Vital Record » Dentistry Your source for health news from the Texas A&M Health Science Center Fri, 03 Jul 2015 13:00:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Enrichment program opens doors to international collaboration Wed, 01 Jul 2015 13:33:24 +0000 Meet Hessa. There’s not a whole lot this young girl doesn’t do: She’s just as likely to cough or sneeze during appointments as she is to close her mouth in fatigue, hyperventilate, or simply complain of a hurting tooth. Her behaviors help second-year dental students feel more comfortable with practical skills and chairside manner before they begin seeing patients in clinic. There’s one more thing: Hessa is a robot]]>
A student from Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University (PNU) College of Dentistry in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, completes a lab activity during the monthlong enrichment program at TAMBCD in Dallas.

A student from Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University (PNU) College of Dentistry in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, completes a lab activity during the monthlong enrichment program at TAMBCD in Dallas.

Meet Hessa. There’s not a whole lot this young girl doesn’t do: She’s just as likely to cough or sneeze during appointments as she is to close her mouth in fatigue, hyperventilate, or simply complain of a hurting tooth. Her behaviors help second-year dental students feel more comfortable with practical skills and chairside manner before they begin seeing patients in clinic. There’s one more thing: Hessa is a robot.

Hessa, a dental simulator, can be found at the Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University (PNU) College of Dentistry in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which opened in 2012 and is one of 15 colleges within PNU, an all-female university with more than 50,000 students. At the PNU dental school, Hessa is right at home in bright, state-of-the art clinics and labs replete with state-of-the-art technology, including Moog dental training simulation systems.

Since PNU is a new school, it is still building its patient pool, something that takes time. An established patient base and diverse array of cases is one of the factors that sparked PNU leaders’ interest in pursuing an international partnership with Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry. This way, PNU dental students can be exposed to as many oral conditions and treatment modalities as possible while their own program is in its infancy.

It should come as no surprise that observation in TAMBCD clinics has been a highlight during the four-week International Dental Student Summer Enrichment Program, which started June 1 in Dallas.

“I remember the first day in the oral diagnosis clinic. I was amazed by the amount of different cases I saw, such as pleomorphic adenoma (salivary gland tumors), Stafne bone defect (asymptomatic lingual bone depression of the lower jaw), gunshot cases and bone graft surgery,” says Mehdiya Haider, a fourth-year dental student at PNU and one of 15 participants in the enrichment program. “Every day during rotations I learned something new; all the doctors had their own techniques, and they loved sharing them with us,” she adds. It’s a deviation from Haider’s typical patient base; she, like her classmates, treats mostly fellow PNU students.

Participants’ experiences are not limited to the clinic. They have received lecture and hands-on instruction ranging from ethics to onlay casting, crown and bridge preparation, and mouthguard fabrication. The program represents two years of planning between TAMBCD and PNU, with preparations already in the works for next year, says Dr. Loulou Moore, associate professor in restorative sciences and director of the summer enrichment program. There may be potential to develop a faculty exchange program with visiting professorships.

Hoda Abdellatif, B.D.S., M.P.H., Ph.D., Vice Dean of Students Affairs at PNU as well as an adjunct professor at TAMBCD, helped facilitate planning for the program starting in 2013, shortly after joining the PNU College of Dentistry.

“Such a program will expose the PNU students to learn from the differences in clinical care, dental education and culture at the TAMBCD institution, and it will also create a student network between PNU and TAMBCD dental students,” says Abdellatif. “This is hopefully the starting point for further collaboration between the two institutions.”

The exchange program also offers the chance for dental students to see how disease patterns vary in different areas of the world, says Ebtissam Al-Madi, Ph.D., who is dean of PNU College of Dentistry.

