Clinical Experience and Supervision

Our dental school is a pioneer in competency-based dental education — an approach that replaces the traditional system of clinical requirements with experiences that ensure graduates possess the skills, understanding and professional values needed for the independent practice of general dentistry.

The school’s comprehensive patient care program is based on the concept of private dental practice where the student assumes responsibility for assigned patients’ treatment, consultation, and referral for specialty care. Second-year students practice clinical dentistry 15 hours per week, learning to provide comprehensive dental care under the direction of group practice administrators and multidisciplinary faculty from diagnostic sciences, periodontics, endodontics, orthodontics, removable prosthodontics and restorative dentistry.

Third-year students practice clinical dentistry approximately 33 hours per week and provide care to all patients in his or her patient population. Occasionally other caregivers, a second- or third-year student or resident, complete certain procedures in a treatment plan. This is done through the group practice leader (GPL) and requires the approval of the patient. The student dentist originally assigned to provide care to the patient maintains responsibility for care during all treatment provided by other students or residents.

In the third-year clinic, the group practice mentor (GPM) supervises oral diagnosis and treatment planning, emergencies, operative dentistry and fixed prosthodontics, including test cases. There are three GPMs in each group practice during a clinic session and students work with all three mentors during the course of most appointments. The GPM monitors the progress of care and completes periodic case reviews with the patient and the student. The complex care clinic allows students to treat technically difficult restorative cases under the supervision of a trained prosthodontist with a low student-to-faculty ratio.

The second- and third-year class is divided into eight groups. Each group practice is managed by a group practice leader, who has responsibility for the care of patients by all students and faculty in the group practice. The other clinical disciplines are managed by faculty who do not have specific responsibility for a certain group of students. Specialists in endodontics and removable prosthodontics manage all of those cases in specified areas of the clinic, including test cases. Periodontists manage periodontal procedures.

Oral and maxillofacial surgery, implantology, pediatric dentistry and radiology are learned in respective specialty clinics. Doctoral students participate with faculty and orthodontic residents in adjunctive orthodontic care and in oral development clinics. Advanced clinical dentistry and evaluation of new developments and topics that involve several disciplines are learned in the third year in conjunction with patient care.