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Top 10: Best Dental Schools in the US and Canada (Ranking) For 2011

Our readers, practicing dentists, and yes, even everyone here at Top Ten Nation agree that it is improper and unfair to rank dental schools. It is challenging to provide our readers ‘dental school rankings’ because every dental school provides similar education and each dental school has very unique characteristics. For this reason, this list remains debatable; however, our main intent is to provide an overview of which schools are the leaders in their missions and visions, and why they are unique. This ranking of the Top 10 Best Dental Schools involves the amalgamation of multiple metrics and rankings from media sources as well as institutional reports. Our primary intelligence is our student and faculty insiders at dental schools across the United States and Canada. All dental schools in the U.S., Canada, and Australia are ADA/CODA accredited, and therefore are excellent options, and the reader should note that that all dental students graduate with equivalent DDS or DMD degrees.

Top 10 Best Dental Schools in the US and Canada as of 2011

1. Harvard University, School of Dental Medicine (HSDM)
This year, the editors tipped in favor of the perennial favorite. A unique feature of the curriculum places pre-doctoral dental students in joint classes with medical students for two years of basic science and pathophysiology. Students at HSDM get an introduction to clinical medicine on the wards of Harvard's academic hospitals. Mentors at Harvard are world-renowned teachers and researchers. The educational experience allows graduates a relatively seamless transition to careers in academics, research, or clinical practice. HSDM students boast one of the highest rates of graduates entering post-graduate specialization programs. History bodes well on HSDM’s side. Harvard Dental is the first ever university-based and university-affiliated dental school in North America. Harvard is a world-class educational institution overall - leading most rankings across the world in broad categories. Harvard leads in integrating new discoveries from the laboratory to transforming such discoveries into a solid curriculum offered to their students. While research is its strength, clinical training is also keeping pace. What about the disadvantages at Harvard Dental? Some students dislike the problem based learning environment and the dental clinics are somewhat problematic for patients in terms of continuing care. HSDM also ranks as the 10th most expensive dental school.

2. University of the Pacific (UoP), Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry
A new arrival on our Top 10 List, UoP has always been a top dental school, but with few insiders in the years prior, we were unable to fully report on this top institution. This highly selective and highly rewarding institution is a pioneer in competency-based dental education. UoP Dental is currently the only dental school in the United States that hosts an accelerated three-year DDS program. Despite the three-year curriculum, pre-doctoral students here experience above-average clinical education hours, even in comparison to the traditional four-year programs. On the downside, UoP Dental is ranked as the 6th most expensive dental school. On the upside, sources boast that the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry has a pleasant family atmosphere and is consistently ranked as one of the top clinical dental schools in the United States. For more information about UoP, you can read our article on Top 10 Reasons to Attend UoP Dental.

3. University of Maryland at Baltimore (UMB), Baltimore College of Dental Surgery
UMB Dental (BCDS) boasts one of the most advanced dental education facilities in the world. Completed in October 2006, the brand new $142 million, 12-story building is situated in downtown Baltimore. This is the highest spent on an academic building by the State of Maryland. BCDS has the distinct history of being the first dental college in the world. This school is undoubtedly the pioneer of dental education. Founders Drs. Horace H. Hayden and Chapin A. Harris are the “fathers of dentistry.” Most dentists and dental students can recognize these tremendous players in the development of dentistry. Unique post-graduate programs such as experimental pathology to seven of the eight accredited post-graduate residency programs available are offered at this top-tier school. Many of these post-graduate programs have renowned faculty. BCDS researchers collaborate with colleagues from the School of Medicine, the Baltimore VA Medical Center, and the Johns Hopkins University. Overall, undergraduate dentistry here offers excellent faculty, a student population with a strong admission average, constant curriculum innovation, and a solid patient base.

