Indian Journal of Dental Research

: 2012  |  Volume : 23  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 498--500

Dentistry students' perceptions about an extramural experience with a Brazilian indigenous community

Alexandre Favero Bulgarelli1, Renato Cassio Roperto2, Soraya Fernandes Mestriner3, Wilson Mestriner3,  
1 Faculty of Dentistry, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil
2 Faculty of Dentistry, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada
3 Faculty of Dentistry, University of São Paulo, Ribeirão Preto, Brazil

Correspondence Address:
Alexandre Favero Bulgarelli
Faculty of Dentistry, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre


Objective: The aim of the present study was to evaluate dentistry students«SQ» perceptions about an extramural activity designed to deliver dental care to an indigenous community. Materials and Methods: This was a qualitative investigation involving 4 students of dentistry who had just had the experience of delivering treatment to indigenous Brazilian people. These students answered questions about the relevance of the experience to their personal and professional lives. We performed Content Analysis to data treatment and it was analysed by Social Representation Theory. Results: Two social representations were reached: a) Being capable to promote oral health; b) Facing human feeling and respect each other. Conclusion: We concluded that participation in an extramural project improves the students«SQ» understanding of primary health care in dentistry. Such experiences help students develop a sense of cultural respect, comprehensive care, and to understand patients in their totality as social beings with their own values, beliefs, and attitudes regarding oral health care.

How to cite this article:
Bulgarelli AF, Roperto RC, Mestriner SF, Mestriner W. Dentistry students' perceptions about an extramural experience with a Brazilian indigenous community.Indian J Dent Res 2012;23:498-500

How to cite this URL:
Bulgarelli AF, Roperto RC, Mestriner SF, Mestriner W. Dentistry students' perceptions about an extramural experience with a Brazilian indigenous community. Indian J Dent Res [serial online] 2012 [cited 2021 Dec 4 ];23:498-500
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Full Text

The outreach program is part of the dentistry course syllabus. It gives students the opportunity to deal with realities outside the university boundaries and to take care of community oral health. In Brazil, different outreach programs providing students with extramural experiences are currently available. One of them, at the School of Dentistry at the University of São Paulo, offers the unique experience of working with primitive people (Native Indians), facing a different culture and environment to promote oral health. This extramural program is called Huka-Katu (which means 'beautiful smile' in the local language). Currently, four visits have being realized every year in the 'aldeias' (name given to a local indigenous community) [Figure 1]. For the Huka-Katu project dental students live for about 20 days in the middle of the jungle, promoting oral health among the members of an indigenous community [Figure 2]. The project model is adapted according to the indigenous tradition, culture, and beliefs. Thus, students have the opportunity to visit these communities and closely observe a different way of life, which helps them to understand and respect other cultures.{Figure 1}{Figure 2}


The present study aimed to analyze dentistry students' perceptions about their experience with an outreach program among a Brazilian indigenous community. Furthermore, this study aimed to examine how these experiences affected the students' personal and professional lives.

 Materials and Methods

The present research was realized in November 2009 with students selected for the fourth dentistry team visit at the Brazilian Xingu Indigenous National Park. On a specific local day-off during the program, all students were interviewed and their responses and opinions were digitally recorded and transcribed. The interviewer (researcher) questioned each student about the relevance of the extramural experience to their day-to-day lives and future professional career goals. All the equipments (i.e., digital voice recorder and personal computers and software) were sponsored by the Faculty of Dentistry of the University of São Paulo.

The study followed a qualitative methodology and was divided into two stages. In the first stage, the collected data were examined by Content Analysis (thematic analysis). [1] This theoretical framework creates possibilities to achieve the study aim, because the analysis was based on a group of speeches and communication skills. [1],[2] This methodological strategy enhances the collective students perceptions of a specific phenomenon.

The second stage was related to the comprehension of the categories of analysis reached by the Content Analysis. The theoretical propositions were based on the Social Representation Theory, which evaluates the collective way of thinking about a specific issue and how this fact can reflect the common perception of a specific phenomenon. This comprehension leads to the meaning of Huka-Katu program based on the student's perceptions.

This study was evaluated and approved by the National Committee of Ethics for Research involving Human Beings. The research aim was explained to all the participants and consent forms were read and signed by all, ensuring compliance with Resolution 196 of the Brazilian National Health Council.

 Results and Discussion

We interviewed 40 undergraduate students who had just had their first experience of the Huka-Katu project. These students were selected because they were very interested in community dental care and they were in the last year of dentistry training before graduation, so they were up-to-date with their knowledge of dentistry. The sample included all the students that went to the fourth visit of the dental team in the Brazilian Xingu Indigenous National Park.

All the students in this group had good academic track records and the same interest in community dentistry care. This fact reflects a homogeneous group which led to a common perception about the outreach program. Dealing with a homogeneous group and their similar situations, can reveal a common representation of the phenomenon to the group. [2] The social representation theory allows the researchers to understand the development of a specific representation. A representation exists in a specific period when data were collected. [2]

Two social representations were reached: a) Being capable to promote oral health; b) Facing human feeling and respect each other. These representations, presented in two tables, illustrate some speeches that guided the construction of categories of interpretation [Table 1] and [Table 2]. It is relevant to contextualize that these students are living the oral health promotion paradigm. This outreach program provides a new perspective of community dentistry care which are based on the Ottawa Conference. [3] Since then, countries such as Brazil have tried to focus on public health aspects, with attention paid to prevention of disease and not just to the treatment of diseases. The oral health promotion paradigm was introduced in recent years into the dentistry course syllabus. The effectiveness of oral health promotion is something that cannot be denied. [4] In some dentistry courses in Brazil students undergo training in disciplines such as community health, population oral health diagnosis, family oral health care, and outreach programs. The scope of these disciplines makes the student conscious of the fact that the dentist, as a health professional, needs to promote health and not just provide treatment for diseases. This facts are important to a multidisciplinary knowledge constructed by different health professionals, which will help develop dentists with a preventive health outlook and a holistic view of the patient. [5],[6],[7]{Table 1}{Table 2}

From the results of this study, it is possible to state that an extramural programme make students live different situations while dealing with oral health care in different realities. In order to promote health, dentists need to work in group, respect human differences and respect each other. A multidisciplinary group, comprising nurses, psychologists, physicians, and others, is necessary to deliver integrated care. A comprehensive care, as a primary health care principle, make dentistry students acquainted with the actual paradigm of community health care. [8]


We concluded that outreach programs improve students' understanding of oral health prevention, makes dental students think about the different ways to oral health care, and helps prepare them to face a variety of situations in their future professional lives. Finally, the Huka-Katu project gives students first-hand experience of the problems involved in the delivery of primary health care in regions where access to the public health system is limited. This can develop in them a sense of responsibility, respect for others, necessity of comprehensive care, and help them understand patients in their totality as social beings with their own values, beliefs, and attitudes.


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