Introduction: Dental education is a challenging and demanding field of study as students are expected to acquire various competencies to fulfil their professional requirements after graduation. The objective of this study was to investigate and compare dental students' and clinical staff instructors' perceptions of the preclinical-to-clinical transition training at a Dental School in Santiago, Chile. Material and Methods: Two questionnaires containing 11 quantitative and one qualitative item were developed to assess our year three, four and five (n = 244) dental undergraduate students' challenges when they begin treating patients, and clinical staff (n = 78) perceptions of the preparedness to treat patients of the same students. Both questionnaires were voluntarily and anonymously implemented eight weeks after the beginning of the 2019 academic year. Responses were analysed using a Chi-squared test for each quantitative question, while qualitative comments were studied to form themes and dimensions. RESULTS: A total of 234 (96%) students and 60 (77%) instructors completed their respective questionnaire. There were considerable variations between students in the different years of the programme, as well as between students and staff members. Students and instructors felt the former had enough knowledge to treat patients though it was difficult for them to apply it in clinical practice. Again, both believed they could communicate with patients, but third year students asked for more training on this. Regarding practical skills, fourth- and fifth-year students felt prepared but not third year students, who preferred to work in pairs with senior students, a preference that was shared by the instructors. All student groups asked clinical staff to provide more frequent, constructive and consistent feedback and felt that the difference between simulation and clinical environments and the amount of clinical work to fulfil clinical requirements made them feel stressed. Another mentioned stressor was students' low self-confidence when working with patients. Among the requested improvements, students requested better training on how the dental clinic works to save time. Conclusions: Preclinical-to-clinical transition training presents several challenges. Some of the problems highlighted by both students and clinical staff members persisted with the transition after three, four and even five years of training, which needs to be addressed.
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- dental education
- preclinical-to-clinical transition
- student-staff perceptions