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.
Recording Selfies While Brushing Teeth Can Improve Oral Health, Study Shows
While most people have the motivation, innate ability and desire to brush their teeth properly, they often do not because they use an improper technique—and opportunities to improve such skills can be few. “Often, toothbrushing is learned and practiced without proper supervision,” said Lance T. Vernon, a senior instructor at the School of Dental Medicine and co-author of the study. “Changing toothbrushing behaviors—which are ingrained habits tied to muscle memory—can take a lot of time and guidance. Our study suggests that, in the future, recording selfies of brushing can help shift some of this time to technology. Later, patients could receive feedback from dental professionals,” he said.
Using smartphones propped on stands, study participants filmed their brushing at home. Researchers saw an increase in the accuracy of brush strokes, an increase in number of strokes and an overall 8 percent improvement in toothbrushing skill—but the length of time a person brushed did not change. While the results of this small pilot study, published in the Indian Journal of Dental Research, are promising, researchers suggest that these findings are of more importance in proving that the selfie concept is useful in a dental setting.
Video and picture selfies are increasingly being used in medical fields to assess, monitor and determine the progression of diseases and effectiveness of treatment—a new area of gathering data known as mobile health, or “mHealth”. Looking ahead, researchers envision a video-based monitoring app, which could record videos of patients brushing at home that are later reviewed by oral health professionals.
“The cost of an app could be minor, while there could, potentially, be major long-term benefits to a user’s oral health and quality of life,” Vernon said. “Dental care can be inaccessible because of cost and access. It’s possible dental selfies and other ‘mHealth’ strategies on phones can become an important part of oral health prevention and diagnosis in the future.”
In other research, Vernon explores the link between cardiovascular disease and periodontal disease in HIV-positive adults. His future research involves a prevention-focused coaching approach to promote oral health.
School Strikes Agreement to Train Faculty of Saudi Arabian University
In a move to expand its international presence and influence, the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine has signed a six-year agreement to train junior faculty from Qassim University—a public university in Saudi Arabia—in specialties of oral health and care. A delegation from Qassim joined more than 20 Case Western Reserve faculty, administrators and staff on campus Tuesday for a formal signing.
“Beyond the signing ceremony, our faculty and Qassim delegates are touring our facilities and developing robust, continuing personal relationships,” said David Fleshler, vice provost for international affairs. “The visit creates goodwill that cannot be duplicated by email or Skype,” added Fleshler.
The agreement marks the second international collaboration between the dental school and a partner university in the Middle East announced this month.
“We are careful about the partnerships we choose, and this endeavor adds to the strengths and resources of both institutions,” said School of Dental Medicine Dean Kenneth Chance. “We’re going to make a strong team.”
Starting in July, up to eight junior faculty from Qassim will study at the dental school in a one-year Fellowship of Advanced Clinical Education program, while also serving as teaching aides, assisting with research in biomedical, clinical and educational sciences, and completing other requirements. Qassim faculty who complete the fellowship are eligible to apply for up to two slots in one of the dental school’s highly-competitive Postdoctoral Education Programs in pedodontics, periodontics, endodontics, oral medicine or dental public health (leading to a Master of Science in Dentistry), or to an existing fellowship in oral and maxillofacial surgery.
“When international students come here—whatever the discipline—they gain an understanding and appreciation of new ways of problem-solving,” said Fleshler. “Their presence helps create an environment where all of our students—domestic and international—approach their disciplines from different perspectives and with open minds.”
School Strikes Agreement to Help Egyptian University Improve its Curriculum
A delegation from Case Western Reserve University, led by School of Dental Medicine Dean Kenneth Chance, signed an agreement March 8 in Cairo with Future University to help provide a new model for dental education collaboration. For five years, dental school faculty members will visit Future University periodically to update the dental school’s curriculum.
