Vital Record » Dentistry Your source for health news from the Texas A&M Health Science Center Fri, 29 May 2015 21:15:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Saving cracked teeth begins with early diagnosis Mon, 04 May 2015 20:22:57 +0000 There's a fine line between a treatable and non-treatable cracked tooth. Good news is, patients can take the offensive against this oral health concern and avert the consequences with early diagnosis and preventative care]]>

It may begin as a tiny fissure on the chewing surface of the tooth. You may not even be aware of its presence as repeated stress causes the crack to advance downward, dangerously close to the pulp — nerve and blood vessels — and further into the root. Dental advice is often not sought until symptoms manifest. Intermittent pain when chewing, sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures, and unpredictable stints of discomfort are all telltale signs. In other situations, a small crack can become a large one in a very short amount of time. Sometimes all it takes is an instant, especially when biting down on something hard or even something soft.

Anatomy of the tooth

A tooth is made up of white enamel, a hard layer called dentin and inner soft tissues known as pulp, which contain blood vessels and nerves. When the tooth’s outer layers are cracked, chewing can cause those pieces to move, irritating the pulp housed within it. With time, tooth pulp damage can become irreversible. Intermittent pain when chewing can give way to sensitivity to hot and cold, and eventually, the tooth may hurt without warning.

Even when a crack extends into the pulp, the connective tissues at the center of the tooth, endodontists can treat it with root canal treatment and crown to prevent its spread. But when it creeps below the gum line, the tooth often cannot be saved, and extraction ensues.

In some respects, endodontists have a good problem with which to contend: One major contributor to the observed uptick in cracked teeth cases is the increasing lifespan of the American population, which according to numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has reached 78.8 years.

“Due to the efforts of the American Dental Association and the dental profession, people learned how to prevent tooth decay and gum disease so they started to keep their teeth longer,” says Dr. Robert Roda, an endodontist and graduate of the Texas A&M Baylor College of Dentistry (TAMBCD). “Cracked teeth seem to be a result of repetitive stress injury, and so the longer teeth are in use, the more likely they will become cracked. This is a modern epidemic and something we have never before as a profession had to deal with.”

Endodontists are taking a proactive stance to educate patients on the oral health issue, says Roda, who maintains a practice in Scottsdale, Ariz., and is president of the American Association of Endodontists.

At TAMBCD, dental students and endodontic residents alike receive intensive training on early detection methods, says Dr. Gerald N. Glickman, Chair of the Department of Endodontics and Director of the Advanced Program in Endodontics.

“We want them to be thoroughly informed on early detection and treatments,” says Glickman, “as earlier detection and protection of teeth from the less severe cracks will keep them from propagating further, thus preventing tooth loss.”

When cracks in the teeth are not detected early, endodontists have their work cut out for them.

“Endodontists are the specialists in dental diagnosis, but sometimes cracked teeth will thwart even our best efforts,” Roda says. “The response of the pulp to a crack is sometimes very difficult to localize, and great care has to be exercised to not treat the wrong tooth.

“Sometimes cracks are plainly visible on the crown of a tooth as seen under the dental operating microscope, but sometimes they are hidden under fillings or other restorations, and they even occur on root surfaces under the gum line.”

The use of cone-beam computed tomography ­— a variation of traditional CT systems that uses a cone-shaped X-ray beam to produce 3-D patient images — has aided endodontists in diagnosis, but even that tool just allows them to infer the presence of a crack. All too often a fracture cannot be found without invasive surgery or until conventional therapies to save the tooth have failed, at which point extraction is the only remaining treatment option.

Considering the most effective and least invasive ways to avert the consequences of a cracked tooth include early diagnosis and preventive care, there is some good news: Patients, too, can take the offensive against this oral health concern.

