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# The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on undergraduate and graduate dental courses in Brazil

### BACKGROUND:

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised challenges in adapting to teaching and learning methods in dental education.

### OBJECTIVE:

This study aimed to evaluate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the academic activities of undergraduate (UDG) and graduate (GD) dental students in Brazil. Additionally, students’ perceptions and attitudes toward teaching activities during this period were analyzed.

### METHODS:

A nationwide cross-sectional survey was conducted with a sample of Brazilian UDG and GD dentistry students. Data were collected in 2020 through an online, self-administered, and anonymous questionnaire, which comprised 26 questions related to demographic data, activities of the college, family and individual student income, and attitudes and perceptions about e-learning during the pandemic. The data were tabulated and analyzed using descriptive statistics.

### RESULTS:

The sample included 1,166 students (779 UDG and 387 GD). Among these, 425 (54.6%) UDG and 270 (69.8%) GD students remotely participated in teaching activities, of which 42.6% of the UDG considered their performance in e-learning to be bad or very bad and 49.8% of the GD regarded it as good or excellent. The survey also showed that 354 (45.4%) UDG and 102 (26.4%) GD expressed a desire to discontinue the course following the outbreak of the pandemic. Among the GD, 225 (58.4%) said that their experiments were completely interrupted.

### CONCLUSIONS:

This study reveals the poor perception and performance of dental students regarding e-learning. Additionally, the findings suggest a negative impact of the pandemic on dental education in Brazil. Effective measures should be taken to mitigate these significant consequences.

## 1Introduction

According to recent estimates, the closure of educational institutions due to the pandemic has affected half of the students across the world—around 890 million in 114 countries [1]. Additionally, a ban on face-to-face learning implemented in several countries may disrupt the educational process [1]. Regarding dental education in Brazil, most current data show that the country has 506 dentistry colleges [2], comprising over 125,585 undergraduate students [3]. In postgraduate schools, recent data revealed that 9,300 master’s and PhD students enrolled in 104 graduate programs [4]. Following the discontinuation of face-to-face activities, some institutions continued their operations virtually, totally, or partially, while others experienced a complete disruption of their teaching activities. This situation has proved to be challenging for universities and professors as they advance educational processes in undergraduate and graduate courses [5]. In dentistry, the key challenge is to postpone direct patient care, which is an essential component of the curriculum [6]. Virtual sessions are not capable of replicating face-to-face experiences with patients [7, 8]. Furthermore, mandatory curricular internship activities in public services have been suspended in Brazil [8].