“By evaluating a program that is trying to raise the bar among its peer institutions, we hope to raise the standard of patient care. Future University wants to implement some of the processes and curriculum that we have—what a testament to the expertise of our faculty. The Middle East was a strategic choice,” said Chance, who became dean in 2014. “This helps build our international reputation and increases our exposure abroad. This will also improve the education we offer our students, as our faculty can become more familiar with how dentistry is practiced in different countries.”
Chance is accompanied on the trip by David Fleshler, Case Western Reserve’s vice provost for international affairs, and Nabil Bissada, professor at the dental school and chair of the Department of Periodontics. A native of Egypt and graduate of Cairo University, Bissada was instrumental in bringing the two universities together to forge the collaboration, which was more than a year in the making.
“[Future University] asked me a straightforward question: ‘Can we collaborate with Case Western Reserve University?’” Bissada said. “They consider us one of the best dental schools in the United States.”
Dr. Suchitra Nelson Named 2016 Crain's Cleveland Health Care Hero
Suchitra Nelson, PhD, Assistant Dean for Clinical and Translational Research and Professor of Community Dentistry, has been named a Crain’s Cleveland Business 2016 Health Care Hero in the Advancements in Health Care category. She is currently developing and leading a study backed by a $4.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health that is designed to reduce cavities and improve the oral health of low-income children.
The study will involve nearly 90 Northeast Ohio-area pediatricians who will apply a fluoride varnish to the teeth of nearly 3,700 participating children. The physicians will also deliver core oral health messages to parents and guardians, including the importance of baby teeth and information on how untreated cavities can lead to problems in the permanent teeth, serious infections and pain, trouble with eating and speaking, loss of time in school and other negative effects. By the project’s end, Nelson hopes to pinpoint messages that most effectively sway parents and caregivers to take their children to the dentist. She will then translate the findings into a scalable model that could be adopted by pediatricians across the country.
“Dr. Nelson is a superb choice for this prestigious award,” said Kenneth B. Chance, DDS, dean of Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine. “Studies show that only one in three children from low-income and various ethnic backgrounds visit a dentist in their early years. As a result, they are more susceptible to oral diseases, including tooth decay. African American and Hispanic/Latino children are nearly twice as likely as white children to have untreated tooth decay in baby teeth. Dr. Nelson’s current and previous research is crucial to rectifying this imbalance.”
Nelson has received funding for approximately 30 other research projects and published approximately 60 peer-reviewed studies and 100 abstracts. She has taught in the dental school’s Master of Science in Dentistry Program since 1992 and has mentored and supervised theses for dozens of dental students. Nelson has a PhD in epidemiology and an MS in both epidemiology and nutrition from Case Western Reserve University and an MSc and BSc in nutrition & dietetics from the University of Madras in Madras, India. She has received many professional honors including a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from the White House Office of Science and Technology.
Orthodontics' Dr. Hans Wins Fulbright to Develop Cleft Lip and Palate Center in Greece
Mark Hans’ interest in treating craniofacial deformities was sparked when his mentor, B. Holly Broadbent, invited him on a shadowing experience at the Craniofacial Clinic at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital. It was 1982, and he’d just joined the faculty at Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine. More than 30 years later, Hans, professor and chair of the Department of Orthodontics, has taken the knowledge he’s gained researching and treating such deformities as a Fulbright Specialist Award recipient.
The Fulbright Specialist program offers top faculty and professionals the opportunity to engage in short-term academic opportunities around the world to support curricular and faculty development. From mid-November to early December, Hans worked with faculty at the University of Athens in Greece to establish the brand-new Cleft Lip and Palate Center. His project seeks to improve the overall care patients in Greece receive. While Hans noted that there are many talented doctors there, they often work in silos, rarely consulting with each other—so they may not reach the best treatment decisions.
To address that concern, he used the Rainbow team as a model to show doctors in Greece how they can coordinate care. By instituting a protocol that would have all doctors meet with patients at the same time and discuss treatment plans, Hans believes they can reduce the number of operations required.
Hans returned home Dec. 7. Though the grant period will have ended, he will conduct a follow-up visit to check in on the program next fall.