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

The Top 7 Podcasts of THE NEXTDDS.com

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Mon, Jun 04, 2018 @ 03:33 PM

Over the years, THE NEXTDDS has done numerous podcast interviews with students, established dentists, and other dental professionals. Many interviewees have shared thoughts regarding the dental school journey and their mentors. Here are 7 favorite interviews according to readers of THE NEXTDDS.

 Top7Podcasts

 

Dr Mykel Anderson (February 2016)

Dr Mykel Anderson ’17, a graduate of Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health, is currently enrolled in an Orthodontics Residency program at Roseman University of Health Sciences. In 2016, as a 3rd-year student, she spoke with THE NEXTDDS about the importance of digital education in dental school, experiences that influenced her to pursue dentistry, and her rewarding outreach trip to South Africa.

 

Gary Kadi (August 2017)

Gary Kadi is the CEO and founder of The Next Level Practice. In 2017, Mr. Kadi sat down with THE NEXTDDS and discussed his 3-fold perspective of the common challenges most dental students experience, his Treatment-Decision Matrix, and the importance of business and teamwork. His interview was broken into 2 parts. Listen to the second here.

 

Dr Emma Guzman (April 2016)

Dr Emma Guzman ’17, a graduate of the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine,  is now a Dental Resident at the Bronx Lebanon Hospital Center. In her 2016 interview, Guzman discussed her first patient experience, her meaningful mission trip to the Dominican Republic, and her unique story of how she first became interested in dentistry.  Listen to the second half of her interview here.

 

Dr Mai-Ly Duong (April 2017)

Dr Mai-Ly Duong is a general dentist and Assistant Professor at the Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health. Recently, she was listed on the American Dental Association’s 10 Under 10 List for her excellent work in the field. In an interview with THE NEXTDDS, she shared why she strives to make a change in the dental profession.

 

Dr Nick Letteri (March 2016)

Dr Nick Letteri ’17 is a graduate of LECOM School of Dental Medicine and currently works out of a DSO-supported practice in Tampa Bay, Florida. As a 3rd-year student, he sat down with THE NEXTDDS to express why social media is incredibly important for dental students and professionals alike. He also discussed how attending a mission trip in 8th grade led him to pursue dentistry.

 

Dr Jeri McCombs (May 2016)

Dr Jeri McCombs ’16 is a graduate of the Chicago College of Dentistry at the University of Illinois. She is currently a practicing dentist at Beaver Dam Dental in Chicago. On the cusp of her graduation, she spoke with THE NEXTDDS about her award-winning presentation of her case study at the American Prosthodontists Annual Session.

 

Pamela Ibeto (December 2017)

Pamela Ibeto ’19 is approaching her 4th year at Howard University School of Dentistry. After completing her GPR, she plans to open a private practice with her sister. In her interview, Pamela spoke about the importance of shadowing, maintaining good oral health, and her then-upcoming outreach trip to Nigeria. She also shares how she plans to improve the patient experience in a very interesting way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: digital, dental education, dentistry, continuing education, social media, philanthropy, networking, oral health

Dentistry and the Importance of Problem Solving

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Wed, Jun 07, 2017 @ 01:00 PM

iStock_000055038294_Small.jpgAs a dental student, you already know that becoming a dentist means making critical decisions. With diagnosis and treatment planning, there are many options that are presented for any given patient who finds him or herself in your chair. Being indecisive is no place for a dentist, and both your patients and your future practice team lies their trust in you. The more training and continued education that you receive while in school, the more your confidence grows as the right decisions are made during a young career.

The ability to identify problems and implement solutions is a dentist’s bread and butter. Problem solving can go beyond your patients and find its way into managing your team, running your small business, or any other billing or marketing issues that may arise when you find yourself as a practice owner. In any event, one can use the following breakdown to combat these common challenges.