Some pointers:

  • Avoid chewing on hard objects — think ice, pens, unpopped popcorn kernels, etc.
  • Don’t clench your jaw or grind your teeth — Since the stresses of daily life can often cause people to do this involuntarily, most often during sleep, talk to your dentist about getting fitted for a retainer or nightguard.
  • Protect yourself — Wear a mouthguard or mask when participating in contact sports.
  • Minimize decay — Fillings help stop the spread of cavities, but they can weaken the structure of the tooth and make it vulnerable to fracture. Preventing dental decay with healthy diet and oral hygiene choices can help mitigate this risk.
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Adolescents most at risk with e-cigarettes, yet teen usage soars Thu, 16 Apr 2015 18:42:02 +0000 Teenagers are among the fastest growing groups of electronic cigarette consumers in the U.S. They may also be the most vulnerable to the devices’ physical and psychological side effects, according to experts from Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry’s Tobacco Treatment Services]]>

About 660,000 high school students reported using e-cigarettes in 2013, but in 2014, that number increased to about 2 million, according to a study recently published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Making this information even more troubling are recent studies showing that teens may also be the most vulnerable to the devices’ physical and psychological side effects.

Even though e-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco, the battery-powered devices do deliver nicotine in aerosol form. “Nicotine’s addictive properties are a risk for any age group, but with adolescents, the stakes are even higher,” says Dr. K. Vendrell Rankin, a professor and associate chair in public health sciences who is director of Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry’s Tobacco Treatment Services.

05experts-ecigarette-2For teens, mental health as well as key emotional and cognitive systems are at stake.

“Major cognitive functions and attention performance are still in the process of developing during adolescence,” Rankin says. “Nicotine increases the risk of developing psychiatric disorders and lasting cognitive impairment and is associated with disturbances in working memory and attention. Reliance on nicotine to manage negative emotions and situations impairs the development of coping skills.”

In addition to affecting the emotional and cognitive development of teens, nicotine is highly addictive. In fact, the younger a person is when they begin using nicotine, the more likely they are to become addicted and the stronger the addiction may become. According to the American Lung Association, of adults who smoke, 68 percent began smoking at age 18 or younger.

Nicotine use very quickly escalates into addiction, even when dealing with tobacco-free, odorless “vaping” associated with e-cigarettes. That’s because nicotine in any form triggers the release of neurotransmitters such as adrenaline and dopamine, which dramatically impacts a number of body systems. Dopamine floods the brain, and nicotine cravings increase.

“Everybody has a certain amount of nicotine receptors in the brain,” Rankin says. “When you start smoking, vaping or supplying nicotine to them, they multiply. If you stop smoking or vaping, the receptors don’t go away.”

In other words, the younger users are when they try or start using nicotine, the more receptors they will have and the more they may struggle with nicotine cravings throughout  their lives. It’s concerning news for the 1.78 million teens who tried e-cigarettes in 2012, according to the CDC.

E-cigarette companies currently advertise their products to a broad audience that includes 24 million youths, and proposed U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations would not limit e-cigarette marketing. Bold marketing tactics, celebrity endorsements, endless flavor choices and a plethora of online videos instructing users on how to mix their own e-cigarette liquid, or “e-juice,” have only added fuel to the fire. There currently are no federal laws in place to restrict minors from purchasing e-cigarettes.

There is a glimmer of hope on the horizon. In April, the FDA released the details of a proposal to extend its tobacco authority to e-cigarettes, including minimum age and identification restrictions intended to prevent sales to minors. A final ruling is slated for summer 2015.

In the meantime, many Texas cities have set their own regulations and ordinances banning the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. Any e-cigarette regulation in Texas will have to occur city by city, Rankin says, since the state doesn’t have comprehensive smoke-free laws.

“I don’t think e-cigarettes are going to drop off,” Rankin says. “It’s the newest — or most popular — kid on the block right now.”

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Health Science Center announces 2015 Commencement ceremonies, speakers Tue, 07 Apr 2015 19:19:38 +0000 State and national healthcare leaders will address students graduating in medicine, nursing, public health, pharmacy and dentistry]]>

The Texas A&M Health Science Center will host its 2015 commencement ceremonies in May at locations across the state.14335732762_d3357a9745_k

The first ceremony will take place on Friday, May 8, when the College of Nursing holds its commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. in Rudder Auditorium on the Texas A&M University campus in College Station. The featured speaker will be Janelle Shepard, B.S.N., M.B.A., senior director of care transitions for the Texas Health Alliance and a member of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Commencement ceremonies for the College of Medicine and the School of Public Health will be held in Rudder Auditorium on Saturday, May 9. The ceremony for School of Public Health graduates will begin at 9 a.m. and will feature James F. Sallis, Ph.D., distinguished professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California, San Diego and director of Active Living Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Sallis is one of the world’s most cited authors in the social sciences, and has been featured in Time magazine as one of the four most effective scientists currently working to address America’s obesity problem.

