Dental health care access and delivery: the role of the dental education process

Over the last few decades, technological advancement has increased the quality of dental health care in the United States. Having adequate dental health has several social and physiological health benefits. On the flipside, research suggests that the lack of such health has severe negative consequences not only for the persons who suffer from poor dental health, but on society as a whole. The literature on this subject also suggests that low-income people and people from racial minority groups have a higher chance of having poor dental health and facing "barriers" to accessing dental care services when compared to their more wealthy or white counterparts. The Dental Pipeline Program was developed as a means to equalize access to dental care for all populations in the United States. Surprisingly, few studies have been conducted that evaluate the effectiveness of this program, specifically, the impact that it makes on its target population-the dental students. This study is about how the role of the dental education process at Lorna Linda University School of Dentistry, a predominantly white, middle-class, Christian institution, can impact students' attitudes and ideologies, and how that can affect access and delivery of dental services for vulnerable populations. I draw my analysis of students' response to the Pipeline Program in context of the school's attempt to instill a charity-based service ethic in its students, which often conflicts with the goals of the Pipeline Program, all while training and creating competent dental professionals. Keywords: Professional Socialization, Dental Pipeline Program, Evaluation Research, Dental Care Access, Dental School Education, Cultural Competency, Medical Sociology.