4. The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA) Dental School
This relatively young dental school offers a world-class experience for its lucky pre-doctoral students. Faculty in this dental school developed the first digital panoramic x-ray device in the United States. In the last ranking of US News & World Report (1996), this school was ranked #1. A cooperative atmosphere contributes strongly to this dental school's excellence. Junior and senior off-campus clinical rotations enhance the students' exposure to the clinical world of dentistry. The General Practice Based Comprehensive Care Clinical Program uses the model of small group practices, and provides the opportunity for excellent, timely, and relevant training with a deep focus on in-depth patient care. The Dental School at the Health Science Center ranked fourth in publications and 11th in scientific impact among the world’s 760 dental schools from 1998 to 2002. Excellent training and in-depth exposure to advanced aspects of dentistry are sure-fire ways to have a dental school stand above the rest of the crowd.

5. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), School of Dentistry
UNC Dental School consistently ranks among the nation’s top dental schools and is renowned for its excellent teaching, research, and public service activities. This dental school is one of the top dental schools in the nation due to its strong performance across most benchmarks. State funding, along with university and private support are making possible a new 216,000-square-foot Dental School Building, featuring common areas and state-of-the-art facilities. The new building is due for completion in early 2012. As North Carolina's only dental school, a lack of patients for students doesn't become an issue and UNC Dental's pre-doctoral students have a fantastic clinical experience. Upperclassmen are known to assist new students as they wind their way through the hurdles. Camaraderie, curriculum, research opportunities, and limitless patients make for a great experience at UNC.

6. University of Michigan, School of Dentistry
Dr. Taft, the founding dean of the dental school established the four-year model of dental education in 1901. This later became the national standard of dental education in the United States. As one of the oldest and most well established dental schools in the United States, the University of Michigan, School of Dentistry has earned a reputation for innovation and achievement. This school is a top-tier institution because of the solid education it offers with good reviews and a comparatively affordable tuition. Students report overall high levels of satisfaction. This school also offers separate cubicles for senior students and the Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry located within the campus. Pre-doctoral students can become history buffs as the museum is one of only a handful of dental museums across the world, with over 10,000 exhibits.

7. The University of Toronto, Faculty of Dentistry
U of T Dental is the premier research center for dentistry in Canada and is well-recognized internationally. Toronto’s dental school scores strong among dental schools in North America. Only top-tier students are accepted, as admission averages to this dental school are extremely competitive, rivaling and even exceeding top dental schools such as Harvard. Interdisciplinary collaboration runs deep within the students, faculty and the various teaching hospitals of the university. The program offers its students many off-campus opportunities for patient treatment. This large, well-endowed dental school, with a legacy in Canada that can't be beat is as a result, Canada's best, and our Top 7th dental school.

8. University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine (UPenn)
Upenn’s ivy-league dental school is the only World Health Organization collaborating center worldwide devoted to oral infectious disease. A nationally high-ranking school with impressive rates of funding from the NIH, UPenn Dental scores in the Top 10 with its strong medical curriculum and interdisciplinary approach. The medical curriculum is so strong that in fact, since 1930, courses in internal medicine have been offered to dental students. UPenn also boasts a newer clinical facility that opened in 2002 and combined with a sizable patient population, the school certainly provides an enjoyable clinical experience. On the downside, it's the 3rd most expensive dental school on our ranking, it has a relatively larger class size, and dreary dungeon-like classrooms that are still a mainstay at this institution.

9. University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Dentistry (UNMC)
Recent renovations ($8.9 million) result in pre-doctoral students at the UNMC College of Dentistry learning and working in a modern, beautiful and comfortable environment. Innovative teaching methodology and research opportunities for dental students help make UNMC a top dental school. Outstanding teachers and smaller class sizes contribute to the quality education provided. Quality education you say? The evidence is clear: UNMC dental students top the country with their National Dental Board Examination scores. The Class of 2010 ranked 4th highest overall in the country in terms of Part I scores. The Class of 2007 ranked #1 (best overall) for Part II scores.

10. University of Washington (UW), School of Dentistry
A strong emphasis on serving rural areas results in pre-doctoral students at UW gaining excellent experience in providing dental care especially for underserved populations. This outstanding dental school consistently ranks in the Top 5 in terms of funding from NIDCR. Pass rates and average scores demonstrate that NBDE Part I and II test takers from this school are among the highest scoring within the country. Excellent training perhaps? In 2007, the WREB (Western Regional Examining Board) passing rate was 100%! UW also maintains a 97.3% pass rate on the WREB since its inception in 1996. A choice of advanced electives for students in their junior and senior years contributes to the strong academic environment. Students also report a high level of satisfaction. The only school of dentistry in Washington State concludes this 2011 ranking of the best dental schools in the US and Canada.

