Experience the Curriculum

What makes the CWRU School of Dental Medicine different?

CWRU-educated dentists have a head start on their peers who graduate from other dental schools. Our graduates are more experienced, more skilled, and more confident as a benefit of our learning culture that integrates classroomclinicresearch, and community.

The REAL Curriculum

REAL stands for Relevant Experiential Active Learning. Key features of our award-winning curriculum are:

  • A small-group learning environment where students share responsibility for learning;
  • Time for self-directed inquiry, integration of concepts, and reflection about learning;
  • A commitment to creating a culture of inquiry and scholarship;
  • Cornerstone experiences that integrate multiple content areas in intense, powerful learning scenarios within the school and the community;
  • Development of clinical skills in an environment similar to a small-group practice.
A female dentist student practicing on a dummy

REAL Curriculum: Classroom

‌Simulator-facilitated learning for each first-year and second-year student

Our simulation labs are among the most advanced in the world.

First and second-year students each work with a KaVo unit to develop their manual skills for restorations, fillings, composites, and crowns and bridges. Each KaVo unit simulates a patient in a dental chair and has both air-powered and electrical-powered tools available.

Simulator labs have made our students' transition to the clinics much smoother. Our investment in high-tech dental education helps to get you into the clinic more quickly and to be better prepared and more confident when you greet your first patient.

HEC Classroom
Roger Mastroianni

Improving the classroom experience

At the end of each semester, students complete course evaluations to give feedback to the course directors and the Committee on Dental Education (whose membership includes two students). The Associate Dean for Education runs focus groups with students at the end of each academic year to elicit student feedback, and the Dean meets monthly with class representatives to identify issues that need to be addressed. Finally, fourth-year students complete an exit survey prior to graduation whose feedback is considered by the Committee on Dental Education.

Female student working on a patient in the clinic

REAL Curriculum: Clinic

‌Bridge to Independence

Third- and fourth-year students are assigned to a practice group with around 16 other students, much like a small group practice. Each group has two faculty preceptors who help each student as mentors or senior partners to develop treatment plans for each patient and oversee the quality of work performed. The preceptors cooperate with full-time faculty members to assess each student's technical and professional skills.

Practice Management Experience

Each preceptor group also has a patient care coordinator (PCC), who acts as an office manager in a typical private practice. The PCC helps each student to make appointments with patients, control recalls, manage insurance forms, and enter treatment plans so that he/she can attend to the care of each assigned patient. In this way, students develop an appreciation for the collegial, managerial and entrepreneurial aspects of dentistry. In fact, every fourth-year student is expected to develop a business plan for a hypothetical practice that will be critiqued and perfected under the guidance of accountants and other practicing dentists.

Oral Path image of cells

REAL Curriculum: Research

Culture of Inquiry and Professionalism

Our students begin to think like health care professionals through our small-group problem-based discussion sessions, which serve to complement didactic lectures. Guided by facilitators, these sessions are similar to discussions that can occur during rounds or laboratory meetings. Each student begins to learn about the resources dentists and health care professionals use to better serve each patient in making differential diagnoses and developing treatment plans. By integrating the knowledge of the biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, psychology, technology, and sociology behind each hypothetical patient, students learn how to think, interact, communicate, and pursue knowledge as leaders in health care delivery.

‌Research Reveals the Future of Dentistry and Preventive Care

Many students directly participate in projects conducted by our world-class faculty at the School of Dental Medicine and present their findings at the annual Professionals Day each spring. Often they are rewarded with authorships and invited presentations at international meetings along with their faculty mentors.

Our students have assisted in the discovery of antibiotics that are naturally produced in the mouth that could combat HIV replication, signal progression of cancer, or predict difficulties in cardiovascular disease or pre-term birth. Students also assist with faculty projects that focus on preventing childhood cavities (caries) in under-served, high-risk populations and establish research networks among dental practices to more rapidly evaluate and communicate evidence-based findings in routine patient care. Finally, our research collaborations with the University's other schools further push the edge of innovation to develop better materials for dentistry or to better address factors that affect disparities in health care quality.

The School of Dental Medicine also offers students the option to pursue a Master's Degree in Clinical Research Training with the School of Medicine that allows students to focus their talents to conduct clinical and translational research on oral health problems and disparities. Usually students participate in this master's year between their traditional second and third years of dental education in order to complete a thesis and present their work in a national conference.

REAL Curriculum: Community

Children getting sealants applied to their teeth

Healthy Smiles Sealant Program

As the first Cornerstone Experience in our curriculum, Healthy Smiles is a win-win situation. Kids at risk for a lifetime of tooth problems get a good start on better dental health, and students get a head start on professional training.

First-year students participate in our award-winning Healthy Smiles Sealant Program by introducing them to second-, third-, and sixth-grade students attending Cleveland-area schools to perform dental exams and place sealants on their teeth. Students are prepared through the Outreach Preventative Dentistry course, developed specifically for the sealant program. It's an intense overview of beginning dentistry that lasts until Thanksgiving break and includes everything the students need to know to participate in the sealant program, such as taking a patient's health history, assembling portable dental chairs, and using all the tools in the accompanying kits.

The Family First Program

Thanks to a grant from the National Institutes of Health awarded to Dr. Sena Narendran, second-year students also have a Cornerstone Experience.

Family First focuses on assessing the risk for dental diseases from a whole-family and multi-generational perspective and integrates family medicine, nutrition, and dental care. So far, 18 Cleveland-area families representing between three and five generations are enrolled, and students are evaluating 72 family members to evaluate eating habits and general health problems in each family.

The grant also allows the School of Dental Medicine and the School of Medicine's Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics to complete development of a five-year DMD/Masters of Public Health curriculum.

Cleveland Free Clinic

Located in close proximity to the CWRU campus, the Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland is a non-profit community service organization that offers medical, dental, podiatric, legal, and counseling services for adults and children. Dental students participate alongside medical, nursing, and social work students in any of the Free Clinic's programs or in the student-run clinic on their own time.

International and Interprofessional Learning and Collaboration

Group of Interprofessional Students Looking at a Monitor

The new Health Education Campus—comprising the Sheila and Eric Samson Pavilion and dental clinic building—is envisioned as a way to foster collaboration and communication among future health care professionals from all fields, including medicine, nursing, dental medicine, physician assistant and social work. Students participate in interprofessional education experiences throughout their first year, with plans for expansion.

The School of Dental Medicine also participates in giving critical oral health services via mission trips to underserved areas, such as Peru and the Dominican Republic. These programs are additional elective opportunities for our students to understand the difficulties and challenges of global health care delivery.