Purpose: To evaluate the perceptions held by dentistry undergraduates about the relationship between general health and periodontal disease. In addition, student knowledge about treatment of patients with systemic disorders was also examined.
Materials and Methods: Participants were all undergraduates in the last year of dental school from three different universities (N = 253). Inclusion criteria were students enrolled in their last year of the dental curriculum and who agreed to participate in the research. After the participants filled out a structured questionnaire, the results were analysed using Epi Info 3.5.1 software and the chi-square, Friedman and Wilcoxon tests.
Results: The majority of participants recognised the relationship between periodontal and cardiac disease and diabetes mellitus. However, only half of the participants were aware of the relationship between periodontal disease and stroke (50.5%). In relation to caring for patients with systemic diseases, 61.4% of students surveyed did not know the blood glucose level that characterises a hypoglycemic status. The majority of participants (61.8%) stated the importance of evaluating vital signs prior to dental treatment. However, only 13.3% of the participants included temperature and respiratory rate as vital signs.
Conclusion: The perception and attitude of undergraduates about the items on the questionnaire were deficient. Thus, a more holistic view of the patient is warranted within dental education, promoting health and quality of life.
Keywords: dental education, dental students, higher education, periodontal diseases