The ceremony for College of Medicine graduates will begin at 2 p.m. and will feature Geoffrey Ling, M.D., Ph.D., founding director of the Biological Technologies Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Ling has launched several well-publicized projects at DARPA, including the Revolutionizing Prosthetics program, which is trying to develop a robotic human arm, and the PREVENT program, which focuses on blast-induced traumatic brain injury (TBI). Prior to joining DARPA, Ling was an Army doctor and a professor of neurology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. He is considered to be the Army’s premier subject matter expert on TBI and was one of the doctors who treated U.S. Sen. Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot in 2011.

Thomas Menighan, Sc.D., MBA, executive vice president and CEO of the American Pharmacists Association, will be the featured speaker at the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy’s commencement ceremony, which will be held on Saturday, May 23, at 2 p.m. in the Steinke Physical Education Center in Kingsville. Menighan has founded several pharmacy-related companies, including SynTegra Solutions Inc., SymRx Inc., and©.

Maxine Fienberg, D.D.S., president of the American Dental Association, will be the featured speaker at the commencement ceremony for the Texas A&M Baylor College of Dentistry, which will be held on Wednesday, May 27, at 7:30 p.m. at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas.

Admission to all commencement ceremonies is free and does not require a ticket. For additional information, visit the Texas A&M University commencement website.

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Symposium gives more than 60 dental students an opportunity to present their research Tue, 31 Mar 2015 20:13:25 +0000 More than 60 students from the Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry will present research at the school's 42nd Annual Research Scholars Day in April]]>

Temporomandibular disorder affects 35 million people in the United States. Some of the condition’s telltale symptoms — pain, stiffness and popping of the jaw — can impact oral health, so researchers from the Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry (TAMBCD) have forged a concentrated effort to understand more about this complex condition.

photo of Christina Barry

Christina Barry is among more than 60 students from the Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry who will be presenting research at the school’s 42nd Annual Research Scholars Day in April.

Second-year dental student Christina Barry has dedicated the past three summers to analyzing how the protein interleukin-23 affects temporomandibular joint inflammation in rat models.

Barry’s research began in January 2012 while she was still a graduate student at Long Island University in New York, studying biomedical science with an emphasis in immunology. She moved to Dallas prior to starting dental school in fall 2013 to work on the project with former TAMBCD faculty member Dr. Robert Spears.

Her research revealed that interleukin-23 may contribute to inflammation in the temporomandibular joint through the release of proinflammatory cytokines, proteins that regulate cells in the immune system. While more study is needed, the findings mean that potential therapies could include anti-interleukin 23 treatment.

Barry presented these findings to her professors in New York as a part her master’s degree requirements, and in March, she was one of 25 TAMBCD students who presented research during the American Association for Dental Research annual meeting in Boston.

“This research experience made me realize that disease states or disorders do not have just a clear-cut answer,” Barry said. “Many different factors contribute to the expression or non-expression of a diseased state. Genetics and environmental factors equally play important roles.”

Barry is one of more than 60 student researchers who will present their findings on April 1 during the 42nd Annual Research Scholars Day at TAMBCD. The event offers predoctoral dental and dental hygiene students as well as graduate students and residents the chance to showcase their findings. For many, it serves as the culmination of the Predoctoral Research Fellow Program, a TAMBCD mainstay that exposes students to the research arena within dental academics.

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Pearly whites: Is there such a thing as too much bleaching? Tue, 17 Feb 2015 15:22:54 +0000 Many of us strive for the perfect, bright white smile that lights up a room. For some, people, this means bleaching, bleaching and more bleaching; but is it possible to over bleach? Are there any unintended consequences on our pursuit toward the perfect smile? While there aren’t any major health effects to bleaching on a regular basis, there are some important concepts to keep in mind when deciding how often to bleach]]>
Teeth whitening kit

While there aren’t any major health effects to bleaching on a regular basis, there are some important concepts to keep in mind when deciding how often to bleach.

