This study investigated dental students' attitudes towards communication skills instruction and clinical application and explored the impact of a one-semester course and year in school on students' attitudes, measured by the Communication Skills Attitude Scale. Demographic characteristics and self-assessment of communication skills were also analyzed. The study employed a pretest-posttest survey design combined with cross-sectional data. Participants were first-and fourth-year students at a U.S. dental school. Out of a possible 120 students, 106 (fifty-seven D1 and forty-nine D4) participated in the pretest, an 88 percent response rate; out of a possible 121 students, 115 (fifty-seven D1 and fifty-eight D4) participated in the posttest, a 95 percent response rate. In the results, D4 students consistently demonstrated less positive attitudes towards communication skills instruction and more negative attitudes regarding the importance of interpersonal skills in clinical encounters than did their D1 counterparts. A single communications course had no discernible effect on attitudes or self-assessments for either cohort. Females reported more positive attitudes towards clinical application of interpersonal skills than did males. Gender significantly interacted with two demographic variables: primary language and parent as health care professional. Female children of health care professionals reported poorer attitudes towards clinical communication skills training and application than did their male counterparts. Generally, parental occupation in health care moderated the decrease in positive attitudes over time towards clinical usefulness of communication skills. The D4 students rated their communication skills higher than did the D1 students. Students who demonstrated more positive attitudes towards communication skills training and application were more likely to say their own skills needed improvement.