NOTE: Cost of attendance is in our opinion what the astute dental applicant would consider as their primary determinant in applying for - and agreeing to attend - any given dental school. Our editors generally agree that dental applicants are probably wise to pursue in-state (or your most local/provincial) state funded dental school on a priority basis. Readers should note that that these rankings are simply a "road map" to what top-tier dental schools are able to offer to their students. ALL U.S./CANADIAN/AUSTRALIAN DENTAL SCHOOLS ARE EXCELLENT INSTITUTIONS PROVIDING AN ADA/CODA ACCREDITED DENTAL EDUCATION. We suggest that dental students consider all aspects of a dental school including, but not limited to cost of attendance, safety of location, and availability of patients before selecting their final choice.

Top 10: Best Ways To Avoid Litigation In Dentistry

Practicing dentists always dread a few aspects of their careers and being sued by an angry patient, or even having a complaint filed against you can ruin not only your day but destroy your happiness for months on end. Top Ten Nation believes being prudent starts in dental school. Develop good habits in dental school and continue throughout your practicing life. So what habits or tricks should you know early on? Read on and find out!

This article is not written by an attorney and this article does not in any way shape or form replace advice by an attorney. Always consult your attorney first and foremost when it comes to litigation or protection from litigation.

Top 10 Things To Know To Avoid Getting Sued As A Dentist

1. Have knowledge about who is most likely to sue or complain
Having a complaint filed against you to your state, territorial, or provincial dental board can mean missing valuable productive days as a dentist. So who complains the most when you’re practicing? You’d imagine at first it might be your irate patients. Think again! Most complaints to dental boards that dentists encounter are actually filed against them by their own employees! Employees can complain against their dentist employers for multiple reasons, but most reasons generally involve instances where employees are made to do something they believe is wrong in the first place. Forcing your employees to cut corners, jeopardize sterilization standards, or even perform tasks that demean or embarrass them can lead to complaints. Treat your employees like family and avoid litigation, treat them like subordinates and expect litigation!

2. Documentation
Quality records and chart entries reflect quality patient care, especially in the minds of tribunals/jurors. We all know this. Additional things to keep in mind in this regard:
- Make the chart entry as soon as possible after the patient’s visit
- Sign or initial the entry to clearly identify who made the entry
- Make the entry clear, concise and complete
- Do not note fees in the clinical record
- Do not make negative remarks about the patient

3. The real deal with informed choice and consent
Informed consent involves discussion of diagnosis, prognosis, nature and purpose of treatment, risks and benefits of recommendations, alternatives, and non-treatment. Informed choice implies that a dentist fully informs the patient of the above before obtaining informed consent for providing the services selected by the patient. Having the patient sign a consent form does not absolutely absolve the dentist of his or her responsibility to perform their treatment to the standards of care expected of a reasonably trained dentist. The motto here is that you need to have a heart-to-heart with the patient and be sure in your own mind that he or she is absolutely consenting to the treatment agreed upon. Having the patient sign the consent form is simply the icing on the cake that doesn’t really fully protect you. The consent form itself is also important, and as evidenced, it is next on the Top 10 list.

4. A well-designed, signed, informed consent form
With consent forms, you always want to list all of the procedures you’re obtaining consent for in terms that a non-dentally literate person can understand. Document the communication process. A well-designed, signed, informed consent form is neither overly-broad or extensively detailed. Both overly-broad or extensively detailed consent forms can actually work against you! A consent form that is too broad is a problem because the patient can later claim that actual disclosure of the treatment rendered did not occur. An overly detailed consent form, even if you have the patient initial every line or page can later be a problem in litigation because the patient can claim to have had difficulty actually understanding the discussion and they can even focus on omissions, as little as they can be and form a complaint around that omission.

