Forum: Enhance integration of dental and medical education in Singapore

A patient having his teeth checked.
A patient having his teeth checked.PHOTO: ST FILE

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that apart from volunteering in clinical testing, dentists are mostly confined to their practices.

There is much to be achieved for the National University of Singapore (NUS) to actively approach the integration of dental and medical education. It would bolster both public healthcare and resource allocation here, and help enhance Singapore's pandemic readiness and systemic health measures.

The Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) in the United States is taking the lead in this direction, with an initiative to integrate oral health and medicine.

Its Centre for Integration of Primary Care and Oral Health addresses the gaps in oral health integration with training that prepares primary care providers to deliver better patient-centric care.

The centre's collaborative clinics expose dental students to primary and public healthcare practice, and train future primary care providers in core oral health competencies.

Dental and medical students share a common curriculum in their first two years, and work alongside one another in a clinical setting to provide oral and primary care to patients of HSDM.

Dental students also practise taking patients' medical history as well as primary care skills under the supervision of both dentists and primary care physicians.

Many studies have shown that chair-side primary care screening can identify chronic illnesses, including hypertension, diabetes, depression, substance use disorder and HIV/Aids.

I hope NUS can take the cue from Harvard, and ensure similar integration strategies that leverage the schools of dentistry and medicine in Singapore.

Cheong Tuck Kuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2020, with the headline 'Enhance integration of dental and medical education in Singapore'. Subscribe