A Study of the Effect of Dental Education on Fine Arts Appreciation


Rodney Chang, 1977

Loyola University, School of Dentistry,

Chicago, Illinois


It was the writer's hypothesis that dental school education has an influence on the resultant graduate's general aesthetic sense and values that has been nutured and developed in a very specific manner. It seemed probable that, due to four years of functional dental anatomical reconstruction "sculptural" courses, the neophyte dentist might have assimiliated a unique unconscious subset of criteria for the interpretation of "beauty" which was operant in his confrontation and interaction with fine art forms.

The investigator devised a visual test to test his tentative theory. Samples of artwork were photographed and a preference-type test was constructed. Samples of works were employed which, as subjectively determined by the writer, tested for preference for " circular/spheroidal form, shiny metallic sculptural characteristics, functionalism of forms, and art with dental associative elements. The following groups tok the test-


1. 31 freshman dental students

2. 35 senior dental students

3. 41 medical students

4. 23 art majors

5. 11 non-art liberal arts students

This survey indicates that the four year dental curriculum does not appreciably effect the dental student's outlook and normal interaction with the fine arts. Even if this was true, i.e., the existence of certain visual elemental attributes that develop through dentistry involvement, this study indicates that the multitude of all the other variables influencing a person's subjective aesthetic value system conceals any possible overt manifestation of the dental contributing factors. The dental group responded very similiar to the survey of his medical colleague. No difference in art preferences appeared between the freshman and senior dental student groups.

Both health professional groups were less prone to applaud an art piece than the art major group. This may be due to the health professional student's awareness of his inability to give sound art criticism due to the lack of a formal art background and/or to the art student's greater sensitivity towards his field of interest. Another possibility for the results could be that health care students are more apathetic in make aesthetic choices whereas art students are more emphatic to express their likes and distakes in the difference styles of art.



-Study done by Rodney Chang as senior dental student at Loyola University, School of Dentistry under the supervision of the Directed Study program at Rosary College, Forest Park, Illinois. Note: Rodney Chang may have been the first (and last) male student to gain college credit at this all-women Catholic college.