Identify the Underlying Problem

You can’t solve a problem without first defining the underlying cause. Ask yourself, is this problem a consequence of a larger issue? Focusing on the root cause will make it easier to determine solutions, rather than patching up inconsequential difficulties or other minor inconsistencies. It might take some time, but if you see the complete picture you can more accurately determine a solution from it. Whether it’s inner-office politics or a hiccup in a report, searching for that overarching problem should be your first step.

Have Many Solutions

Once you have identified the problem, don’t rush into the first solution that pops into your head. If you act too soon, you might not be considering the best possible answer. Instead, find alternative solutions—this may open more doors for compromises, and leave everyone involved with a “win-win”. When you have options, you might be able to see which solutions have the least amount of repercussions, and decide from there. Of course, if a problem doesn’t allow for these alternatives, then your first reaction has to be used.

Planning

Don’t keep the problem to yourself, or push your preferred solution. Hear out how team members might approach, and discuss how your options will play out in the long-term. Not only will it generate more options for tackling the problem, but talking it over with your staff will help build team trust and leadership. Your staff will certainly appreciate it. Once that’s in place, begin to see how each option will look in full motion, and implement the one that has the greatest gain with the lowest risk.

Implement and Evaluation

When in the implementation process, assess what responsibilities and outcomes will be expected. Does your staff need to know? What are some adjustments that need to be made when the solution is reached? What can you change to prevent this problem from recurring? You’ll find that many “soft skills” will be implemented here as well, and reevaluation should be your last step. How well is your solution working? Does a new plan need to be implemented? Is the problem ultimately solved? If things are not working out, take a step back for reevaluation. Luckily, if you’ve followed these recommendations, you’ll have many options in place, and consider alternatives to finally solve that problem.

Dental students are expected to problem solve almost every day. But have you had the time to think about whether or not your problem-solving skills are effective? Becoming a part of the healthcare profession means being a leader in your chosen field. With maturity, accountability, and a little bit of courage, dental students can find themselves reaching their fullest potential as new leaders. There’s no better time to acquire these problem-solving tools once you prepare to enter a new semester. Start your leadership skills off right!

Find more helpful information by enrolling in THE NEXTDDS

Further reading:

The 4 Most Effective Ways Leaders Solve Problems

Problem Solving Skills

Seven Steps for Effective Problem Solving in the Workplace

How To Solve Problems - Techniques of Problem Solving

Problem Solving

Tags: dentistry, treatment planning, problem solving

Why Photography is Important in Dentistry

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Fri, Dec 16, 2016 @ 01:01 PM


Looking ahead to your career in dentistry, one begins to think of the major aspects that surround a practitioner’s life. Between working one-on-one with patients, running your small business, marketing your future practice (making sure to be aware of new trends and technologies in the marketplace), and increasing your skills, it can seem like nothing can go at the wayside. But have you thought lately about photography, and specifically how much of an important factor it plays in dentistry?

Photography’s use in dentistry cannot be understated. When it comes to practice marketing, no better tool is at the dentist’s disposal. With so much weight put on new business and production, constantly working towards getting new patients in while retaining existing patients, photography can be a good way to communicate directly towards healthcare consumers and support a healthy online presence.

griffin-presentation.jpgA recent presentation from Dr. Jack Griffin, well-respected clinician, author, and educator entitled, “Excellence in Digital Photography & Case Acceptance,” explains how quality photographs support your future practice and help you communicate effectively with your patients. Here’s how to use dental photography to help market your future dental practice:

Photos Over Words

You don’t want to drive a text-heavy marketing message, as consumers and visitors will not be too keen on sticking around to read all your information. In this fast-paced world of social media, it’s challenging to keep users and visitors on your content for long. Lead with photos and let them do the talking. If they’re of good quality and the text adds in pertinent details about the type of care provided, you’ll be queued up to engage visitors.

