Bulletin of Dental Education

Around the Dental Education Community - July 2011

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Irreplaceable Craniofacial Legacy Images Available Online 

A groundbreaking project centered at the University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry will preserve, digitize, and make available to the public irreplaceable materials from nine major craniofacial research collections from throughout the United States and Canada.

The Craniofacial Growth Legacy Collection, which has been cleared by the American Association of Orthodontics Foundation (AAOF) to move into its second and final stage, will add to the existing collection of longitudinal X-ray images of untreated patients as they matured. A team will compile and add records from other labs and academic institutions.

Once archived, the research collections will be available for viewing by clinicians, craniofacial investigators, students, and interested members of the public. Researchers can access various types of X-rays, growth information, models and other information from untreated patients of various ages and backgrounds.

The records consist largely of standardized X-ray images of the heads and faces of growing children taken annually between the ages of 7 and 20 years. Longitudinal growth records of this kind can no longer be obtained, making the current collection literally irreplaceable. Information from these very sets of records has already provided a substantial portion of knowledge of the differing patterns of craniofacial growth that characterize human development from childhood to physical maturity.

These records, which span from the 1920s to the 1970s, serve as a unique control for the field of orthodontics and clearly display what a patient's craniofacial state was without orthodontic intervention. Access to the records is available on the web at www.AAOFLegacyCollection.org.

"Congratulations to all who have supported and contributed to this unique project," said Dr. Patrick J. Ferrillo, Jr., Dean of the Dugoni School of Dentistry. "I look forward to watching the Craniofacial Legacy Collection continue to grow and become an even more valuable resource for dental professionals and researchers around the world."

UF Researchers Suspect Bacterial Changes in Mouth Promote Oral Disease in People with HIV 

Oral disease occurs commonly and progresses rapidly among people who have HIV, but the process is poorly understood. Researchers suspect that the culprit is a change in the makeup of the bacterial communities that live in the mouth.

Through a one-year grant of almost $330,000 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), researchers at the University of Florida (UF) are trying to find out the role of various pathogens in the progression of oral disease among people infected with HIV.

“The hypothesis is that suppression of the immune system by HIV contributes to changes in the oral biota, which then contributes to oral disease,” said Dr. Gary Wang, Assistant Professor of Infectious Diseases in the UF College of Medicine and principal investigator of the study. “The whole idea is to be able to understand the microbial signature early—before patients develop disease. That could lead to development of novel molecular tools and biomarkers to screen for disease.”

Estimates vary widely, but up to two-thirds of people who have HIV also have periodontitis, according to a literature review in the journal Periodontology 2000. For patients whose immune system is compromised, periodontitis further contributes to poor health by hindering proper nutrition. It also affects the ability to derive pleasure from eating.

“There’s really not a place for an opportunist pathogen to get a foothold,” said Dr. Clay Walker, Professor of Oral Biology in the UF College of Dentistry and co-investigator in the study.

But when the immune response is compromised, as in HIV-infected patients, a shift in the composition of microorganism communities can allow opportunistic pathogens to grow freely. The UF team will examine those changes through a pilot study of HIV-positive and HIV-negative individuals who have chronic periodontitis.

The work is being carried out in collaboration with the Periodontal Disease Research Center, whose director is study co-investigator Dr. Nils Ingvar Magnusson, Professor of Oral Biology in the College of Dentistry.

The researchers will use sophisticated DNA sequencing techniques and bioinformatics to classify bacteria and identify differences between those in the two groups of patients. They also plan to track how bacterial composition in the mouth changes as people’s immune status changes.

“We’re interested in getting a definitive answer on whether there are differences in the bacteria associated with periodontitis in patients with HIV and in patients without HIV,” Walker said.

Previous analyses comparing periodontitis in people with HIV and in people without HIV have found no difference in the bacterial composition in the mouth. But today there are more sensitive molecular tools that have much greater ability to detect subtle differences.

A better knowledge of the microbe population in the mouth would enable the design of antimicrobials that are active against particular species of pathogens.

“If we do find that there are differences between the two, we may be able to use specific treatments to shift the flora or eliminate certain segments that may not be beneficial,” Walker said.

Construction Set for New OHSU School of Dentistry 

The Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) School of Dentistry will build a new home at the OHSU Schnitzer Campus, thanks to significant philanthropic investments from Oregon’s dental community. The new building will allow the school to expand the number of students admitted.

A $43 million funding initiative was launched with a $20 million private philanthropic investment—the largest private contribution in the school’s 112-year history; longtime corporate advocates; and $8 million in additional commitments from donors.

Last year, OHSU convened a blue ribbon panel of experts from across Oregon’s dental community to chart a new course for dental education in Oregon. Seeking to leverage the school’s plan to move preclinical dental education to the OHSU/OUS Collaborative Life Sciences Building under way at the South Waterfront, the panel recommended that the school simultaneously construct a state-of-the-art facility at that location to replace the dental school’s 1950s-era building on Marquam Hill. As a result of strong initial philanthropic support, OHSU President Dr. Joe Robertson recommended the OHSU Board of Directors approve construction of the new dental school facility at their meeting in June.

“Thanks to these transforming investments from Gene and Bonnie Skourtes, Oregon Dental Society, A-dec and so many others, we can initiate an exciting new era for dentistry in Oregon and beyond. Carrying out this vision will enable the school to train more dentists, serve more patients with expanded services, stimulate research and clinical innovation, and create a sustainable funding base,” said Dr. Jack Clinton, Dean of the OHSU School of Dentistry. “We are profoundly grateful to the longtime friends who have stepped up to lead the campaign for our future.”  

Newberg, Oregon-based dental manufacturer A-dec has pledged to outfit the school with state-of-the-art dental equipment valued at $4.35 million.

“This is truly a measure of the strength and loyalty of Oregon’s dental community,” said OHSU Foundation President Allan Price. “These exceptional philanthropic partners have recognized the historic opportunity before us and invested at the perfect time. They are helping to transform dental education and the practice of dentistry. We are now more than halfway toward achieving our goal of raising $43 million in private philanthropic contributions to support the vision.”

Tunxis Dental Hygiene Students and Faculty Help Those Without Access to Dental Care 

Close to 100 dental hygiene students, faculty, and alumni of Tunxis Community College recently volunteered their services for the Connecticut Mission of Mercy’s (CTMOM) fourth annual clinic in Waterbury, Connecticut.

The large-scale, multi-chair dental clinic provides free dental care to the underserved and uninsured in Connecticut, and is one of several community-based learning experiences in which Tunxis dental hygiene students participate each year.

Tunxis faculty and alumni who are registered dental hygienists provided patient care, while students assisted the hygienists and helped with set-up, X-rays, oral hygiene instruction, sterilization, and triage.

“When we saw the large number of Tunxis alumni who volunteered, it really demonstrated that the Tunxis dental hygiene program teaches a commitment to community involvement that lasts long after our students have graduated,” said Prof. Robin K. Knowles, Tunxis Associate Professor of Dental Hygiene, who has led the dental hygiene steering committee for the CTMOM for the past four years with Prof. Julie A. Nocera, Associate Professor of Allied Health/Dental Hygiene.

“It’s a great opportunity for our students to become more aware of the unmet need for dental care and learn how important it is to get involved in helping these populations,” Prof. Nocera added.

Over 1,800 patients received approximately $1 million of free dental care during the clinic.

CTMOM, which is organized by the Connecticut State Dental Association, travels around the state to identify underserved areas where there are not enough dental practitioners to adequately address the oral health needs of the community.

Tunxis is the only public college in Connecticut to provide a degree program in dental hygiene. 

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