Many of us strive for the perfect, bright white smile that lights up a room. For some, people, this means bleaching, bleaching and more bleaching; but is it possible to over bleach? Are there any unintended consequences on our pursuit toward the perfect smile?

While there aren’t any major health effects to bleaching on a regular basis, there are some important concepts to keep in mind when deciding how often to bleach. Charles Wakefield, D.D.S., professor at the Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry, provides the following advice for people seeking those pearly whites.

Some stains can’t be removed

Before you put on your fifth whitening strip of the week, consider this: Consistently bleaching your teeth won’t always leave you with a whiter smile. While excessive bleaching doesn’t injure the teeth, it can be frustrating to people who simply can’t get rid of a stubborn stain.

“There are some stains that can’t be polished off or removed with whitening strips,” Wakefield said. “Some brown or white stains can be the result of excess fluoride that has affected the enamel, or the outer surface of the teeth; while blue, grey or violet stains can be caused by certain medications that alter the mineral structure of the tooth during development.”

There could be side effects

“The most common side effect of bleaching is tooth sensitivity. This can range from mild to extreme sensitivity to cold air or liquids,” Wakefield cautioned. If you start having extreme sensitivity, this can usually be treated with desensitizing pastes like Sensodyne. However, you may want to consider reducing the frequency or the length in which you bleach your teeth.

On some occasions, the bleach used at the dentist’s office has may cause gum sensitivity. This is due to the higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide. When the bleaching trays lie on the edges of the gum, some patients’ gums turn white in a few seconds and cause sensitivity. While there’s no way to know who will have this reaction, your dentist will use a lower concentration for a shorter period the next time you get your teeth bleached.

For patients with dry mouths, take a closer look at the type of whitening products you use. If the product is acidic (usually a pH of less than 5.2), there’s the possibility of surface demineralization, roughness or shiny smoothness. Since saliva remineralizes the tooth’s surface, people with dry mouths need to be more cautious about their bleaching habits.

Another possible side effect is an unnatural, single-shaded smile. “Normal teeth are polychromatic, that is, they are a little darker at the gum line and lighter in the middle, with varying translucency at the very edge. Excessive bleaching tends to make teeth monochromatic, appearing to be the same shade at the end of the tooth as well as at the gum line,” Wakefield explained.

Not all products are made equally

It seems that everywhere we turn there’s a dental product that promises us a whiter smile. However, some products aren’t as effective as they are marketed. “Whitening toothpastes may have a higher degree of abrasiveness to help clean stains from the tooth surface, but do not reach deeper areas,” Wakefield said.

The most effective whitening products use hydrogen peroxide to remove stains. Over-the-counter whitening products use a lower concentration of hydrogen peroxide than the bleach used at the dentist’s office, so they may not be as effective or will require more applications.

If you decide whitening strips are most convenient for you, Wakefield advises pushing the strips between the teeth, rather than allowing them to lie flat on the surface. This will help to avoid a bright spot in the middle of the tooth.

“How often someone uses whitening products is at the user’s discretion. Some people are happy with a touch-up during their visit to the dentist, while others prefer to use whitening strips on a more regular basis,” Wakefield said.

In the end, it’s important to keep in mind that white teeth don’t necessarily mean healthy teeth: Don’t skip out on regular dental check-ups on an annual or bi-annual basis.

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TAMBCD professor’s audience on infection control expands to anaplastology, International College of Dentists Thu, 05 Feb 2015 17:06:56 +0000 As airborne viruses like influenza run rampant and global scares involving saliva- and blood-borne pathogens such as Ebola continue to dominate headlines, the need for proper infection control standards becomes more obvious than ever]]>
Dr. Raghunath Puttaiah

Dr. Raghunath Puttaiah

For more than 20 years, Raghunath Puttaiah, B.D.S., M.P.H., has made infection control his life’s work, sharing specially designed protocols and training programs with students at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry and with dental schools and governments around the globe. Puttaiah immersed himself in the subject during a postdoctoral fellowship in infectious disease control at the UT San Antonio dental school in the early ’90s, just after the height of the HIV and AIDs epidemic.