Smartphone Friendly

Keeping with the times and being optimized for mobile browsers is key. With smartphones and so many easily distracting elements to online usage and screen time, it’s important to hook the consumers in right away with photos to keep them on your practice website or social accounts. With Instagram and other photo-centric apps and technologies at the forefront of current trends, it’s easy to see why taking and developing good quality photos will help you win over your fans and followers. Not only does it allow you to establish your bona fides as a clinician, but photos also allow you to demonstrate the personality of the practice and its staff when posted for convenient viewing.

Themes

griffin-office-photo-presentation.jpgIf you have a knack for design, then there are plenty of opportunities to have some fun with your practice marketing and content! Build a logo or structure your future practice on color schemes or designs. For holidays or other important events, give your colors and design a nice upgrade to welcome the coming traditions. Consistency in keeping to a theme or major design tactic will allow better flow when it comes to your marketing principals. If this is not a skill set you have, there are experienced dental website designers and consultants to guide your vision to the desktops and mobile devices of your prospective patients. Request a referral to a provider and start from there.

It’s easy to forget about how much marketing plays a huge role in the success of your future practice. However, it’s one of the most important ways you are going to get new patients to schedule appointments and build your practice. Compared to your clinical training, it’s not that hard to do! Be aware of how visual marketing has become and you will have great ideas of how to best evoke the philosophies and culture of your future practice. Have fun with it!

Tags: dentistry, marketing, photography, digital photography

Giving Back Through Dental Care

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Tue, Nov 29, 2016 @ 11:00 AM

Male-dentist-shaking-hands-with-patient-resize.jpgThe role of the dentist as caregiver or healer is an important consideration for many dental students pursuing a career in dentistry. While the dental profession provides an excellent salary to its clinicians, it is the compassionate and humanitarian aspects of dentistry that appeal to many entering the field. As Thanksgiving approaches, the spirit of giving back is in the heart and minds of dental students across the U.S. Let us look at several organizations that allow you to provide dental services to undeserved communities.

Give Kids a Smile is a charitable program launched by the American Dental Association in 2003. The focus of the event is to provide free dental care for underserved children all over the country. The program has been a staggering success, with over five million kids receiving free oral health services since its inception. About 10,000 dentists and 30,000 other dental team members provide their dental services annually. Give Kids a Smile is credited for raising national awareness about the importance of oral health and overall health and the fact that millions of children do not receive dental care.

Roseman University of Health Sciences College of Dental Medicine student Mohammed Bawany ('17) participated in the school’s “Give Kids a Smile” event. In an interview with THE NEXTDDS, Mohammad said; When I reflect back to the ‘Give Kids a Smile’ event, I think of the atmosphere in general in which everyone was there for a single cause and doing their best to try to help some of these people get access to care.”

Mission of Mercy is a non-profit organization who goal is to restore dignity and “healing through love” at mobile clinics, providing free health care and medications. The organization has been providing free healthcare since 1994, and over 25,000 patients are served each year. On November 15 of this year, Mission of Mercy’s Texas branch participated in the 8th Annual Coastal Bend Day of Giving.

THE NEXTDDS Student Ambassador Megan Golia (University of Maryland School of Dentistry, '17) attended Maryland’s Mission of Mercy Dental Program. She stated in a blog written about the altruistic event; “The event was unlike anything I have ever experienced, and I really felt a sense of love and community among everyone there. I assisted alongside dental professionals who cared for the patients like they were family, and it was rewarding to see the impact we made in people’s lives.”

Donated Dental Services (DDS) is a program through the Dental Lifeline Network that connects volunteer dentists with disabled, elderly individuals who cannot afford proper dental treatment. The program operates through a volunteer network of more than 15,000 dentists and 3,700 dental labs across the United States. Since its commencement in 1985, DDS has aided over 117,000 people. DDS operates a program in each state. If interested, click here to locate an application for your state.

If you find yourself in the giving spirit for the holidays, volunteer your service to those who need it. The organizations listed above have greatly helped the lives of thousands of individuals who cannot afford dental care. Dentistry is much more than a lucrative profession, but also a field in which millions of people are positively affected with the restoration of oral and overall health. Dentists do not only provide wellness but also happiness.

