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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, focused research and scholarship, and service that are of value to our constituents. We accomplish this in an environment that fosters collegiality and professionalism and that enables a diverse group of students to become competent oral health care providers and contribute to the health and well-being of individuals and communities.

The School of Dental Medicine's core values are: collegiality; a culture of inquiry; diversity; innovation; integrity; and responsible stewardship.


$3.6 million Grant Aims to Improve Access to Dental Care for Low-income Children

Child Recieves Dental Care‌Researchers from the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine will expand an effort to improve the dental health of low-income children with a new $3.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, by encouraging family doctors to include dental-heatlh screenings and referrals during wellness check-up visits. Researchers will branch out into offices of primary care physicians across Northeast Ohio, encouraging family doctors and nurse practitioners to refer their patients to dentists.

Dr. Suchitra Nelson, who leads the research team with faculty from the dental, medical and nursing schools, believes that talking about dental health should be routine as part of wellness visits in physicians’ offices. “We’re teaching pediatricians and nurse practitioners to serve as messengers,” she said. “We are hoping that providers share with parents the importance of baby teeth, treating dental issues as they would any medical problem.”

Research has demonstrated that the more children care about dental health when they’re young, the more they’ll care as adults.  Nelson’s found that, while dental care is available for Medicaid-enrolled children, few dentists actually accept Medicaid. There are many reasons for that, but chief among them is parents canceling—or not showing up for—appointments. Nelson said Medicaid-enrolled children face other barriers such as a parent who cannot afford to miss work. Part of the solution, then, is providing a list of Medicaid-approved dentists in areas where patients live, because reliable transportation is often an issue for those living below the poverty line.

The research, funded for three years, is geared toward children ages 3 to 6. Researchers working in primary-care offices in Cleveland, Ashtabula, Medina and Elyria will monitor the dental health of an estimated 1,024 children.

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CWRU & Cleveland Dentists Team Up for Annual "Give Kids a Smile" Event

Give Kids a Smile Day‌Case Western Reserve University dental students will use their training and talents to make a positive impact in the community as part of the annual Give Kids a Smile Day on Friday, Feb. 2. The dental students will team up with local professional dentists to provide free oral care for hundreds of Cleveland children. Dentists and dental professionals volunteer their time to provide screenings, treatments and oral-health education to local children.

“The program has grown over the years and is a part of most all dental societies throughout the country,” said Ronald Occhionero, associate dean for administration at the School of Dental Medicine. The Greater Cleveland Dental Society’s initiative at the dental school is one of the largest of a series of similar events nationally, in partnership through the American Dental Association. Case Western Reserve has hosted the program since its inception in 2003.

More than 250 students from Alfred A. Benesch, Marion-Sterling and George Washington Carver elementary schools in Cleveland will receive services at clinics located in the dental school and on the University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital Ronald McDonald Care Mobile unit. The local initiative is expected to exceed $60,000 worth of dental care.

Recent dental school research has shown that healthy oral hygiene habits in school-aged children lead to better oral health in adults.

“Our dental students can have a positive and lasting influence on how these children will perceive dental care and its importance for their lifetimes,” Occhionero said.

At the event—coordinated by dental society president Daniel Gindi and co-chair Amberlee Taylor, both Case Western Reserve both clinical assistant professors and members of the dental society—the children will learn about dental care from the volunteers, videos and even puppets. Already pre-screened in their school, the children will receive preventive and restorative care, including oral examinations, dental prophylaxis, radiographs and sealants, along with proper oral hygiene instruction.

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Do Baby Teeth Matter? Researchers Seek to Change Pereceptions & Habits

toothbrushes‌Do children really need their baby teeth? Many believe that primary teeth aren’t all that important since they typically fall out by age 12, but that line of thinking tends to leave experts in the dental community with a grimace. In a practical and medical sense, the health of primary teeth is an early predictor of adult teeth. A research team headed by the School of Dental Medicine sought to improve parents’ and caregivers’ perception of the importance of baby teeth. The team’s findings were published in a recent article in Contemporary Clinical Trials.

Unlike other medical issues, tooth decay and cavities are preventable with adequate self-management strategies. “Parents’ failure to recognize the importance of baby teeth is associated with adverse health habits and outcomes for their children, such as less tooth-brushing and a lower likelihood of having preventative dental visits and higher rates of tooth decay,” said Suchitra Nelson, assistant dean in the dental school’s Department of Community Dentistry, who leads the research. Other researchers include Mary Beth Slusar and Jeffrey Albert, both also from the School of Dental Medicine, and Christine Riedy, from the Harvard University School of Dental Medicine.

One approach used in self-managing chronic medical conditions is the Common Sense Model of Self-Regulation, a psychological framework describing the person’s perception of a chronic disease that drives coping and action planning. In other words, changing parental perception is fundamentally important to view cavities and decay as a chronic disease, rather than an acute symptomatic disease, to improve dental outcomes.