“It impacts dentistry first of all by breaking some barriers, especially with our faculty or students who might think that dentistry is performed differently in the U.S.,” Al-Madi says. “It shows them that dentistry is dentistry wherever you are in the world. It gives them a little addition in terms of seeing the patterns of disease in the States compared with Saudi Arabia,” she added, explaining that the program at TAMBCD may reveal more to PNU students about geriatric dentistry concerns, as the majority of their patient base consists of young, college-age adults. It mirrors the nation’s demographics a whole, as 48.6 percent of the population in Saudi Arabia is 25 years old or younger, according to the PNU dental school website. Al-Madi observes an interesting trend among this population in Saudi Arabia: high rates of dental decay among young adults from high and low socioeconomic groups because of lack of awareness of good oral hygiene coupled with a shift toward diets containing more sugar than in generations past.

Faculty and students agree that the importance of partnerships like the one between TAMBCD and PNU is highlighted as our world becomes increasingly connected.

“This program is an open channel for exchanging knowledge, and it’s good to collaborate,” says participant Tolean Jundieh, who is beginning her third year in PNU’s five-year curriculum. “We are one world now; and there is globalization in all levels, even in dentistry.”

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Dentist, surgeon begins new era in treating head and neck cancers Mon, 29 Jun 2015 13:00:34 +0000 Dr. David Kang, assistant professor in oral and maxillofacial surgery, joined Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry as its first head and neck oncologic and microvascular reconstructive surgeon. ]]>

David R. Kang, M.D., D.D.S., assistant professor in oral and maxillofacial surgery, joined Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry as its first head and neck oncologic and microvascular reconstructive surgeon. His job description is complex, but the meaning isn’t lost on patients with oral cancer facing the reality of surgery.

Dr. David Kang is the Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry's first head and neck oncologic and microvascular reconstructive surgeon.

Dr. David Kang is the Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry’s first head and neck oncologic and microvascular reconstructive surgeon.

This dual-trained dentist and physician spent an additional year after his oral and maxillofacial surgery residency to complete a fellowship in head and neck oncologic surgery at the University of Michigan. He returned to Dallas with the in-depth training he needed to not only remove cancerous head and neck tumors but to also reconstruct the entire surgical area with free tissue transfer– providing a critical step in a patient’s return to normalcy following a life-altering diagnosis and treatment.

A multidisciplinary approach to caring for cancer patients is required with various specialists involved in their treatment including radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, pathologists, maxillofacial prosthodontics, anaplastologists, speech therapists, physical therapists and occupational therapists who also specialize in the management of lymphedema.

“Our patients are frequently presented to the Head and Neck Tumor Board, which meets twice a month to discuss treatment options including surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy,” Kang said.

Many of the patients Kang treats are dealing with the side effects of radiation – a treatment that, while often effective at combating cancer, is notorious for wreaking havoc on the healthy areas of the body through which it passes. He takes special steps to ensure that his patients’ reconstructions hold up to the radiation that may occur post-surgery.

“In the past, post-surgery radiation treatment led to a decreased quality of life,” Kang said. “But now, with intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), and the ability to harvest vascularized tissue from any area on the patient’s body, we can tailor the reconstruction to the patient’s needs.”

This free tissue transfer approach—or free flap—returns form and function to the patient by using skin, fascia, muscle, nerve or bone tissue to reconstruct any defect, regardless of the size. After microvascular anastomosis, where vessels sometimes less than one millimeter in size are sutured together, the procedure provides immediate blood flow to the reconstructed tissue and allows the surgical site to heal rapidly, allowing patients to begin radiation treatment within four to six weeks. The free flap approach, Kang notes, has become the gold standard in reconstruction of the oral cavity.

In the short time Kang has been at Texas A&M Baylor College of Dentistry, he and his team have treated hundreds of patients with malignant disease as well as trauma, but especially those patients with squamous cell carcinoma. He has also successfully treated extremely rare tumors such as adenoid cystic carcinoma, ameloblastic carcinoma, and mucosal melanomas, not only removing the tumors, but successfully restoring facial aesthetics and function to the oral cavity. While the free flap procedure is impressive, it may not be the ideal choice for all patients, Kang says. With longer operating and hospitalization times, it can be an additional risk for patients with medical comorbidities.

