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

3 Reasons Why Dental Caries are Prevalent in Pediatric Patients

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Wed, Jun 28, 2017 @ 01:00 PM

caries-1.jpgAs reported by the National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research, 42% of children between the ages of 2 and 11 have had dental caries in their primary teeth, with that percentage increasing for multicultural children and those from low income families.1 Many circumstances beyond the child’s control predispose him or her to dental caries. In order to take preventive measures with your adolescent patients, it is important to know what you can do as a practitioner to identify at-risk patients. Just as important, understanding the etiology of dental cases should also be on the mind of every dentist.

With diagnostic technology advancing and preventive measures, such as fluoride, readily available, why do dental caries continue to be prevalent among children? Courtesy of educator and pediatric dentist Dr. Greg Psaltis, here are some reasons why dental caries continue to affect pediatric patients.

The Vulnerable Population

To start, it’s important to focus on how the vulnerable population (e.g., patients of low socioeconomic status) is different from the rest of the population. Children who are at a higher risk for dental caries often have oral health needs that are unmet and untreated.2 Those from minority groups3 or are of special needs4 have an even tougher time obtaining adequate treatment. Without consistent treatment, vulnerable communities have a lack of self-care instructions, have no “dental home,” and no overall oral health education.

Early_Childhood_Caries.jpgWith limited access to care, caries in pediatric patients don’t get properly diagnosed, which continues this trend of neglected treatment. As treatment for dental caries is delayed, the child's condition worsens and becomes more difficult, the cost of treatment increases, and the number of clinicians who can perform the more complicated procedures diminishes.5

Geographic Disparities

There’s a major disparity between the geographic distribution of dentists and where dental care is most needed. While many dental students show interest in practicing in urban and rural areas,6 there is still a lack of dentists presently in these areas. In rural Southern and Midwestern states, for example, patients have to travel far to see a dentist, particularly one that takes Medicaid insurance. The ADA’s Health Policy Institute recently introduced a detailed, interactive map that lays out the geographic access to dental care within each state in the U.S.

To counteract this unfortunate reality, many dental schools, educational grants, and organizations such as dental support organizations look to turn dental students towards the advantages of practicing in these areas, often through loan repayment programs. For many, the idea of being financially supported to work in an underserved community, while also possibly having more production than a more competitive state (e.g. California) is a compelling offer. With more dental schools opening to address these geographical shortages in dentists, students now are more aware of these disparities than ever before.

Federal Insurance Programs

While the number of children under Medicaid and similar insurance coverages has increased over the years, with more children insured now than ever before, it’s not always easy to find providers. Because of the low reimbursements options that are offered to dentists through these coverages, some dentists refuse to see patients that have this insurance. With dental caries rampant amongst pediatric patients and families that are of a low socioeconomic status,2,3 Medicaid is often the only affordable and appropriate coverage for these patients. This stalemate between low-income families and available Medicaid dentists continues to thwart the improvement of children in vulnerable communities.

 

Dental caries affects millions of pediatric patients. The question lies in how this disease can best be managed in young populations, with a heavier lens on those that have direct barriers to access. Without the combined efforts of both the knowledgeable dentist and the continued improvement to healthcare systems, children in these vulnerable communities and areas will continue to be at a high risk. When these parties come together to overcome these barriers to care, children will be better cared for and better educated on the importance of sustaining their oral health.

Watch the "Importance of Oral Hyigene for the Pediatrice Patient" Webinar

References

1. Dental Caries (Tooth Decay) in Children (Age 2 to 11). National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/DataStatistics/FindDataByTopic/DentalCaries/DentalCariesChildren2to11.htm. Published May 28, 2014. Accessed June 12, 2017.

2. Grant J, Peters A. Children's Dental Health Disparities. The Pew Charitable Trusts. http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/analysis/2016/02/16/childrens-dental-health-disparities. Published February 16, 2016. Accessed June 12, 2017.

3. Swann BJ. Impact of Racial Disparities. Perspectives on the Midlevel Practitioner. http://www.dimensionsofdentalhygiene.com/ddhnoright.aspx?id=23960 Published October 2016. Accessed June 12, 2017.

4. Mitchell JM, Gaskin DJ. Dental Care Use and Access for Special Needs Children. Maternal and Child Health Research Program. https://mchb.hrsa.gov/research/documents/finalreports/mitchellR40mc04296FinalReport.pdf. Published March 2007. Accessed June 12, 2017.

5. Çolak H, Dülgergil ÇT, Dalli M, Hamidi MM. Early childhood caries update: A review of causes, diagnoses, and treatments. Journal of Natural Science, Biology, and Medicine. 2013;4(1):29-38. doi:10.4103/0976-9668.107257.

6. Sweeney SE, Groves RM. 2016. The changing dental career landscape: The impact of dental school graduates’ pathway into the profession. Mahwah, NJ: Next Media Group. Accessed November 23, 2016. Available at http://thenextmediagroup.com/shop/researches/

Tags: children's health, Early Childhood Caries, caries, dental caries, pediatric patients

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