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.
New CWRU-MetroHealth System Affiliation Expands Opportunities for Dental Students, Oral-health Services for Patients
A new affiliation between Case Western Reserve University and The MetroHealth System aligns the university’s School of Dental Medicine with Cleveland’s public hospital system to provide a range of oral health services to the Greater Cleveland community. Additionally, expanded clinical and research opportunities will be available for dental students and residents. Case Western Reserve and MetroHealth have long maintained an affiliation through CWRU’s School of Medicine and other health-related schools and centers within the university. The new affiliation with the dental school will strengthen and broaden the existing relationship.
Under the new affiliation agreement, all CWRU dental students will have the opportunity to train at MetroHealth’s Department of Dentistry. Supervised by MetroHealth personnel, dental students and residents will provide patient care from general dentistry and oral surgery to pediatric dentistry and other potential services. Patients of the School of Dental Medicine’s Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, for example, are treated by dental students, surgical residents or faculty. Residents and staff provide a range of surgical services, from tooth extractions and jaw and face reconstruction to facial plastic surgery, oral cancer management and management of cleft lip/palate and other craniofacial abnormalities.
“Case Western Reserve and The MetroHealth System share common goals and commitments to the highest standards of performance in education, research and patient care,” said Kenneth Chance, dean of the School of Dental Medicine. “We are pleased to partner with The MetroHealth System to enhance dental education for both institutions and provide exceptional oral health care for the community.”
“The affiliation presents another opportunity for our graduate students and individuals in residency programs in various specialties to expand their clinical experience,” said Dale Baur, professor and chair of the School of Dental Medicine’s Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. “The relationship will also help the Greater Cleveland community, so it’s a win-win. They have a wealth of patients who could really benefit from our services.”
The Case Western Reserve School of Dental Medicine and MetroHealth also will explore additional opportunities for collaboration.
New Assistant Dean for Admissions & Student Affairs
Kristin A. Williams is now assistant dean for admissions and student affairs of the School of Dental Medicine. Williams received her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 1989 from the School of Dental Medicine and she received her Master of Public Health from the School of Medicine in 2005. For the last three years, she has served as the elected faculty chair of the admissions committee for the School of Dental Medicine.
The assistant dean for admissions and student affairs provides strategic leadership for both the Office of Admissions and the Office of Student Services.
In her role, Williams oversees the student services area in advocating for students and providing them with quality, timely support. She also works collaboratively with other members of the School of Dental Medicine to enhance student satisfaction and experience.
Williams will continue to serve as the director of diversity, equity and inclusion for the dental school.
Preserving Local High School Football Players' Smiles
When football players from three local high schools hit the football field this fall, they will be safer, thanks to custom-made mouth guards from the Safe Smiles program.
The Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine and Greater Cleveland Dental Society provide the mouth guards—which can normally cost up to $250—to students free of charge. This year, students from John Adams High School, Glenville High School, and Whitney Young Leadership Academy will receive the custom mouth guards, which will each be emblazoned with their school’s name and colors.
Last Friday, volunteers from the School of Dental Medicine and Greater Cleveland Dental Society fitted the football players for their new mouth guards. Later this month, the mouth guards will be complete. In addition to the protective guards, the players each received dental exams and education on maintaining good oral hygiene.
The Safe Smiles program set out to provide mouth guards to football players at all 10 Cleveland Metropolitan School District High Schools. When the students from John Adams High School, Glenville High School and Whitney Young Leadership Academy receive their mouth guards this year, all 10 high schools will have received them.
This is the third and final year for the Safe Smiles program, which was funded by grants from the Greater Cleveland Dental Society and the American Dental Foundation.
Lectures in Virtual Reality Flip Learning Experience
As a dentist also trained as a computer technician, Renarto Roperto created enhanced 360-degree video versions of his lectures so students can experience them in virtual reality (VR) headsets any time they want. Visuals and video clips are embedded in the VR lectures to add depth and texture to class topics, such as offering a 3-D view of the nerves inside a tooth. This approach—an adaptation of the “flipped classroom” concept—allows Roperto to use class time for students to work together on projects, discuss what they learned during the VR lectures or ask questions.
This past spring, he created the videos during the dental school’s computer-aided design/manufacturing (CAD/CAM) course about new technologies that, for instance, can rapidly expedite crown creation. The videos became available to students on a rolling basis last semester. This fall, all lectures for the class will only be available via VR video. While some students already owned advanced VR headsets, such as Oculus Rift and ViVe HTC (often used for gaming), others bought inexpensive models, such as the Google Cardboard—available for $10 online—that use smartphones to create the 360-degree effect of being in the classroom.
“While nothing can truly compare to physically being in class,” said Nick Slezak, a fourth-year dental student, “VR allowed me to feel like I was in the front row again.”
“Seeing a 360-degree view of a root canal, and seeing the blood, nerves and decay, or simulating a surgery, could help tremendously once we come to work on real patients,” another student said.
In the meantime, Roperto is researching ways to extend the VR approach to teach courses on topics such as dental anatomy, envisioning how students can go “inside” teeth and gums. “In a few years, almost everyone will have access to either VR or augmented reality, or AR,” Roperto said. “This should play a big role in the future of training dentists.”
$1.5 Million Grant Targets Oral Complications of HIV
While advances in HIV treatment have dramatically improved patient lifespans and quality of life, nagging side effects remain; among the most common is chronic inflammation—essentially, when an immune system imbalance causes the body to attack itself. Case Western Reserve University researchers are taking aim at where inflammation can be especially harmful to patient health: in the mouth and throat, where it’s been linked with oral cancer, lesions, viral infections and other ailments that can make eating painful and further weaken immune systems through malnourishment.
“Restoring balance to an immune system is key after being altered by HIV and medications,” said Pushpa Pandiyan, an assistant professor of biological sciences, who will lead the research with a 5-year, $1.59 million NIH grant. “Otherwise, a person’s natural defenses can sometimes be too aggressive, especially in vulnerable areas like the gums and other oral tissues. Eventually, our findings could have the potential to help HIV patients lead even healthier, longer lives,” said Pandiyan.
By studying oral and throat tissues from HIV-positive patients taking common antiretroviral drugs used to treat the disease, researchers hope to pinpoint the origin of cells they suspect may promote inflammation or, at a minimum, don’t battle it. The knowledge could lead to new ways to fight HIV-related diseases, in part, by building on some of Dr. Pandiyan's previous findings. In 2014, her lab showed how specific T-cells can be manipulated outside the body to boost or suppress proteins that help the cells’ survival, which can then be re-inserted to help balance immune responses.
“Our bodies have many fine-tuned switches that keep defenses optimal,” she said. “The more we understand the mechanisms of these switches, and how they behave under a variety of circumstances, the better we can wish to control them to improve health.”
The research team includes HIV specialists at the university’s School of Medicine.