No patients means dental students' practicals in trouble

Updated: Jul 11, 2020, 07:38 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

Practical evaluation forms a major part of dental students' assessment; school students to also miss out on annual free oral dental hygiene check-up

Dental screening being conducted in a school
Dental screening being conducted in a school

The students' community from across the state has been adversely impacted with the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown. Three lakh school students in Mumbai and around 12.50 lakh across Maharashtra will have to miss their yearly free oral dental hygiene checkup this year owing to the schools remaining shut. This checkup is conducted by the Indian Dental Association (IDA) every year.

Apart from the school kids, dental students are also facing a tough time as there are no patients for practical examinations in 35 dental medical colleges (private and government).

Dr Vikas Patil, secretary, IDA, Maharashtra said, "We usually conduct screening camps in schools for oral dental hygiene and around 25,000 students from each district avail the facility.

General oral hygiene awareness is imparted to the kids in these camps. "A child gets the first permanent molar tooth at the age of six but is always misunderstood as a milk tooth. The child and parents tend to ignore the tooth's health, resulting in its issues later," Dr Patil said.

Kids are also more exposed to junk food and soft drinks resulting in cavities in teeth. "For rural students, the camps are beneficial as we can refer them to the nearest primary health care centre at the earliest for dental treatment," he added.

Dr Hemant Dhusia, professor of Dentistry, and former dean (academics) LTMG hospital, however, said that the camps used to be organised with the help of sponsorship from some dental pharma company. "They pay R3 per student, but apart from examining the kids and conveying observations to them in writing, no treatment was actually provided to the students. I feel this doesn't make much sense as the parents may or may not bother to or afford to visit a dentist," Dr Dhusia said, adding, "The requirements of sponsors changed with time. They insist on having duly-filled forms with detailed findings, with the schoolprincipal's signature for release of payment. This has added to IDA members' workload."

Dr Hemant Dhusia, professor of Dentistry, and former dean (academics) LTMG hospital
Dr Hemant Dhusia, professor of Dentistry, and former dean (academics) LTMG hospital

Instead, Dr Dhusia said that the dental camps must be organised with the help of NGOs.

Also, in BMC-run schools, preventive and social medicine departments should conduct annual medical check-up programmes along with teachers' training, and events to impart knowledge. Treatment must be provided to the students with dental issues at a nearby civic-run or government hospital. "Otherwise dental check-up camps have no meaning," Dr Dhusia said.

BDS and MDS exams

Final-year examinations for BDS and MDS courses usually begin by March-end but they have been tentatively postponed to August this year. "The state has 37 dental colleges (including five government dental colleges) and the fate of 3,500 dental students continues to be uncertain. For BDS students, practical chairside examination is very crucial; it is considered to be 90 per cent of the students' knowledge," Dr Dhusia said.

Other medical courses

Dr Wiqar Shaikh, who has been an internal and external examiner in several medical colleges for MBBS, MD and FCPS (Fellowship of College of Physicians and Surgeons) said, "Usually MBBS and MD practical examinations are conducted with live patients and Viva Voce of the students. In the absence of patients, it is impossible to assess undergraduate and postgraduate students. If there are no patients, no practical assessment can be done.

"Virtual practical examination for any medical or dental examination cannot be conducted as it doesn't give a proper assessment of the student's knowledge."

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