 

Tags: dentistry, giving back, dentists giving back, dentistry giving back

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: children, dentistry, halloween, children's health

Your Sneak Peek at 3D Printing for Dentistry

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Fri, Aug 26, 2016 @ 01:00 PM

dental-model-in-3d-printer.jpgFor decades, clinicians have relied on dental materials in the care of their patients. These materials have been continuously refined by researchers, simplifying their application, improving their aesthetics, and expanding their longevity. Today, research and development concentrates on the processes used in dentistry, and digital solutions have become more pervasive in daily patient care. One such example of digital dentistry is three-dimensional (3D) printing.

Despite being invented in the 1980s, 3D printing has only recently been accepted as a technology applicable to dentistry, and it will certainly be interesting to see its growth as it becomes more frequently applied. As 3D printing and the digital workflow continue to influence patient diagnosis and treatment, dental students are on the cusp of having these technologies become mainstays of their education and future practices. Dr. Perry Jones’ recent webinar for THE NEXTDDS, “Digital Scanning in Invisalign Therapy & Implant Dentistry”, offers some insight on how this digital technology works.

What is 3D Printing?

As opposed to the subtraction process involved in milling blocks (zirconia, lithium disilicate, etc.), 3D printing is an additive manufacturing process. Using plastics and polymer, materials are cured by several different methods of laser technology, processed differently depending on printer. A 3D printer starts from the bottom up, building thin layers bit by bit as each preceding polymer layer is cured, dried, and solidified. At present, 3D printing can produce objects from liquids, solids, powders, and even human tissue!

Three-dimensional printing is accomplished through three primary methods:

  • Stereolithography (SLA);
  • Digital light process (DLP), and
  • Material jetting.

With an SLA printer, a laser is projected against a scanning mirror and directed downwards into a container of liquid resin to cure the material. A DLP printer works in much the same way, instead using a projector instead of a laser source to cure the polymer. Material jetting, or polyjet printing, starts with a tank filled with liquid resin. The liquid is carried by a sophisticated system of tubes to a series of print heads in an extruder, which jets the material onto a platform. Lasers pass by the curing light system to cure the material in successive layers.

The Potential for 3D Printing

In dentistry, 3D printing technology erases the need for stone gypsum. Instead, those materials are replaced with more reliable zirconium and polymer materials, which are stronger than stone, more accurate and durable, and lower in material and labor costs. Some of the patient-specific restorations that can be fabricated with 3D printing include full-arch and canine-to-canine retainers, surgical prosthetic guides, pontic and sleep appliances, removable partial dentures, minor tooth movement, occlusal guards and athletic mouthguards, bleaching trays, and provisional matrix appliances.

Personalized Healthcare

The consumerization of healthcare means that patients want greater convenience and comfort when it comes to their dental care. Digital dentistry and other rapidly evolving technologies allow treatment to be more efficient and consistent for both the practitioner and the patient. As the development of these technologies continue, practitioners will have a first-hand opportunity to witness a revolution in the way dentistry is practiced.

To learn more about 3D digital scanning, listen to the rest of Dr. Perry Jones’ webinar here.

 

Join 14,000+ Students! Enroll in THE NEXTDDS now

Tags: dentistry, 3d printing

Top 5 Student Ambassador Blogs of 2015

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Wed, Jan 13, 2016 @ 12:00 PM

best-of-sa-blogs-thumbs.pngThroughout the year, THE NEXTDDS Student Ambassadors develop outstanding blog content that help their fellow student’s with practice management, dental school, or a certain dentistry-related topic. We complied the top 5 Student Ambassador blogs of 2015 and made them easily accessible in a downloadable piece. Check them out!