“When a less invasive option is in order for maxillary defects, we will often opt for placement of an obturator, which is very similar to a denture and closes off the defect and restores facial contour,” Kang said. “As with any treatment, we work in collaboration with other health care professionals to find the best treatment plan possible for each individual patient.”

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From dark past to bright future Mon, 15 Jun 2015 21:47:15 +0000 Recent Texas A&M Baylor College of Dentistry graduate, Given Kachepa, was brought to the U.S. by traffickers under the rouse of earning money for his family by performing in a boys' choir. After facing years of adversity, Kachepa is now realizing his dream of becoming a dentist, with plans to one day return to his home in Zambia and open his town's first dental clinic. ]]>
Dr. Given Kachepa

Dr. Given Kachepa talks about his journey from orphan to human trafficking victim to dentist, what kept him going and why returning home is so important.

Three words — perseverance, focus and determination — handwritten on a dry erase board in Given Kachepa’s bedroom at his foster parents’ Colleyville, Texas, home characterize his successful transformation from victim to dentist.

The future did not always look promising for Kachepa, who received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas on May 27. He was born in Zambia and orphaned when his parents died — his mother when he was 6 years old and his father when he was 8. Kachepa was taken in by a relative, but resources were limited, and they lived in a two-room mud brick house.

What was supposed to be an opportunity for a better life in America came when Keith Grimes, operating as a missionary, visited Kalingalinga, an impoverished town in Zambia. After hearing the angelic voices of Kachepa and other boys in town, Grimes organized the Zambian Acappella Boys Choir. He created five choirs with several boys in each, and brought them to the U.S. to perform for audiences around the country. The original group arrived in the U.S. in 1993. Kachepa, who was in the fourth choir from Kalingalinga, came to the U.S. in 1998. At age 11, he was the youngest in the group.

Grimes, also the founder of the charity Teach Teachers to Teach: Partners in Education, promised that the money raised from the boys’ singing performances would be used to support their families back home, build schools in Zambia and give the boys an American education.

Instead of receiving an education or getting money to send home, the boys were kept as slaves in a mobile home and forced to endure a grueling performance schedule — singing in churches, schools, shopping malls and other public venues — with little to no food or sleep and no health care when they fell ill. When they weren’t performing, they were forced to dig a swimming pool for their captor. The boys, who spoke no English when they arrived in Texas, had nowhere to turn for help.

Even after Grimes’ death in 1999, hope for freedom eluded the boys as Grimes’ family members took over the charity and continued to keep the boys in captivity.

The boys were eventually rescued after federal investigators became suspicious of the charity. Kachepa was placed with foster parents, Sandy and Deetz Shepherd. He was finally able to contact his family in Zambia and go back for a visit, but most importantly, he was able to get the American education he was promised many years before.

Kachepa talks about his journey from orphan to human trafficking victim to dentist, what kept him going and why returning home is so important.

Please share a little bit about your future plans. How do you intend to utilize your dental degree?

My future plans are to return to my home country of Zambia and help people with their dental needs. In my compound there has never been a single dentist. What a change it would be if I were able to bring something new to a community that so desperately needs it. It will be difficult work, but just like anything that’s ever been built in this world, it has to start somewhere. That’s my goal. It’s important to me to return home because that’s where my heart lies. That’s where I was born, and I have a big family that desperately needs my help. I have also seen suffering firsthand in Zambia.

A different person enduring your life’s journey might have let the experiences affect them negatively. To what do you attribute your resolve not only to keep going but to pursue a career as a dental professional?

The thing that keeps me going is my faith in God. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have gotten this far, and he wouldn’t have brought me this far only to let me fail at the end. God has carried me through thick and thin, and he continues to be my guiding rod. He carried me when my parents passed in Zambia. He carried me when I went through a horrible trafficking situation, and that’s why I plan to keep going in my endeavor of returning to Zambia to help the disadvantaged people.

I put three inspiring words on my white board in my room in high school. Those words were still there as a reminder when dental school was difficult.

I wore braces in high school, and when they were removed, I loved my smile. It boosted my self-esteem, and I would love to give others a beautiful smile.

