Student attitudes and behaviour towards their own oral health status could reflect their understanding of the importance of oral health promotive activities.
This was a qualitative and exploratory study designed to gain a deeper understanding of the extent to which the undergraduate curriculum could act as an enabler for student oral health self-care practices.
Data collection comprised of document analysis (curriculum review) and in-depth face-to-face interviews with undergraduate dental therapy and oral health students and academic staff at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Ten students volunteered to participate in the study while five academic staff were purposively selected. A separate interview schedule was developed for students and staff, respectively. The emergent themes from document analysis were compared to the analysed data from the interviews.
The curriculum was underpinned by a strong foundation in prevention, and there was consensus among respondents that the curriculum met the needs for undergraduate training in preventive dentistry. The following themes emerged from data analysis: curriculum support for self-care practices; depth and scope of clinical training; role of clinical supervisors and challenges in clinical training. Respondents agreed that the curriculum could influence students’ attitudes towards self-care practices such as toothbrushing and flossing but that academic responsibilities and clinical contact time placed constraints on these practices.
The undergraduate curriculum does provide support for enabling student knowledge acquisition and positive attitudes, but more effort is required to enable oral health behavioural modifications among students.