 

How to Survive Your First Year of Dental School

Most of you have been in this situation and some of you may be approaching this situation, but don’t fret! Student Ambassador, Justine, from The Ohio State University College of Dentistry, shares her top 4 tips for surviving your first year of dental school. For incoming students, take some notes! Justine’s words of advice are helpful! And fellow student peers, share your own tips that helped you survive your first year!

Download Blog Post

 

An Experience with Interprofessional Education

Student Ambassador, Lyn Wilson, from Augusta University’s Dental College of Georgia, was given the unique opportunity to help teach first year medical students how to perform head and neck examinations as well as oral cancer screening exams. She discusses her experience and how it can help develop rapport and respect for different healthcare professions. Find out more on the experience!

Download Blog Post

 

CAD/CAM: Ceramics for Every Situation

There are 4 leading ceramics on the market today, so how do you know which one will suit your patient’s needs the best? Molly Stice, Student Ambassador from Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine, goes over the features of each type to make sure you pick the right ceramic for your patient’s replacement.

Download Blog Post

 

Controversy Surrounding Live Patient-Based Examinations

Back in April, Student Ambassador, Paul Dyrkacz, wrote an exceptional blog that brought to light the issues that surround the use of live patients for licensure. He also highlights that there is no uniform licensure across the nation, and, instead, dental students looking to be able to practice in multiple states may need to take different licensure examinations to practice.

Download Blog Post

 

It’s OK to Ask for Help

Finishing off the year with a bang was Yale Cho’s, Student Ambassador from University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry, blog about asking for help. Sometimes we let our pride get in the way or believe we will be judged or persecuted if we are struggling personally or educational-wise. Yale, without going into too much detail of his significant life changes, discusses why it is okay to ask for help and gives some great tips that he was given by his clinic manager.

Download Blog Post

 

Want to have unrestricted access to the rest of these great blogs by fellow classmates and more? Enroll now with THE NEXTDDS! It's completely free for dental students!

Enroll Now!

 

Tags: dentistry, dental school, best of, CAD/CAM, interprofessional education

5 Tips on Identifying & Communicating with Eating Disorder Dental Patients

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Wed, Oct 28, 2015 @ 01:00 PM

Student Ambassador Blog
by Andrea Sauerwein

dentist-with-patientAs rising dental professionals, it is crucial to remember that in addition to focusing on our patients’ oral health we may also be the first to identify and intercede with issues extending beyond their smile. Individuals tend to present to their dentist more regularly than their physician, emphasizing our role as advocates for patients’ overall health and wellbeing. These could involve eating disorders, substance-abuse disorders, obstructive sleep apnea, as well as domestic violence. Clinical signs and symptoms are apparent in some cases: erosion patterns of enamel due to acidic regurgitation, softened tooth structure and rampant caries due to “meth mouth,” fractured or avulsed teeth due to trauma. However, not all patients are forthcoming and willing to divulge the honest cause behind these oral problems. The question posed is how do we broach such a sensitive subject when patients are not forthcoming of their medical history or personal events, specifically the sensitive subject of eating disorders?

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, studies have found up to 89% of bulimic patients have signs of tooth erosion, due to the effects of stomach acid. Bad breath, sensitive teeth and eroded tooth enamel are just a few of the signs that dentists use to determine whether a patient suffers from an eating disorder. Other signs include teeth that are worn and appear almost translucent, mouth sores, dry mouth, cracked lips, bleeding gums, and tender mouth, throat and salivary glands.  

Kristi Hatfield, RD, MS, provides some tips on communicating with such patients you may suspect of covering up a history of eating disorder:

  • Start by asking if he or she has had a history with acid reflux. GERD typically affects the posterior (more so with maxillary) lingual aspects, whereas bulimia displays a pattern of mainly anterior lingual erosion. Trauma to the maxillary anterior may be evident (i.e. fractured incisal edges or mobility).
  • Don’t be afraid to use the word “bulimia.” Ask the question with compassion, but also with confidence. The more uncomfortable you appear, the more timid and closed off the patient will be.
  • It is essential to pose your discussion in a non-judgmental manner. Aim to build trust between you and the patient and avoid “coaching” him or her. Shame and denial are tightly linked to bulimia nervosa, and an individual may not be ready to open up to you at the initial exam.