Nearly two decades later, as airborne viruses like influenza run rampant and global scares involving saliva- and blood-borne pathogens such as Ebola continue to dominate headlines, the need for proper infection control standards becomes more obvious than ever.

On Feb. 3, Puttaiah, an associate professor in diagnosis sciences at TAMBCD who teaches several hours of infection control instruction to second-year dental and graduate students, shared more on the philosophies behind these standards during an after-hours seminar.

In early 2015, his infection control training programs were translated to another discipline: anaplastology, the art and science of restoring missing or malformed parts of the body through artificial means. He collaborated with TAMBCD anaplastologist Suzanne Verma to set up a fully responsive, three-module training program for the International Anaplastology Association, with an interactive webinar that aired Jan. 14. The program is the first of its kind for the association’s membership.

As of fall 2014, the International College of Dentists adopted Puttaiah’s online infection control and occupational safety training programs through video streaming, allowing for any of the honorary society’s 12,000 members to receive this instruction with the click of a mouse.

Puttaiah, a fellow of the ICD, explains that the modules provide total access to this cutting-edge training, free of charge.

“Things like SARS, Ebola; every time we think we have achieved something, there is a curveball or a knuckleball that hits us in the face. The least we can do is give access to information that can be regularly used in clinics.”

The collaborations build upon years of work in several countries, including India, where Puttaiah helped write the infection control standards. More recently, he has worked with Russian health officials, helping them to identify their country’s dental infection control problem areas and potential standards to address them.

For Puttaiah, the recent strides bring him a step closer to achieving an overarching career objective.

“My end goal,” he says, “is to make an infection control and occupational safety curriculum at every dental school in the world.”

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Dental school dean speaks out on hot topic in Dallas: water fluoridation Thu, 29 Jan 2015 20:40:25 +0000 Each time the debate surrounding community water fluoridation surfaces, faculty and alumni of Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry take measures to ensure the oral health of the Dallas community. The dental school dean, Dr. Lawrence Wolinsky, offered his input during the Jan. 28 council meeting, and in this essay, he shares more on this important public health issue]]>

Each time the debate surrounding community water fluoridation surfaces, faculty and alumni of Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry take measures to ensure the oral health of the Dallas community. On Jan. 28, Dallas City Council members voted once again to retain the city’s water fluoridation program. The dental school dean, Dr. Lawrence Wolinsky, offered his input during the council meeting, and in this Jan. 26 essay, he shares more on this important public health issue.

Dr. Lawrence Wolinsky, dental school dean

Dr. Lawrence Wolinsky, dean, Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry

In April 2014, a dialogue commenced regarding Dallas’ community water fluoridation program, a time-tested public health measure practiced in this city for half a century.

As anti-fluoridation groups entered the scene, some members of the Dallas City Council entertained the notion — even if just for a moment — of bringing this public service to a stop. Faculty and alumni of Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry added input to the conversation then, and as representatives of Dallas’ dental school, we are doing so again. As the city council prepares to vote Jan. 28 on whether to enter into a $1 million partnership with a new water fluoridation vendor, the topic has once again permeated local media. It would be a disservice not only to our patients but also to our children and the generations that come after us, if we did not weigh in on this debate.

There’s something to be said for the fact that the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends fluoride supplements for children as young as six months who live in an area with suboptimal fluoride content in their drinking water. Thanks to evidence-based science, we know that early in life when teeth are forming, having adequate levels of fluoride available for incorporation into new teeth makes them much more resistant to tooth decay. This is also true when the teeth first erupt because they are porous and easily absorb fluoride. Taking advantage of this developmental period in children’s lives increases the ability of their teeth to mineralize, for enamel to harden and, in turn, increase resistance to tooth decay. Because of community water fluoridation, having access to this cavity-fighting substance is as simple as taking a sip of water.

For those opposed to community water fluoridation, a concern that repeatedly comes to the fore is the question of fluoride’s toxicity. Like any naturally occurring substance, when consumed to the excess, the harm can outweigh benefits. Take for instance, something found in 70 percent of kitchens throughout the world: iodide, a reduced form of iodine, which is added to table salt. Iodide is essential to thyroid function, immune response and even skeletal and nervous system development, but when consumed in amounts exceeding the daily recommended levels, health issues surface such as goiter, hypothyroidism and, in acute poisoning cases, burning of the mouth, throat and stomach.