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CWRU Professor Quoted on Sneaky Signs of Gum Disease

Smile ImageDr. Lance Vernon, Senior Instructor in the Pediatric Dentistry department at the School of Dental Medicine, was recently quoted in "Ten Sneaky Signs of Gum Disease" in Prevention magazine. Dr. Vernon discusses common signs of ginvigitis (a mild form of gum disease), including bleeding from the mouth, bad breath, shifting teeth, red or swollen gums, plaque buildup, sensitive teeth, wiggly teeth, and teeth grinding or clenching. Experiencing chronic stress or maintaining a smoking habit may up your risk for the condition. Gingivitis can usually be reversed with consistent oral hygiene practices and regular cleanings by a dentist, but if left untreated can destroy the tissue supporting your teeth and possibly increase your risk of heart disease.

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CWRU, Cleveland Clinic Break Ground on New Dental Clinic

Dental Clinic Rendering‌Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic broke ground on a new dental clinic building that is part of their ambitious Health Education Campus, opening in the summer of 2019. The three-story, 126,000-square-foot structure will provide School of Dental Medicine students a spacious, state-of-the art environment in which to treat patients under the supervision of dental faculty. More, it will give patients a far more visible and conveniently located place for dental care than the current site.

The new dental clinic parcel is directly north of the main Health Education Campus (HEC) building. Construction on that 485,000-square-foot structure, designed by renowned London architects Foster & Partners, began in 2015; both buildings will be ready to welcome students in two years.

“This building will enhance the education of all of our health sciences students, because each discipline has much to teach—and learn from—one another,” President Barbara R. Snyder said. “Just as important, it will contribute to the health and well-being of thousands of patients in our community. We are deeply grateful to everyone involved in helping us reach this momentous day.”

In addition, Cleveland Clinic announced the development of a recreational park providing access to the neighboring children and their parents.

“The primary mission here will be to deliver high-quality, low-cost dental services to the community. But that won’t be all,” added Dr. Cosgrove. “Something unexpected happened in the planning stage that expanded our vision. People who visited the site heard the voices of young people. They saw children playing basketball in the street. We realized that these young people needed a safer place to play. We are pleased to join with the Famicos Foundation and Hough Development Corporation, and we’ll be building a new park for exercise and play.”

The new location also offers parking adjacent to the clinic, a significant improvement over the more distant parking options for the current clinic. In addition, patients sometimes had difficulty finding the current clinic nestled along a driveway surrounded by multiple taller buildings. Even with those challenges, roughly 19,000 patients seek treatment at the dental school’s clinic each year—and more than 11,000 of the total are Cleveland residents. The clinic charges rates roughly 40 to 60 percent lower than traditional dental offices, and also accepts Medicaid.

“The potential of this clinic to enhance the health of our community—through patient treatment and educational outreach—is truly exceptional,” School of Dental Medicine Dean Kenneth B. Chance said. “We cannot wait to be in this new location where our faculty and students can have greater impact and connection with the people we serve.”

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125-Year Milestone Marked with Medical Museum Exhibit

Dittrick Museum Exhibit‌Reaching out into the community with dental care is hardly a new idea among students, faculty and staff at the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine. It is a tradition of caring displayed handsomely in the new “Cleveland Dentistry Re-Visited” exhibition at the Dittrick Museum of Medical History on campus. As the dental school celebrates its 125th anniversary this year, the milestone mirrors a legacy of overall service by local dentists, from in-school dental exams that began in 1909 to the modern-day Case Western Reserve dental van that delivers care to elderly patients in Cleveland-area nursing homes and senior centers.

School of Dental Medicine Dean Kenneth B. Chance said that the preservation of that legacy is intentional and important.

“I continue to be pleased by the hard work of all of our students, faculty and staff who have led the efforts in our community programs,” he said. “It is critical to expose our dental students to the needs of underserved children, the elderly and the communities in which they live.”

That long-standing focus on community is especially evident in a photograph collection depicting a turn-of-the-century dental hygiene campaign and on-site exams in Cleveland elementary school visits from 1909-1919. (See the current issue of think magazine for some of the exhibit photos).

“Dentists have always been concerned about the community,” said Dittrick Chief Curator James Edmonson. “We might think this is something new, when in fact, it’s something old.”

The Dittrick exhibition, which has been called “a befitting tribute” to the School of Dental Medicine by Dean Chance, also features some of the collection of Joseph Chester (DEN ’85). It opened in October in the museum in conjunction with the 125th anniversary and homecoming events within the school and across campus Oct. 5-8.

The free exhibition in the Theodore Castele MD and Family Gallery runs through Dec. 31.

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Dental Medicine Magazine‌‌

Summer 2017 Magazine

In this issue:

  • Construction of New Dental Clinic Begins
  • Providing Dental Healthcare Around the World
  • Give Kids a Smile Day
  • And much more!
View/Download the PDF Here

Past issues of the magazine and issues of departmental newsletters are available in the archive.