It is critical to share your clinical findings with the patient and explain how their symptoms are linked. Make sure to:

  • Discuss with the patient the reason his or her dentition is in such state is due to a problem that needs to be identified.
  • Emphasize that no dental work can be performed to permanently remedy their dentition until such cause is recognized and treated.
The goal here is to cultivate motivation within the patient.  If a patient still appears reluctant to admitting a possible eating disorder, request a medical consult with their physician.

Compliance may be difficult to achieve, as an eating disorder can span many years. Eating disorders often goes through quiet and active phases, and dental professionals must be supportive throughout. Ultimately, communication is key to achieving any level of success. The sooner you can form a trusting relationship with your patient, the better your chances of aiding them in tackling this destructive psychological problem, and the better the outcome.

Find more helpful information by enrolling in THE NEXTDDS

Tags: dentistry, treatment planning, eating disorders, patient communication, diagnosing

The Chicago Dental Society Mentorship Program

Posted by John Papa on Fri, Feb 27, 2015 @ 02:54 PM

“One of the most rewarding parts about this program is when the mentor becomes the mentee.”

These were the words of Dr. Clark Stanford, new Dean of the University of Illinois at Chicago, one of two schools that participates in the CDS Mentorship Program (the other being Midwestern – Illinois). Students and faculty from both schools were in attendance at the CDS Midwinter meeting “Mentorship Luncheon”. This lunch event, sponsored by the Chicago Dental Society, was the first chance that many of the students from these schools got to meet their mentor face to face and shake his/her hand.

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Dr. David Kumamoto runs the mentorship program at Midwestern University. Dr. Kumamoto is an adjunct professor at Midwestern, a former faculty member at UIC, and he maintains a general dentistry practice in Chicago. Dr. Kumamoto was involved in the program during his time at UIC, and carried the tradition with him to Midwestern. Currently, there are approximately 45 students at Midwestern and nearly 200 students at UIC enrolled in the mentorship program.

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Interestingly, Dr. Kumamoto and his counterpart at UIC, Ms. Millie Mendez-Garcia (Director of Student Affairs for UIC Dental) work hard to make sure that students from each university are NOT paired with a faculty member mentor from his/her own university, but with someone from outside the familiar confines of their school.

Other than a possible conflict of interest, Ms. Mendez (who manually pairs every applicant student with a mentor herself), explained the reasoning behind this to me as such: “The faculty within the schools are supposed to serve as mentors to their own students.”

Ms. Mendez explained that any student of any year at either university can apply for a mentor, and that no students are turned away from the program. Both students and potential mentors are required to apply for the program through the CDS’ website. Ms. Mendez and her team then try to pair mentors with mentees who share similar interests or desired specialty areas. For instance, a student interested in Implantololgy might be paired with a local implant dentist, or a student interested in joining a group practice might be paired with a dentist who is a member of a group practice.

The purpose of this program, as alluded to earlier, is to help students discover what paths they want to pursue outside the bounds of the general dental school curriculum. Students also have the option to change their mentor at any time if their interests change, or if they find they have a better connection with a different practitioner. Mentors are not exclusive to one student either; the record for mentees currently stands at 4 at one time according to Ms. Mendez.

Outside of the official luncheon event at the CDS Midwinter, the mentor program does not hold official events. Once the relationship is formed, it is the responsibility of the mentor and the mentee to maintain it. Some of these relationships may last a professional lifetime, while others may not have the sticking power to continue outside of dental school. Nevertheless, the potential that the program offers new students just entering the profession to learn from a seasoned veteran who has already forged his of her own career path cannot be understated.

Tags: chicago, dental students, CDS, mentor, Chicago dental society, mentorship, dentistry

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