What people or programs at TAMBCD have been especially important to your dental school experience?

The post-baccalaureate program helped me get into dental school. Having someone with a disadvantaged background like myself get into dental school would be a difficult task, but the post-baccalaureate program believes in students that show promise.

Do you have a learning experience with at Texas A&M Baylor College of Dentistry that you will carry with you into your profession?

I tend to look at my whole time I was at TAMBCD as a learning experience. That was learning from some of the best professors and students, and that is learning how to manage your schedule, learning professionalism, time management, and different skills.  I still have a long way to go, but it’s something I’m striving towards. I also liked my interactions with patients, because each case taught you something new you didn’t know before. That’s why I think it’s important to take things one day at a time and just keep improving in everything you are doing. Furthermore, I like the fact that you interact with people from different cultural backgrounds at TAMBCD. It kind of forces you to get out of your comfort zone and interact with all kinds of people. Last but not least, I have learned from my time being at TAMBCD that no matter how much you know, you can always learn more.

What are your immediate plans since graduating from TAMBCD and when do you plan to return to Zambia to open a dental practice?

My immediate plans are to find a job here in the Dallas-Ft.Worth area. Then I want to work for three or four years, payoff my student loans while also hopefully saving money to buy a place in my compound of Kalingalinga and renovate it into a dental practice. It would be a practice that probably only carries out extractions and deep cleanings. There are no dental labs in Zambia, so to be able to make crowns, dentures, or doing fillings or root canals would be challenge initially because of the equipment and skill needed to do those things. But extractions and deep cleanings, I’m sure can be done right away as long as you have the right people working for you. Now this a huge endeavor and I know it won’t be easy, but nothing in life is ever easy, the possibility of failure cannot keep me from trying something I’m passionate about. I will take things one day at a time  and see where the Lord will lead.

Reflecting on your journey to this point, what thoughts come to mind?

As I look back, I’m thankful that I have had a lot of people help me get to this point in my life. Growing up without parents meant someone had to take a chance and take the responsibility of caring for someone else’s child. Those people have been my aunt, Margaret Bimbe, in Zambia and the Shepherd family in the U.S. My aunt in Zambia took me in shortly after I had lost my parents, and even though life was difficult, she showed me and my siblings the love and care we needed at the time. In the United States the Shepherd family came to my rescue after I was removed from a horrible experience of being a victim of human trafficking. They have provided the love and care I desperately needed and continue to need. Because of the trafficking situation, I have had the opportunity to speak about my experience on behalf of trafficking victims in many places, so their voices can be heard and they also can reclaim their lives. I hope to continue my work in that regard, and thankfully God has brought me this far and continues to carry me every single day of my life.

]]> 0 Sports drinks: Read before you swig Mon, 15 Jun 2015 13:00:23 +0000 It can be tempting to turn to sports drinks. After all, many on store shelves today are sugar free and loaded with electrolytes, vitamins and protein, which makes them good for quenching thirst and — for those endurance athletes out there — adding that coveted energy boost. Unfortunately, they also have an ingredient that isn’t so readily marketed]]>

It can be tempting to turn to sports drinks. After all, many on store shelves today are sugar free and loaded with electrolytes, vitamins and protein, which makes them good for quenching thirst and — for those endurance athletes out there — adding that coveted energy boost. Unfortunately, they also have an ingredient that isn’t so readily marketed: acid.

TAMBCD students compete during Dental Olympics.

TAMBCD students compete during Dental Olympics.

“The acids that are added for taste contribute to the risk of tooth demineralization,” says Lisa Mallonee, associate professor in dental hygiene at the Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry and licensed dietitian with a master’s degree in public health and coordinated degree in nutrition. “Even most liquid drops, powders and additives have some sort of acid as a preservative, which has erosive potential for the teeth when sipped on frequently throughout the day or consumed in excessive quantities.”

That doesn’t mean sports drinks have to be completely eliminated from the modern active lifestyle. The best way to minimize the side effects on your teeth, Mallonee says, is to consume your sports drink all at once instead of sipping or drinking multiple bottles throughout the day. Since frequent consumption may be indicated for endurance athletes, education on sports drinks and their potential effect on teeth must be reinforced.