Does that mean we provide a diet for ourselves and our children completely devoid of iodide? No. To take the analogy one step further, complaints that there is too much iodide in salt and questions of why it is even added to the seasoning are not commonplace. Moderation is key, and the same is true of fluoride.

It is known that fluoride has the potential to cause pitting of the teeth, bone tenderness and a heightened risk of fracture, but only in amounts exceeding 4.0 parts per million, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. What’s interesting to note is that fluoride is naturally present in water throughout the country. According to numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention circa 1969, when U.S. cities were just beginning to implement community water fluoridation, naturally-occurring levels throughout the state ranged from as low as .7 parts per million in Weslaco, Texas, to as high as 6.3 parts per million in Bardwell. Levels could change depending on the region and time of year, and community water fluoridation in Dallas simply regulates that amount, striving to maintain an optimal level of .7 parts per million in accordance with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommendations.

Millions are exposed to this concentration of fluoride with no negative consequences, and volumes of scientific research indicate the benefits far outweigh the potential consequences. Plus, no one can argue that fluoridation doesn’t work. Getting rid of community water fluoridation would hit the most vulnerable population — those without access to dental care — the hardest. Ranked right up there with the polio vaccine as one of the most effective preventive measures of our time, community water fluoridation is here for the public good. Let’s keep it that way.

Dr. Lawrence Wolinsky is dean of Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry. He may be reached at

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New partnership amps up dental care for youngsters in East Dallas Thu, 15 Jan 2015 22:43:51 +0000 A new partnership between Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry and the Foremost Family Health Center means more dental care for East Dallas youngsters and increased training for dental students and pediatric dentistry residents alike. ]]>
Dental student Katelyn Kennedy treats a patient at the Foremost Family Health Center - Martin Luther King Jr. location.

Dental student Katelyn Kennedy treats a patient at the Foremost Family Health Center – Martin Luther King Jr. location.

Seven people huddle around their young patient, the first of the day, but the little girl doesn’t seem to mind. No older than 5 or 6, she lays still, relaxed, a plush mallard duck tucked under one arm, as the student dentists and resident discuss her care.

It’s a Wednesday afternoon, which means students from Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry fill the pediatric dental wing at the Foremost Family Health Center – Martin Luther King Jr. location. The center is a community resource providing comprehensive medical and dental services, and a new partnership with TAMBCD’s pediatric dentistry program is increasing the oral health care provided to youngsters in East Dallas.

Shalisa Garner, D.D.S., a 2006 graduate of TAMBCD who practices at the center and coordinated the partnership, estimates that children comprise more than 20 percent of the 9,000 dental patients seen each year at the clinic.

“Pediatric dentistry residents from TAMBCD are improving our operations by facilitating a process by which children who are in need of general anesthesia are treated,” Garner says. “By having the residents at our facility, they are able to begin the initial exam and paperwork for the children who need to be seen in the OR.”

Their presence also helps address pressing needs among this patient population: reducing the number of childhood decay diagnoses, educating families about the role of diet and hygiene in caries prevention and establishing recall appointment routines.

In mid-September, small groups of third- and fourth-year dental students began rotating through the clinic one afternoon a week. A pediatric dentistry resident accompanies them and provides patient care instruction, and department faculty members are present to provide oversight.

The partnership has allowed TAMBCD dental students to work in a uniquely designed six-patient, open-bay clinic concept. A row of four dental chairs is devoid of dividers, and TVs are mounted to the top of each operatory light, allowing for X-ray viewing and children’s movie watching. Two private patient rooms have full nitrous oxide capability.

“It’s a lot more hands-on,” says fourth-year dental student Katelyn Kennedy. “The open room is a great learning environment for residents and students.”

Benjamin Curtis, D.D.S., a pediatric dentistry resident, discusses patient care with dental students.

Benjamin Curtis, D.D.S., a pediatric dentistry resident, discusses patient care with dental students.

