Dental and dental hygiene students were surveyed to determine how many students had participated in high school or college career exploration courses sponsored/supported by Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) School of Dentistry. The participants were asked to identify which aspects of the programs were the most influential in shaping their exploration of a dental or dental hygiene career and why they decided to apply to the dental or dental hygiene program. These aspects included the availability and the cost of the courses, lecture content, hands-on activities in the laboratory, observations in dental offices, mentoring activities of dentists, dental hygienists, dental/dental hygiene students, and perceived value for applicant competitiveness. The faculty evaluated their level of participation in relation to teaching responsibilities and time commitment. An analysis of the direct and indirect costs to the school was examined. Results of the surveys indicated that between 20-42% of the entering classes had participated in one or more career exploration activities or programs. Participants identified mentoring relationships with their current dentist and dental hygienist as the most important factor in determining their decision to choose dentistry or dental hygiene as a career. Observations in dental offices, encouragement from a dental and/or dental hygiene student, hands-on activities, and repetitive positive career experiences were also significant factors.
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