lack of faculty expertise as barriers reported fewer hours of OH training.

Conclusion: Findings suggest that Family Medicine programs are including more hours than previously, yet continued efforts are needed to cover core OH topics and increase residents’ competence. Awareness of STFM's Smiles for Life and use of its modules were associated with increased hours of training.


Oral Health, Family Practice, Internship and Residency, Education, Medical

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Senior Scholars Program


Medical student Ronnelle King participated in this study as part of the Senior Scholars research program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.