Bulletin of Dental Education

Dentistry in the News - June 2012

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Oral Bacteria May Influence Joint Failures

The culprit behind a failed hip or knee replacement may exist in the oral cavity, according to a new study in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology (JCR). DNA testing of bacteria from the fluid that lubricates hip and knee joints had bacteria with the same DNA as the plaque from patients with periodontal disease and in need of a joint replacement, according to researchers from the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine (JCR April 2012, Vol. 18, No.3, pp. 117-121). 

Working with University Hospitals Case Medical Center researchers, the dental, orthopedic, and arthritis researchers suggest the bacteria might be the reason why aseptic loosening or prosthetic wear causes the artificial joints to fail within 10 years when no infection appears to be present. 

Dr. Nabil Bissada, Chair of the Department of Periodontics at the Dental School, says the objective of the study was to see if bacteria like Fusobacterium nucleatum and Serratia proteamaculans found in patients with periodontal disease were present in the fluid. 

He and his colleagues studied 36 patients seeking care at the University Hospitals Case Medical Center for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. These patients had both natural and artificial joints and signs of periodontitis and had undergone exams where dental plaque was obtained for the study. 

The researchers used polymerase chain reactions and DNA sequence analysis of specific genes (16S-23S rRNA) to detect bacteria in the plaque and joint fluid. Five of the 36 patients (14%) showed direct DNA links between the bacteria in the fluid and plaque from the mouth: one from a rheumatoid arthritis patient with a failed natural joint, one rheumatoid arthritis patient with a failed replacement joint, two osteoarthritis patients with failed artificial joints, and one osteoarthritis patient with a failed natural joint. For more information, please click  here

UCLA Dental Student Recounts Experience Surviving Mount Everest

Mr. Lindley Zerbe had just flown overseas to start his career as a research scientist at the National University of Singapore after graduating from Stanford. Then he got an email that would permanently change his career path. 

The university, it said, wanted to send a team of students and staff to the summit of Mount Everest in celebration of its centennial. “I couldn’t believe what I was reading,” Mr. Zerbe says. “I knew I had to do it.” 

Now a fourth-year student at the UCLA School of Dentistry, Mr. Zerbe trained for more than two and a half years in preparation for the expedition in 2005. His decision to act as the team’s medic, however, altered his fate. The excitement of applying preventative medicine techniques and helping others spurred Mr. Zerbe to pursue dentistry upon his return to the United States, he says. One team member was needed to learn to treat altitude sickness and common injuries on the climb, and Mr. Zerbe volunteered. 

On the team’s many treks, Mr. Zerbe used leftover supplies to treat patients at local clinics and hikers from other groups. On a training hike in Pakistan, for example, he repaired a broken crown for a Polish hiker with extreme mouth pain. 

Mr. Zerbe recounted his journey to the summit in a presentation at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), School of Dentistry on April 25, 2012, after encouragement from Dr. Carol Bibb, Associate Dean at the UCLA School of Dentistry. 

During two and a half years, the National University of Singapore whittled a list of 100 candidates down to the five who would tackle Mount Everest. Overnight boot camp, psychological tests, and training in the mountains of New Zealand resulted in Mr. Zerbe, a Malaysian, and three Singaporeans becoming the victors. The climb took the team three months to complete. In the course of the climb, some experiences were life-threatening, Mr. Zerbe says. 

Mr. Zerbe and the Sherpa traveling with him were completing an acclimatization hike and heading toward base camp. Mr. Zerbe heard what sounded like a jet engine behind him and turned to find a 3-foot-wide boulder rocketing over his footsteps. He ducked behind a ledge, forever thankful his team had opted to leave their iPods at home in favor of open ears, he says. “That was a moment of sheer terror,” Mr. Zerbe says. “The small decision not to wear headphones saved my life.” 

Aside from learning to appreciate his life, Mr. Zerbe says he also learned to appreciate people’s diversity—an outlook that he hopes to bring into his future dental practice. His team faced tensions at first due to cultural differences. Mr. Zerbe says they would often attribute his opinions to the fact that he was an American, without considering his personal point of view. But a series of talks and a journey up the world’s tallest mountain soon dissolved a network of conflicts into strong cross-cultural friendships, he says. 

At UCLA, Mr. Zerbe has contributed much as a leader, says Dr. Ronald Mito, Associate Dean at the dentistry school. Mr. Zerbe acted as a representative for his class to the California Dental Association, mentored younger students, and honed his leadership skills in the Dean’s Leadership Institute. 

“Lindley brings a certain maturity to the dental school family,” Dr. Mito says. “He has a sense of what it takes to accomplish something the average person would consider impossible.” For more information, please click  here . 

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