In this space they see patients as young as 6 months — those establishing a first dental home — up to teens, and dental students may perform exams and cleanings, place fillings including composites, complete pulpotomies, and undertake operative dentistry requiring nitrous oxide. During the appointment X-rays are taken, and the child’s weight and body mass index are charted.

On this particular Wednesday, Assistant Professor Kathleen Pace, D.D.S. and director of pediatric dentistry predoctoral and graduate clinics, is at the center.

“We start evaluating the child at first contact, right when he or she walks through the door,” Pace says. “We chart head to feet, and it’s all done in a seamless fashion.”

Pediatric Dentistry resident Ben Curtis, D.D.S., talks to his patient.The Foremost Family Health Center is one of two teaching sites — the other being the Healing Hands Clinic — in the college’s pediatric dentistry residency program. While residents rotate to hospitals such as Children’s Medical Center and Texas Scottish Rite, the two community locations allow them to fine-tune behavior management practices learned in dental school. In the process, they teach by example, in some cases inspiring dental students to pursue the specialty.

At the moment, pediatric dentistry resident Benjamin Curtis, D.D.S., finishes up with the group’s first patient.

He sits with her, cautioning that her loose baby teeth may fall out soon. She nods her head with a smile, the little duck still in hand.

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Dental students create awareness for importance of advocacy Mon, 12 Jan 2015 17:00:16 +0000 A group of dental students at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry (TAMBCD) is creating unique learning experiences for their peers that they might not otherwise receive in the clinic or classroom. The topic: how state and federal legislation impacts dental students and the profession as a whole. ]]>
Officers of the dental schools's ASDA chapter gather after a Dec. 2 Mock Congress debate

Officers of the dental school chapter of the American Student Dental Association

A group of dental students at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry (TAMBCD) is creating unique learning experiences for their peers that they might not otherwise receive in the clinic or classroom.

The topic: how state and federal legislation impacts dental students and the profession as a whole. The method is an “advocacy academy,” a yearlong push consisting of educational events geared toward helping fellow dental students understand the legislative process.

“Our whole goal here is education,” says third-year dental student Stephanie Ganter, District 9 advocacy chair for the American Student Dental Association (ASDA) and a legislative liaison committee member for the TAMBCD chapter. “We are not trying to advocate for a certain politician. What we are trying to do is expose students to what is out there and to help them understand how different kinds of legislation may impact them. Our goal is to show students how policy affects them today and how it will affect them in a few years.”

The chapter’s initiative began in September 2014 with a legislative kickoff. In small groups, dental students rotated through several stations, and at each, legislative liaison committee members shared the basics behind several hot-button issues within dentistry, including student loan debt, mid-level dental providers and community water fluoridation. In December, a Mock Congress debate demonstrated how bills can be passed into law, and a student-run “Teach Me How to Lobby” lunch-and-learn event is in the works for late January.

It all culminates Feb. 25 with Lobby Day at the state Capitol. Before dawn, as many as 25 TAMBCD students — some of whom are recruited during ASDA’s advocacy events — will board a bus with approximately 50 Dallas County Dental Society members to make the trip to Austin. There they’ll join dentists from across the state as well as students from the two other Texas dental schools for meetings with representatives.

“Our biggest challenge is the ‘Who cares?’ moment,” Ganter says of interacting with legislators. “They might be thinking, ‘Why should I care about dentistry? I’ve got insurance to worry about; I’ve got education to worry about.’ Presence makes a difference. If we have a lot of people, that says more than any words.”

Danette McNew, D.D.S., 1988 TAMBCD alumna and immediate past president of the Dallas County Dental Society (DCDS), attends the event and says that during the day’s meetings every dental student is paired with a DCDS member.

“The dentists initiate the conversation with the representative, and the dental students are encouraged to share their viewpoints as well,” McNew says. “It’s very impactful. They have an opportunity to talk with representatives from a student’s perspective. That has a lot of weight.”

Once Lobby Day has passed, students will begin planning specifics for 2015-2016 advocacy events.

“It’s all about getting students interested and involved,” says Ganter. “You don’t have to have a passion for legislation and advocacy; you just have to know it affects you.”

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