Plus, there are tons of alternatives filled with hydration benefits.

“Consuming ‘plain old water’  is always best,” says Mallonee, who also encourages consumption of fruits and vegetables high in H20, like oranges, peaches, pineapples, cucumber, tomatoes and zucchini. “They pack a one-two punch of hydration and antioxidants in one scrumptious snack.”

Another growing trend: coconut water.

“It is low in calories and sodium yet high in potassium,” Mallonee says, adding one cautionary detail: “Natural, unflavored coconut water is best — otherwise it’s no better than soft drinks or juice because of the added sugars.”

Looking for electrolytes? Look no further than berries, bananas and grapes for potassium, and cantaloupe, melon and honeydew for sodium.

“People WANT to be healthy and in shape, and sports drinks embody active lifestyles,” Mallonee says. “Lifting weights or breaking a sweat during a moderate intensity workout doesn’t usually warrant the need for these drinks. For your weekend warriors or your average walk-the-dog-around-the-block kind of activity, good old water, fruits and vegetables loaded with water and electrolytes will suffice.”


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Texas A&M Health Science Center celebrates largest graduating class in history Thu, 11 Jun 2015 13:18:59 +0000 Texas A&M Health Science Center graduated 639 students at commencement ceremonies across the state last month. This is the largest graduating class to date, and is indicative of Texas A&M’s commitment to educate exceptional health care leaders in medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, public health and medical sciences]]>

Graduates gig 'emAddressing the need for highly trained state and national health care professionals, Texas A&M Health Science Center graduated 645 students at commencement ceremonies across the state last month. This is the largest graduating class to date, and is indicative of Texas A&M’s commitment to educate exceptional health care leaders in medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, public health and medical sciences.

“As the health care landscape continues to grow and change, so do the needs of our patient populations, but one thing remains the same – the need for compassionate and skilled providers and leaders with a desire to serve,” said Paul E. Ogden, M.D., interim executive vice president and CEO of the Texas A&M Health Science Center. “That desire to serve and the mindset of leading by example is innately Aggie, and is exactly what the members of the Texas A&M Health Science Center Class of 2015 embody as the next generation of health care professionals.”

Graduates for each college are as follows:

Texas A&M College of Medicine – 184 students received a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), 11 a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and one a Master of Science (M.S.) in Medical Sciences.

Since graduating its first class in 1981, the college has welcomed more than 2,200 Aggie Doctors to the work force, with 64 percent choosing to stay in Texas and half of all Texas A&M College of Medicine graduates entering into primary care. The College of Medicine also exceeds the national benchmark with a 97 percent pass rate on the national medical licensing exam.

Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry – 93 students received a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.), 30 a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Dental Hygiene, 2 students receiving an additional PhD and 45 students with graduate’s degrees and certificates in specialty programs.

The college has the highest percent of under-represented minority students in the nation, and nearly one-third of all dentists in Texas are graduates of the Texas A&M Baylor College of Dentistry.

Texas A&M College of Nursing – 112 students received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.). Since its opening in 2008, the college has produced more than 500 nurses to help in addressing the state and nation’s critical nursing shortage. The Texas A&M College of Nursing holds special commendation status from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for pass rate excellence.

Texas A&M Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy – 84 students received a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.). The College of Pharmacy ranks in the Top 50 “Best Grad Schools for Pharmacy” by U.S. News & World Report, and to date, more than half of the college’s graduates remain in South Texas to practice.

Texas A&M School of Public Health – 45 students received a Master of Public Health (M.P.H.), 35 a Master of Health Administration (M.H.A), two a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) and one a Doctor of Public Health (D.R.P.H.). The school ranks in the Top 25 “Best Grad Schools for Public Health” by U.S. News & World Report.

Texas A&M Health Science Center’s enrollment across its five colleges and eight statewide campus locations totaled 2,467 students in 2014.

Story by Jonathan Knechtel.

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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 Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +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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