Bulletin of Dental Education

Dentistry in the News - December 2011

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Utah’s First Four-Year Dental School Opens

Roseman University of Health Sciences held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on October 27 for Utah’s first four-year school of dentistry. The facility features classrooms equipped with multimedia technology, six imaging rooms, two wet labs, conference rooms, and team breakout rooms. A patient clinic with 80 dental operatories will serve residents in the Salt Lake City area. The school will officially open its doors to emergency dental care in January 2012 and general dental care the following year. When the facility is at full capacity, students will be able to treat 300-350 patients daily in 189 operatories under the supervision of faculty and licensed dentists. This program joins Roseman’s graduate programs in pharmacy and nursing and will address a huge demand for dental training in Utah.

WVU Renews Commitment to Train Rural Health Providers 

West Virginia University (WVU) Health Sciences Center officials remain committed to training doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals to serve people living in rural areas. WVU is also offering a tuition incentive to help students stay in the area after graduation. The new Institute for Community and Rural Health will place Health Sciences students in communities and rural areas as part of the curriculum. "WVU Health Sciences has a unique mission to serve the state by offering the highest quality education and health care," said Dr. Christopher C. Colenda, Chancellor for Health Sciences. "Our renewed commitment to the rural health program is a major step that will lead to our ultimate goal to transform the lives of people throughout West Virginia."

Healthy Teeth, Healthy Heart 

Dentists, physicians and researchers around the country hypothesize that there may be a closer connection between dental problems and unhealthy hearts. They believe that the body's bacteria-fighting response to dental plaque and gum disease may put additional strain on the heart.

The results of two studies being presented in Florida this week at American Heart Association scientific meetings indicate that professional teeth cleanings and avoidance of serious gum infection reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. A Taiwanese study of more than 100,000 people indicated that those whose teeth had been professionally cleaned had a 24% lower risk of heart attack and a 13% lower risk of stroke than those whose teeth had never been professionally cleaned.

The other study, whose findings are being presented, found that people with fewer than 21 teeth had a 69% higher risk of heart attack than those with most or all of their teeth. Those with numerous pockets of gum infection had a 53% higher risk of heart attack compared with those with few pockets of infection, a summary of the report says. The Swedish study involved close to 8,000 patients with gum disease.

It's logical to speculate that people who don't care properly for their teeth might also lead generally unhealthy lives, eating badly, smoking, drinking too much, exercising too little. But a physical link between gum disease and heart disease has been suspected for many years.

The American Heart Association cautioned that the findings from Taiwan and Sweden aren't conclusive. “More research needs to be conducted to determine the role, if any, of periodontal disease in heart disease,” the association said in a written statement. “Once that is understood, it will still need to be proven that preventing or treating periodontal disease can reduce the risk of heart disease.”

Dr. Michael Kowolik, an Associate Dean of the Indiana University School of Dentistry, said that over the past 12 years he has conducted three studies of the body's response to dental plaque buildup, which causes gum disease.

Dr. Kowolik said blood tests show that gum disease triggers a bacteria-fighting response in the body. While the body releases white blood cells and oxygen radicals to battle the disease, he said, they also have the potential to travel through the bloodstream to the heart, where they may damage the walls of small arteries.

He said he doesn't suggest that gum disease causes heart attacks. But it could tip the balance when layered atop obesity, diabetes, smoking or other risk factors, he said. “There are a lot of skeptics,” Dr. Kowolik said. “But I think there's a growing acceptance … that there really is something in this.”

Fat Cells Hamper Battle Against Gum Disease 

Researchers have discovered that we are better at fighting gum disease when fat cells—which trigger inflammation—disappear.

Findings come from a pilot study of 31 obese people with gum disease by researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio.

Half of the group with an average body mass index (BMI) of 39 had gastric bypass surgery and had fat cells from the abdomen removed.

That half fared better than a control group of obese people with a BMI of 35, who also were treated for gum disease but did not have the gastric bypass surgery or fat removed.

The researchers were intrigued by the fact that the majority of those who underwent surgery had a drop in their glucose levels after the procedure, a result that bodes well for overweight people predisposed to diabetes and insulin-related problems.

All study participants underwent nonsurgical periodontal treatments of scaling/root planing and oral hygiene instructions for home care.

While both groups showed improvement, the surgery group did even better on the measures for periodontal attachment, bleeding, probing depths, and plaque levels.

Inflammation that continues to brew in the body can have harmful effects over time, and inflammation from gum disease can erode bone and cause tooth loss.

“It can also cause breaks in the gums where harmful oral bacteria can enter the blood stream. Such bacteria have been linked to preterm birth, fetal death, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis,” said Dr. Nabil F. Bissada, Chair of the Department of Periodontics at Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine.

Dr. Bissada is the lead author of the study, “Response to periodontal therapy in subjects who had weight loss following bariatric surgery and obese counterparts: a pilot study,” which was published in the Journal of Periodontology.

Former LSU Quarterback Matt Mauck Now a Dentist 

Mr.—now Dr.—Matt Mauck, who led the Tigers to the 2003 BCS national title as LSU quarterback, recently graduated from the University of Colorado’s School of Dental Medicine. Dr. Mauck also played for the Denver Broncos in 2004 and the Tennessee Titans from 2004-2007. He then went on to play minor-league baseball for the Chicago Cubs before turning to dentistry.

“When I look at my life, I put the sports part of it totally separate. This is by far one of the greatest moments of my life that’s nonsports related,” said Dr. Mauck, who played as a backup quarterback for the Broncos for the 2004 season before moving to Tennessee for less than two years. “Being able to push yourself through a graduate program is something that anyone should be proud of.”

