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Dentistry is just the beginning

The mission of the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine is to provide outstanding programs in oral health education, patient care, research and scholarship, and service that are of value to our constituents. We accomplish this in an environment that fosters collegiality and professionalism that enables a diverse group of students to become competent practitioners of dentistry and contribute to the health and well-being of individuals and populations.

Oral Pain Specialists Among Small Group Treating Complex Health Issues

Dr. Andres PintoAndres Pinto, an orofacial pain and oral medicine specialist and chair of the Oral and Maxillofacial Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences (OMMDS) department, often feels like the doctor in the television series House, who solves medical mysteries each week. Pinto is among about 700 facial pain and oral medicine specialists nationally who patients turn to when their own doctors are unable to identify and treat complex and rare medical conditions. In fact, according to a new study Pinto conducted with input from fellow members of the American Academy of Oral Medicine (AAOM), patients see, on average, 2.2 doctors over 17 months before visiting facial pain and oral medicine specialists, hoping to finally find the cause of their discomfort.

Unfortunately, Pinto said, the delay in getting treatment allows the pain to escalate from acute to the chronic stage, reducing the patient’s quality of life dramatically. Specialists today see more oncology-related oral treatments, from preparation for cancer therapy to management of complications during therapy, than their counterparts 19 years ago, when the last survey of this nature was conducted.

Patients come from as far as the Gulf States to be evaluated and treated by the team of pain specialists at the CWRU dental school—one of just seven inclusive teams nationally and the only one in Ohio with specially trained head and neck radiologists, oral and maxillofacial medicine and orofacial pain clinicians and oral and maxillofacial pathologists all within one clinical setting. Pinto, DMD, MPH, FDS, RCSEd, heads the university’s orofacial pain and oral medicine group, which tackles ailments with such exotic names as, idiopathic persistent facial pain, oral chemosensory disorders and glossodynia. Pinto established the team 14 months ago and the group is now seeing between 50 and 60 patients with complex pain issues each week.

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55,000-year-old Skull Provides Earliest Evidence of Modern Man in Vicinity of Neanderthals

Dr. Latimer and Dr. HansCharacteristics of a partial skull recently discovered in Manot Cave in Israel’s West Galilee provide the earliest evidence that modern humans co-inhabited the area with Neanderthals and could have met and interbred 55,000 years ago. The finding, which challenges a previous hypothesis that the two species potentially met 45,000 years ago somewhere in Europe—is reported in the Advance Online Publication Nature article, “Levantine cranium from Manot Cave (Israel) foreshadows the First European modern humans.”

“It has been suspected that modern man and Neanderthals were in the same place at the same time, but we didn’t have the physical evidence. Now we do have it in the new skull fossil,” said paleontologist Bruce Latimer, from the school's Department of Orthodontics. Latimer and Mark Hans, chair of the department, were among a team of researchers who worked closely with the study’s lead investigator, Israel Hershkovitz, professor of anatomy and anthropology at Tel Aviv University.

Under the direction of former dental school Dean Jerold Goldberg, CWRU formed a 10-year partnership with Israel Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University in 2012 to excavate the cave. As a result of this partnership, Latimer joined Hans to expand the scope of orthodontic research on craniofacial growth and development to include human evolution. The Manot Cave project also is part of CWRU’s Institute for the Science of Origins (ISO) initiative.

The Manot Cave project is directed by Ofer Marder from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Omry Barzilai from the Israel Antiquities Authority, Israel Hershkovitz from Tel Aviv University and Bruce Latimer from CWRU.

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State-of-the-Art Medical Education Campus to Include Dentistry and Nursing

Future Health Education Campus‌CWRU and Cleveland Clinic are expanding their health education collaboration to include dental and nursing students on the planned medical education campus. Located on East 93rd Street between Euclid and Chester Avenues, the 485,000-square-foot quadrangle building will include cutting-edge technology and innovative learning spaces. The space is expressly designed to encourage interaction among all students, not only in classrooms, but also in dining and study areas. Future students will graduate with a deeper understanding of how caregivers complement one another's work and an appreciation for the unique roles of each profession in enhancing outcomes for patients.

The four-story building's academic spaces and offices will wrap around a soaring, airy atrium where students, faculty, and staff will gather for meals and conversation. All furniture will be movable, so the atrium will also be able to host large events, including lectures, convocations, and banquets. The strcture will meet LEED Silver environmental building standards, at minimum.

“Collaboration among the professions is the key to improving health care in the 21st century,” School of Dental Medicine Dean Kenneth B. Chance, DDS, said. “This project gives us an extraordinary opportunity to provide all of our students the kinds of experiences that will allow them to excel in this rapidly evolving landscape.”

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Researchers to Test Body’s Natural Antibiotic as Possible Tool for Detecting Oral Cancers

Dr. Aaron WeinbergCWRU School of Dental Medicine and the Department of Otolaryngology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center will collaborate on a pilot study to examine whether an abundance of naturally occurring antibacterial proteins in the mouth can predict the development of oral cancers. The researchers hope to find a way to diagnose oral cancers in the earliest, more treatable stages, and to eventually halt cancer growth once diagnosed.

The researchers will investigate how high levels of human beta-defensin-3 (hBD-3) in saliva and pre-cancerous tissues can be used to detect oral cancers faster and less invasively than traditional methods, said Aaron Weinberg, Associate Dean and Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at the School of Dental Medicine. They have found elevated levels of this protein in precancerous lesions and some oral cancers, which may provide early identification of these frequently asymptomatic cancers.

The hBD-3 peptide, which is found in the epithelial lining of the mouth, acts as a natural antibiotic in the body’s immune system. HBD-3 prevents the estimated 700 species of bacteria as well as viruses and fungi that live in the mouth from invading the body and causing disease.

The researchers will recruit 60 participants seeking treatment at UH Case Medical Center for possible oral cancers. They are also interested in patients with human papilloma virus (HPV), as this virus is increasingly correlated with increased incidence of head and neck cancer.

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Fall 2014 Magazine

In this issue:

  • New Dean Kenneth Chance, DDS '79
  • Researchers Link Byproducts of Gum Disease with Oral Cancer Growth
  • Dr. Occhionero Celebrates 50 Years at the School of Dental Medicine
  • And much more!
Download the PDF here

Or peruse PDFs of past issues:

More magazines and departmental newsletters are available in the archive.