THE NEXTDDS Blog

University of Utah Graduate Alex Piedra Discusses His Dental School Experience & Post-Graduation Plans

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Fri, Jul 13, 2018 @ 09:07 AM

24058800_1378101282300794_8764131376291630063_nAt this time of the year, dental school graduates are prepping themselves for the professional dental world. One of those students is Alex Piedra, who recently completed his 4th year at the University of Utah School of Dentistry. In this interview with THE NEXTDDS, he discusses his dental school experience, his post graduation plans, and what he plans to contribute to the profession.

THE NEXTDDS: What does the field of dentistry mean to you?

AP: Dentistry is a field where you can really change a life in many ways. One way is helping a patient smile. Also, proper dentistry is a way to fight one of the biggest infections that we have in the mouth, which is dental caries. It’s incredibly important for dentists to combat that infection.

THE NEXTDDS: Explain the difference between “fixing” and “prevention.”

AP: Prevention is key. Upon graduating from dental school, I will be going to a pediatric dental residency. As a pediatric dentist, I want to help kids have a positive dental experience and show them the proper ways to brush their teeth and take care of their mouth so they do not develop caries later in life.

THE NEXTDDS: What did you enjoy the most about dental school?

AP: I simply loved working toward a profession that has the ability to change the lives of others. I also greatly enjoyed developing relationships with my fellow students, as well as with patients and faculty. I realized the world is smaller than we think and that we can really make a change in our patient’s lives.

THE NEXTDDS: Very understandable! What role did social media or educational sites play in your dental education?

AP: I feel that a lot of us were able to visit certain social media platforms to watch procedures, just to see how they were exactly executed. I’ve read online articles and listened to audiobooks to find out about the business aspect of dentistry. The digital aspect of dentistry has helped students in several ways.

THE NEXTDDS: Absolutely! How do you see yourself improving the patient experience?

AP: I would focus on creating an amazing environment for them. If I were to own a private practice, I would make sure my hygienists, assistants, and front desk manager are all motivated to create an environment that’s inviting and friendly. I want my patients to look forward to follow-up visits. I want to make it a special experience for every patient who walks in to my office.

THE NEXTDDS: Great idea! During your tenure as a student, did you take advantage of dental outreach opportunities? 

AP: Of course! I grew up in an environment in Washington where we had a core community and I remember not seeing a dentist or doctor as a child growing up. Our community helped me and my family a great deal during this time. Dental outreach became very important to me and I feel inclined to give back to the community through education or clinical work to those who cannot afford treatment. I plan to continue giving back once I complete my residency.

THE NEXTDDS: That’s very honorable of you. What key challenges did you face as a dental student?

AP: During my first and second years of school, I felt there was a lot of material to learn in a short amount of time, which was very overwhelming. Managing my time adequately and balancing my personal and school life was very challenging. I was in school from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM and would study from 6:00 PM until midnight, then wake up at 4:00 AM. It took a while for me to acclimate myself to that routine.

THE NEXTDDS: That’s definitely a challenge! What is your philosophy on how oral health relates to overall health?

AP: Oral health is the gateway to understanding your body’s overall health. There are a lot of research studies that link xerostomia, dental caries, and even cancer to poor oral health. Activity in the mouth in terms of poor oral health may be an early precursor or indicator of what is going on in the rest of the body.

THE NEXTDDS: What are your post-graduation plans?

AP: I plan to do a pediatric dental residency for 2 years. I hope to see a lot of children and give them the proper treatment they need, because they are our future. I’ll be speaking with them and figuring out how I may best serve them and give them the best oral health experience. I want to create an environment in which the kids look forward to returning for appointments and hopefully, they share their experience with others. Watching kids return one by one, over the years until they become adults with no cavities would be awesome!

THE NEXTDDS: It surely would be! What do you think you will contribute to the dentistry profession?

AP: I want to change the way we think about dentistry. Sometimes, I feel that we only focus on the teeth and oral cavity, but we need to remember that there is a person attached to those teeth. My goal is to constantly create a good experience for my patients. Also, I want other dentists to understand that every person in that chair has a life, goals, and aspirations as well, so we need to uplift them. I want every one of my patients, adult or child, to feel inspired when they leave that dental chair. We need to create that positive environment for them so they walk out with a smile.

THE NEXTDDS: What a great way to end this interview! Alex, thank you taking the time to speak with us and a special CONGRATULATIONS from all of us at THE NEXTDDS for completing dental school! We wish you much success in your future endeavors!

 

Tags: new dentists, disease prevention, oral health, patient trust, children's health, pediatric patients, dentistry, children, outreach, graduate, dental caries

HEALTH-O-WEEN, Keeping the Dentist & Doctor Away

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Thu, Oct 27, 2016 @ 11:00 AM

candy-around-pumpkins.jpgHalloween is rearing its jack-o-lantern-shaped head and, of course, most kids couldn’t be any more excited. Partaking in costumes and trick-or-treating have become pastimes for American children. Despite the joy of the tradition, however, there is one aspect of the holiday that the adolescents love but their dentists may hate: sugar-based candy. With Halloween being ages old, maybe it’s time to start a new, healthy tradition for Halloween treats?

