Vital Record » Dentistry http://news.tamhsc.edu Your source for health news from the Texas A&M Health Science Center Sat, 25 Apr 2015 14:32:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Adolescents most at risk with e-cigarettes, yet teen usage soars http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=adolescents-most-at-risk-with-e-cigarettes-yet-teen-usage-soars http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=adolescents-most-at-risk-with-e-cigarettes-yet-teen-usage-soars#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 18:42:02 +0000 https://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=20931 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 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=health-science-center-announces-2015-commencement-ceremonies-speakers http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=health-science-center-announces-2015-commencement-ceremonies-speakers#comments Tue, 07 Apr 2015 19:19:38 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=23098 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 CornerDrugstore.com©.

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 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=symposium-gives-more-than-60-dental-students-an-opportunity-to-present-their-research http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=symposium-gives-more-than-60-dental-students-an-opportunity-to-present-their-research#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 20:13:25 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=23058 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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TAMBCD professor’s audience on infection control expands to anaplastology, International College of Dentists http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=tambcd-professors-audience-on-infection-control-expands-to-anaplastology-international-college-of-dentists http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=tambcd-professors-audience-on-infection-control-expands-to-anaplastology-international-college-of-dentists#comments Thu, 05 Feb 2015 17:06:56 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22649 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 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=dental-school-dean-speaks-out-on-hot-topic-in-dallas-water-fluoridation http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=dental-school-dean-speaks-out-on-hot-topic-in-dallas-water-fluoridation#comments Thu, 29 Jan 2015 20:40:25 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22595 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 dental-dean@bcd.tamhsc.edu

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New partnership amps up dental care for youngsters in East Dallas http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=new-partnership-amps-up-dental-care-for-youngsters-in-east-dallas http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=new-partnership-amps-up-dental-care-for-youngsters-in-east-dallas#comments Thu, 15 Jan 2015 22:43:51 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22487 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 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=dental-students-create-awareness-for-importance-of-advocacy http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=dental-students-create-awareness-for-importance-of-advocacy#comments Mon, 12 Jan 2015 17:00:16 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22228 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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Emphasis on personalized care: Calming anxieties benefits dental patients and providers alike http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=emphasis-on-personalized-care-calming-anxieties-benefits-dental-patients-and-providers-alike http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=emphasis-on-personalized-care-calming-anxieties-benefits-dental-patients-and-providers-alike#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 17:39:18 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22180 An unspoken interaction takes place at the start of nearly every dental appointment. The dental hygienist or assistant brings the patient to the chair, and before it has reclined has already assessed if the patient is feeling talkative, tired or even anxious. In many cases, no words are needed for this exchange]]>

An unspoken interaction takes place at the start of nearly every dental appointment. The dental hygienist or assistant brings the patient to the chair, and before it has reclined has already assessed if the patient is feeling talkative, tired or even anxious. In many cases, no words are needed for this exchange.

“Look. First observe the patient for clues that they are affected: eye movement, breathing and other physiological manifestations,” says Laura Gene Utt, clinical assistant professor in the Caruth School of Dental Hygiene at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry. “Listen to them closely. Many will tell you they feel anxious. Some will not.”

Laura Gene Utt, clinical assistant professor at TAMBCD's Caruth School of Dental Hygiene, pictured in the college's third-floor general dentistry clinic.

Laura Gene Utt developed her thesis around how Texas dental hygienists manage patients’ dental anxieties.

Recognizing anxieties in patients and learning how to effectively address them is something Utt has fine-tuned during her 35-year dental hygiene career throughout Texas, California and Germany. In December 2014, she completed her thesis on the subject as part of her master’s in dental hygiene education.

Her research, titled “Texas Dental Hygienists’ Use of Behavioral Management Techniques for Patients with Dental Anxieties,” utilized a survey to determine what methods Texas dental hygienists use to recognize and calm dental anxieties in patients. And just as important, it measured how dental hygienists felt about their effectiveness at helping their anxious patients feel comfortable.

Nearly half of the survey respondents stated that up to 20 percent of their patients experience dental anxiety.

In those situations, some of their most commonly used techniques to help patients include:

  • deep breathing;
  • distraction (listening to music, covering up with a blanket, etc.);
  • listening; and
  • talking.

Utt found that dental hygienists who take time to determine the cause of the patient’s anxiety and give them some control over the situation help the patient relax. Empathy for patients is the best approach and decreases negative emotional labor while at work, which could be a factor in retention or attrition within the profession.

She plans to take these techniques with her in January 2015 when she moves to Stuttgart, Germany, where she has plans for teaching, consulting and private practice work.

“Bachelor-level programs in dental hygiene are just now starting in Germany, and the concepts of managing dental anxiety should be considered in the educational programs,” says Utt.

Dental anxieties as a result of personal trauma

Sometimes anxieties are present for reasons not having anything to do with the dental appointment. Previous trauma, such as domestic violence or sexual assault, abuse of the elderly and even combat military experience can present anxieties for patients.

According to statistics cited in a March 2014 article in The Journal of the American Dental Association, “Treating Patients with Traumatic Life Experiences,” the likelihood that an oral health professional will treat patients who have suffered such events is markedly high. Approximately 22 percent of women and four percent of men reported having experienced sexual assault as an adult, and 10 to 20 percent of men and up to 10 percent of women in the U.S. reported having been exposed to combat, whether as service members or immigrants who fled war-ravaged regions.

