Investigating the Negative Stigma of Dentistry

The continually lukewarm response I receive when my peers find out I am a pre-dental student stood out to me as a reflection of a larger negative sentiment about dentistry. Just look online and you will find countless comedic routines, blog articles, and social media posts about how Americans find dental work so un-enjoyable. I wonder if interpersonal interactions between the dentist and patient, lack of communication and patient knowledge about procedures, lingering reputations of older, perhaps more unpleasant equipment, or another factor is to blame for these opinions.

This summer I will examine existing literature to discover what specific features of dentistry make patients apprehensive. I will analyze older publications to gain a context of the historical reputation of dentistry and how it may have changed in recent years. Journal articles will also be useful by showing the perspective of professionals like dentists, doctors, public health professionals, and medical researchers. I will also include magazines and news articles in my research, which will provide a more informal, personal account of the patient-side of my research topic. News articles will also include individual events which may have impacted dentistry. If time permits, I would also like to expand my research to include some related content from other disciplines, such as the psychology behind a patient-health professional relationship. To find out how this issue is being resolved, I also would like to investigate the curriculum of different dental schools, or look for different initiatives in dental education aimed at promoting a positive patient experience in the office.