5. Confidentiality and release of patient information – Patients with HIV/Hepatitis C
Courts in the United States have recognized that privacy concerns are of paramount importance, especially for people with HIV, Hepatitis C and similar conditions. Consent for an HIV test or the release of the results of an HIV test must be written, not oral, and must be HIV-specific, not general. Note that in Canada, there is no legal precedent on this matter (but it might be prudent to consider this). Always remember, when dealing with a patient with a condition such as HIV, privacy is critical. Never mark the exterior of these patients’ paper charts with alerts or flags that other patients can see. Never discuss these patients in public areas of the clinic or at the front desk. When communicating with other medical practitioners, it is prudent to err on the side of requesting an HIV-specific release.

6. Be wary of subpoenas
Remember that patients value their confidentiality and release of patient information is something that the litigation-weary dentist should constantly keep their eyes on. If you as the dentist receive a subpoena to release patient information and if simply release everything without thinking twice, you might be getting yourself into trouble. This can actually be a problem because if you release that information, it doesn’t always protect you from being sued by the patient for breaking the confidence they placed in you! Top Ten Nation does NOT suggest ignoring subpoenas or not following their directions. We simply suggest immediately consulting an attorney if you ever receive a subpoena. Let the attorney guide you as to how you should proceed, and never simply release the patient’s entire chart without considering how it may come back and bite you.

7. Ending the patient-dentist relationship
Sometimes the dentist needs to end the patient-dentist relationship. Keep in mind that the dentist-patient relationship, if terminated incorrectly, can end up back in the dentist’s lap as a “continuity of care” complaint. A dentist may not discontinue treatment as long as further treatment is medically indicated, without giving the patient reasonable notice and sufficient opportunity to make alternative arrangements. The patient's failure to pay a bill does not end the relationship, as the relationship between dentists and patients is based on a fiduciary, rather than a financial, responsibility. Appropriate steps to terminate the relationship typically include:
- Giving the patient written notice, preferably by certified mail, return receipt requested
- Providing the patient with a brief explanation for terminating the relationship (this should be a valid reason, for instance non-compliance, failure to keep appointments, etc.)
- Agreeing to continue to provide treatment and access to services for a reasonable period of time, such as 30 days, to allow a patient to secure care from another dentist (a dentist may want to extend the period for emergency services to 60 days)
- Providing resources and/or recommendations to help a patient locate another dentist of like-specialty
- Offering to transfer records to a newly-designated dentist upon signed patient authorization to do so

8. Fix clinical charting mistakes correctly
We all make mistakes, and in dentistry, hopefully the mistakes are not made in the patient’s mouth, but rather on computer or paper when the dentist is doing that dreaded paperwork. Mistakes such as this are fine as long as you fix them correctly!
- Correct an error as soon as possible after discovery
- Draw a single line through incorrect material, and the original entry must still remain readable
- Add your initials & date to the correction
- On next available line, explain reason for the change & initial and date this entry

9. Consider further documenting tips to develop a shield against litigation
Want to further protect yourself from litigation? Consider the following hints that can sometimes go above and beyond standard charting protocols:
- Never alter or amend charts (unless you correct mistakes appropriately as discussed above)
- Document patient compliments using quotation marks
- Document patient noncompliance, refusal to see a specialist/follow recommendations and reasons why
- Document bad or unanticipated results (these are not necessarily malpractice, but must be duly documented)
- Make sure to document treatment options after a poor result
- Make chart entries consistent with appointment book
- Note missed appointments, emergencies, rescheduled appointments, and cancellations
- Document follow-up telephone calls for difficult or invasive procedures

10. In the event of a legal claim
Even after taking all possible measures to handle all cases correctly, a dentist may become a defendant in a malpractice suit. The dentist should:
- Not panic
- Immediately contact her/his attorney or insurance carrier
- Not discuss the case with anyone else until after speaking with her/his attorney
- Record the circumstances involved in the serving of a summons
- Have clear documentation

Hopefully, as a dentist, you are never sued. Top Ten Nation unfortunately reminds you that the majority of practicing dentists do encounter complaints or lawsuits at least once in their career. We hope this small article protects our fellow dentists in their endeavor to help patients in maintaining their oral health without being caught up in the legal system!

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