Routine aspects of a dental appointment, be it impressions, oral cancer screenings and even reclining in the chair, may seem harmless to some — and even convenient for dentists, such as in the case of a mouth prop — but they can incite fear in other patients. Whether it’s from a gag reflex, lack of breath or the fact that a patient cannot close his or her mouth, a feeling of powerlessness sometimes ensues, and with it, panic.

In TAMBCD’s Advanced Education in General Dentistry Residency Program, residents are familiarized with some of the difficulties that can occur as a result of traumatic experiences. One lecture includes a special guest speaker, an assault victim who shares with residents what it’s like to live through the aftermath of such an event, which often includes some degree of post-traumatic stress disorder. At least once during the year, fourth-year dental students also get exposure to patients with anxieties and special needs during a rotation in the AEGD clinic.

“When dentists have a basic understanding of the difficulties that survivors face, they can help to create an environment that feels safe,” says Kirsten Zitzewitz, AEGD clinic coordinator. “As a result, this can help prevent last-minute appointment cancellations as well as help the actual appointment flow in a smooth and productive manner. Most importantly, it can be a positive experience for the survivor that can aid in the survivor’s recovery.”

One of the go-to methods: informal question-and-answer sessions between the oral health professional and patient. Benefits of the initial “meet and greet” are two-fold.

“The AEGD residents learn how to communicate through empathetic listening and speaking skills to build the highest level of rapport with special patients, which does a lot to allay apprehension and raise the pain threshold,” says Dr. Charles Wakefield, professor and director of the AEGD program. At the same time, the dentist gets to know the patient on a personal level.

Regardless of the cause of anxiety, when patients’ fears are addressed in an effective manner, not only are they more likely to return for routine preventive care, but hygienists and dentists are more likely to feel rewarded from the interaction.

“The takeaway message for me is that the benefit is a two-way street,” says Utt. “The oral health care providers who practice these techniques will have a healthier and happier career. And the patients can get over their dental anxiety. When both parties benefit, why wouldn’t you want to do that? You sharpen your skill of observation, that’s so much of it.”

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TAMBCD reducing tooth decay one sealant at a time http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=tambcd-reducing-tooth-decay-one-sealant-at-a-time http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=tambcd-reducing-tooth-decay-one-sealant-at-a-time#comments Thu, 11 Dec 2014 18:02:06 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22141 Dental sealants have been compared to vaccinations because they guard against a common dental culprit known as a cavity. Because the cost of placing dental sealants is much less than treating tooth decay once it develops, Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry provides extensive dental sealant outreach initiatives to ensure children receive this layer of protection]]>
Two TAMBCD dental students perform a dental procedure on young patient in zebra-printed sunglasses.

TAMBCD students place dental sealants on a young patient during sealant day.

Dental sealants have been compared to vaccinations because they, too, provide a preventative measure against a health threat by guarding against a common dental culprit known as a cavity. Because the cost of placing dental sealants is much less than treating tooth decay once it develops, Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry (TAMBCD) provides extensive dental sealant outreach initiatives to ensure children receive this layer of protection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports tooth decay is one of the most common chronic conditions among children in the United States. The report finds that by age 15, approximately 60 percent of all adolescents will have experienced tooth decay. According to the report, an estimated 51.7 million school hours are missed annually by school-aged children because of a dental problem or visit and in 2009, the total dental expenses for U.S. children between the ages 5–17 were approximately $20 billion.

Luckily, preventive dental care – including dental sealants – is effective in reducing tooth decay. These thin plastic coatings painted on the chewing surfaces of premolars and molars (back teeth), seal crevices in permanent teeth and act as a physical barrier to prevent bacteria from collecting and creating an environment that allows tooth decay to develop.

It is recommended that children receive sealants on the permanent molars as soon as they erupt through the gum.

“Most children, no matter how well they brush, are unable to reach and clean these areas properly,” said Dr. Stephen Crane, associate professor in public health sciences who oversees TAMBCD’s Dallas County Sealant Initiative. “Sealants provide almost 100 percent protection from dental cavities on the chewing surfaces of teeth, where most dental decay occurs.”

Since 2000, the Seal Mobile — a brightly-painted van — has transported portable dental equipment, dental students and faculty to elementary schools in the Dallas Metroplex and surrounding areas. The van has traveled as far as Sanderson, Texas, 500 miles outside of Dallas, to provide sealants to children.

In 2013 the dental bus, a specially equipped RV, was added to the rotation. The bus has two built-in dental operatories where patients can be seen. With this mobile dental unit now in motion, faculty and students can go out five days a week instead of just four.

Since the sealant initiative’s inception nearly 15 years ago, faculty and dental students have placed sealants on approximately 53,000 teeth – saving patients (and their parents) countless hours of pain and dollars in dental repairs.

In addition to the sealant initiative, TAMBCD dental and dental hygiene students have hosted on-campus sealant events twice a year for the past 16 years. The Asian-American Dental Society Bi-Annual Sealant and Prophy Day is a free, Saturday event which brings together faculty, residents, students, staff and alumni as well as predental students from Austin College, Baylor University, University of Texas at Arlington, University of Texas at Dallas and the University of North Texas.

Parents can bring can bring their children to receive this free service simply by calling to schedule an appointment.

“We have been able to reach so many families because of the unselfish and generous support we receive from TAMBCD, the dental community and our community partners,” said Dr. Loulou Moore, associate professor in restorative sciences and faculty adviser for the Asian-American Dental Society. “Our volunteers sacrifice their weekend to provide a service to children that will offer lasting benefits.”

“The ADS biannual sealant day is a huge success because of their dedication and willingness to give back to the community, especially to our youngest patients.”

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