As future dentists, surely we all know the negative effects of sugar on the dentition—dental caries being the obvious result. Young children are largely affected by this disease. As report by Carifree.com, 52 million school hours are lost each year due to dental disease. Also, by age 11, 50% of kids experience tooth decay. According to the National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research, 42% of children 2 to 11 have had dental caries in their primary teeth and 23% of children 2 to 11 have untreated caries.

Indulging in Snickers, Skittles, Hershey bars, candy corn, etc. may not be too harmful to children if consumed in moderation. As future dental professionals, however, we still need to acknowledge and cater to adolescents who have cannot eat Halloween candy because of food allergies. According to Foodallergy.org, 1 in 13 children have allegoric reactions (some even life threatening) to certain foods. It doesn’t help that most popular candy bars contain common allergens like nuts, soy, eggs, wheat, and dairy.

tppprofilepicpublic.pngThe Teal Pumpkin Project was launched as a national campaign in 2014 by FARE—Food Allergy Research & Education. The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness about food allergies. This idea is the brainchild of Becky Basalone, Civil Servant and Founder/Director of the Food Allergy Community of East Tennessee. She also the mother of a child with severe food allergies. At Halloween, she decided to hand out alternatives to candy, such as small toys and other non-edible fun treats and created a movement to enable her kids to partake in the holiday.

Teal is the color of choice for Basalone’s project because it is the national color for food allergy awareness. If you are trick-or-treating and see a teal-painted pumpkin on someone’s front yard, do not expect to receive candy. If you’re not sure what to hand out in lieu of sugary snacks, think about other things children enjoy. Crayons, bracelets, markers, necklaces, stickers, bubbles, noisemakers, action figures, and other toys are all good alternatives.

The Teal Pumpkin Project has significantly grown in popularity and is widely embraced by parents around the country. The campaign has reached 5.5 million people on Facebook and attracted national media attention.

This Halloween, let’s make healthy decisions for the children. They can still partake in the joy of the holiday without indulging in junk food. Let’s give them treats that do not negatively affect their oral health or trigger allergies. Breaking tradition in this case should be accepted because the health of our children is worth preserving.

 

Tags: halloween, children's health, children, dentistry

Professor's Perspective: Dental Educator & Clinician John Christensen

Posted by Christina Ferraro on Fri, Dec 12, 2014 @ 05:26 PM

This is the first in a series of interviews highlighting THE NEXTDDS Academic Advisory Board members and their views on dental education today. From their choices in digital tools in the classroom to what advice they would give current dental students, these academicians will weigh in on their experiences.

 

Advisory Board Christensen

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John Christensen, DDS, MS, MS

Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics

 

What is the most rewarding aspect of your dental specialty?

Working with a varied population daily (children and adolescents) who make every appointment different.  You never know what is coming next.

 

What digital or online tools do you use in the classroom or clinical setting?

Digital photos, x-rays, models for orthodontic diagnosis. I use Dolphin software to help work up orthodontic cases.  I use Pubmed, Google scholar alerts for information and education. Dentaltraumaguide.org is the best resource for trauma available.

 

How often do you assign students material that requires online research?

Often, it is a way of getting journal articles without the journal.

 

What advice can you give current dental students nearing graduation who are interested in your specialty?

Visit dentists in the specialty you are considering and observe for more than an afternoon.  Do they seem happy? Challenged? Frustrated?  That tells you a lot about the specialty.

 

Does this generation of students present any unique challenges to educators? 

Yes, the amount of information available to students is almost overwhelming.  Couple that with all the information coming from news, social media, etc. and I think the current generation has a difficult time finding time to focus on the material at hand. Multitasking is not the answer.

 

What do you find to be the most difficult dental concept to teach?

Critical thinking to apply different concepts to a single problem.  Students often know A, know B, and know C.  What they have trouble with is combining A, B, and C to make D which is the best solution to the problem.

 

What digital adjunct materials do you find most useful for students, and for what lessons do you use them?

Dentaltraumaguide.org for resource.  Dolphin Imaging to see what treatment might look like. 

 

Why did you choose your specialty?

Children create another dimension to treatment and that is time.  They change and one needs to understand growth and development to incorporate the changes into the treatment solutions.

 

What do you wish you had known about the dental industry as a whole when you were a student?

My father was a dentist so I knew most of what was happening.  I wish I knew more about where we are going.  Will dentistry and dentists just become technicians providing services or will we continue to be part of the health team?

Tags: children, orthodontic, classroom, student, dental, elearning, educator, online

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