Starting this fall, Dr. Mauck will return to the Denver Broncos as one of the team’s dentists, working in the team’s dental office and standing on the sidelines during home games in case of on-field emergencies.

Two Rutgers Grads Help Children With Free Surgery 

ADEA member Dr. Shahid R. Aziz and his wife, Dr. Anita Puran, started a nonprofit called Smile Bangladesh, which aims to organize and fund missions to repair cleft lips and cleft palates. Dr. Aziz is an attending surgeon and associate professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery and plastic and reconstructive surgery at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ). After graduating from Rutgers, he earned a dental degree from Harvard School of Dental Medicine and then a medical degree from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. His wife, Dr. Anita Puran, earned her Ph.D. in public administration from Rutgers and is the organization’s Executive Director. Dr. Aziz, along with two surgeons, three surgical residents from UMDNJ, three nurses, and four anesthesiologists are headed back to Bangladesh on November 10, 2011, for their eighth medical mission.

To date, the team has performed 400 cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries through Smile Bangladesh. There are an estimated 300,000 children and young adults with unrepaired cleft lips and cleft palates in Bangladesh and fewer than 30 surgeons in the country who can repair them. Smile Bangladesh is able to perform 60–80 surgeries during each one-to-two week mission. Dr. Aziz had long hoped to visit Bangladesh to meet his extended family.

In planning his first trip, Dr. Aziz reached out to his relatives to help him find the right contacts and organizations to work with. “Finding out that there was a huge need for this type of surgery in Bangladesh, it kind of became a natural thing for me to want to go back to Bangladesh where my father’s roots are and help people who need help the most—poor impoverished children with no access to care—and just give them an opportunity to have a better life,” Dr. Aziz said.

St. Louis Dentist Invents First Color-Changing Toothpaste 

Retired dentist and inventor Dr. Howard Wright is ready to release his groundbreaking color-changing toothpaste after a 10-year process. The new product, called Vortex Toothpaste, is intended to make kids want to brush their teeth longer thanks to the fun color-changing process. Vortex is dispensed as twin streams of red and blue toothpaste and as the child states to brush, the colors are mixed into a vivid purple. Dr. Wright is a graduate of the Washington University School of Dental Medicine in St. Louis.

While the chemical side of Vortex came together swiftly, the toothpaste tubes themselves proved to be nearly impossible to manufacture. To prevent the colors from mixing prematurely, the Vortex Toothpaste tube must have an interior barrier to separate the red and blue colors.

"Every plastics manufacturer I spoke with told me it couldn't be done—that no one had ever made a toothpaste tube like that before," says Dr. Wright. "I had pretty much given up hope and was ready to let my patent lapse when I decided to call one last manufacturer. They had the perfect tube.”

Vortex is not Dr. Wright's first invention. Twenty years ago, the scuba diving enthusiast patented the Storm® All-Weather Safety Whistle, which can be heard up to 50 feet under water and is the loudest whistle in the world. Dr. Wright's All-Weather Safety Whistle Company has sold millions of Storm Whistles in more than 30 countries around the world.

Dr. Wright's advice for aspiring inventors? "The easiest way to deal with someone who says your idea is impossible," says Dr. Wright, "is to deal with someone else."

Vortex color-changing toothpaste retails for $6.95 and is manufactured in the United States in a plant in Muskegon, Michigan. It is available on Amazon.com or via the website at www.VortexToothpaste.com.

Improving Kids’ Oral Health in Grenada

In January 2010, New York University College of Dentistry (NYUCD) began a two-week national oral health survey in Grenada. A total of 1,075 dental exams were performed on children between the ages of 6 and 15.The overall presence of caries was alarmingly high at approximately 84%.

More than eight out of every 10 Grenadian children suffer from untreated dental caries. One-third of all children who participated in the survey were missing a permanent first molar due to caries, and the mean number of caries surfaces was 8.6 per child. This is one of the highest recorded incidences of dental caries in the world, according to the World Health Organization’s Global Oral Health Data Bank.

In this article, Professors Cynthia Howard and Jill Fernandez from New York University College of Dentistry share their experiences in their two-week outreach program in Grenada.

New Mouthwash Targets Harmful Bacteria 

A new mouthwash developed by a microbiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Dentistry is highly successful in targeting the harmful Streptococcus mutans bacteria that is the principal cause of tooth decay and cavities. In a recent clinical study, 12 subjects who rinsed just one time with the experimental mouthwash experienced a nearly complete elimination of the S. mutans bacteria over the entire four-day testing period. The findings from the small-scale study are published in the current edition of the international dental journal Caries Research.

This new mouthwash is the product of nearly a decade of research conducted by Dr. Wenyuan Shi, Chair of the Section of Oral Biology at the UCLA School of Dentistry. Dr. Shi developed a new antimicrobial technology called STAMP (specifically targeted anti-microbial peptides) with support from Colgate-Palmolive Co. and from C3-Jian, Inc., a company he founded around patent rights he developed at UCLA; the patents were exclusively licensed by UCLA to C3-Jian. The mouthwash uses a STAMP known as C16G2.

Based on the success of this limited clinical trial, C3-Jian, Inc. has filed an Investigational New Drug (IND) application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is expected to begin more extensive clinical trials in March 2012. If the FDA ultimately approves Sm STAMP C16G2 for general use, it will be the first such anti-dental-caries drug since fluoride was licensed nearly 60 years ago.

"With this new antimicrobial technology, we have the prospect of actually wiping out tooth decay in our lifetime," said Dr. Shi, who noted that this work may lay the foundation for developing additional target-specific "smart bomb" antimicrobials to combat other diseases.

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