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A dentist with training wheels

8 Dec, 16 | by Jenny Thomas

By Nandini Sharma

In the United States the third year of dental school serves as the first clinical year of dental education. During this year we are expected to translate our first two years of didactic knowledge into full time patient care. By the end of my second year I was more than eager to get away from the constant barrage of examinations and start to treat patients. I expected the transition from treating a plastic tooth to a real patient to be difficult. What I didn’t expect was to learn was how social determinants of health can affect oral health.

Recently, I admitted a patient who exemplified how these factors influence oral health. She was a 24-year-old African American female who had braces placed at age 14 and has never had them removed. The patient complained of pain in her mouth and said she had recently been to the emergency room because of a dental abscess. The emergency room gave her amoxicillin to treat the infection and recommended finding care at the dental school. In 2014 the Journal of American Dental Association found emergency department visits for dental problems cost almost $3 billion from 2008-2010. The study also found that individuals who are uninsured and live in a low-income area are more likely to visit hospital-based settings for urgent dental care (1).

During her oral examination she presented with heavy calculus on her teeth, missing teeth, root tips, mobile teeth, generalized inflammation, and a chronic abscess on her maxillary palate. An endodontic resident was called in for a consult and used a palatal nerve block before draining the abscess (2). I realized she would need to have all her maxillary teeth extracted for immediate dentures. As a provider it was very difficult for me to tell a 24-year-old patient that she will need dentures. Although complete denture prosthodontics is a routine, inexpensive treatment option, it is a last resort.

As dental students we sink our teeth into clinical practice by treating a diverse, underserved population. This provides us with a unique insight on how social, physical, and behavioral barriers prevent our patients from attaining oral health care (3,4). My patient disclosed that her mother would take her for orthodontic check-ups when she was younger. But at the age of 19 she lost her mother and stopped visiting the dentist. Over time as the status of her oral health deteriorated she no longer felt the need to brush daily. For my patient one of her main deterrents of proper oral health care was psychosocial. Aside from treating dental disease we need to tailor our care based on which determinants are hindering our patients from having good oral health.



  1. Allareddy, V., Rampa, S., Lee, M. K., Allareddy, V., & Nalliah, R. P. (2014). Hospital-based emergency department visits involving dental conditions: profile and predictors of poor outcomes and resource utilization. The Journal of the American Dental Association145(4), 331-337.
  1. Fitch, M. T., Manthey, D. E., McGinnis, H. D., Nicks, B. A., & Pariyadath, M. (2007). Abscess incision and drainage. New England Journal of Medicine357(19), e20.
  1. Scheerman, J. F., Loveren, C., Meijel, B., Dusseldorp, E., Wartewig, E., Verrips, G. H., … & Empelen, P. (2016). Psychosocial correlates of oral hygiene behaviour in people aged 9 to 19–a systematic review with meta‐analysis. Community dentistry and oral epidemiology.
  1. Strauss, R. P., Stein, M. B., Edwards, J., & Nies, K. C. (2010). The impact of community-based dental education on students. Journal of Dental Education74(10 suppl), S42-S55.
  1. Greenspan, J. S. (2013). Global health and dental education: a tipping point?. Journal of dental education77(10), 1243-1244.


“The Crossroad between Dentistry and Medicine” at ADEE & AMEE

30 Nov, 16 | by Jenny Thomas

By Prof. Rui Amaral Mendes and Dr. Seema Biswas

In August, taking advantage of having our annual meetings in the same city – the beautiful Barcelona – ADEE (the Association for Dental Education in Europe) and its medical counterpart, AMEE (the Association for Medical Education in Europe), convened efforts to hold a joint scientific and business meeting under the topic of: “The crossroad between Dentistry and Medicine”.

More than a mere morning workshop’s theme, this is a major trend worldwide and should be regarded as one of the major challenges pending upon two of the major stakeholders as far as Heathcare providing is concerned.

According to the World Health Organization, Interprofessional Education (IPE) is a necessary step in planning a “collaborative practice-ready” health workforce that is better prepared to respond to local and global health needs. A similar opinion is shared by ADEE’s American colleagues from ADEA.

Still, the important thing is how we, educators, can use a potentially good idea and put in to good use, ensuring that our students get the best possible training, in line with the most recent FDI definition of oral health, as an “integral part of general health and well-being”.

Hence, being, as we are, well-aware and committed to this evolving educational paradigm of Interprofessional Education and Learning and Interprofessional Collaborative Practice (IPCP), one must also consider the prospects of a partnership that makes the best out of each other’s know-how, while keeping in mind that the European Directive 2005/36/EC, issued by the European Parliament and by the Council, establishing the EU legal foundations for the recognition of professional qualifications, makes it even more pertinent, not to say imperative, that both ADEE and AMEE join efforts in a combine approach advocating for new European Directives calling for a competencies-based approach for the education of dentists and physicians.

We often forget that according to the World Health Organisation, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.
Hence, when we think about Dental Education and overall services’s provision, we can not help to feel that we are currently at a crossroad: one that demands us to move “outside the box” of our Dental Schools and Dental offices, while engaging with the needs of our communities at home and vulnerable communities across the world.

Education, even at the undergraduate level, and service provision are, therefore, intricately linked. We have to accept that we need to train dentists who are far more than just competent technicians, but rather health professionals responsible for oral health and health in general. Dentists need to get to know their patients and their communities better if they are to provide truly effective care.

There is a need for those involved in Dental Education to take the lead on incorporating global health into the undergraduate dental curriculum and to boost global health in postgraduate practice. The key focus should be to provide better dental care to patients at home, work on improving access (for free or at low cost) for patients at home and to fill the gap where dentists are scarce.

Due to socio-economic, cultural and political reasons, large segments of the world’s population have limited or no access to regular dental care. Assisting the development of dental services in these areas should be regarded as a win- win strategy for both the developed and developing world as opportunities for training, practice and research lend themselves to twinning established successful programs at home with programmesfor the world’s most vulnerable communities.

It’s within this context, that, as we look through the feedback of the ADEE and AMEE meetings and workshops in global health, it becomes clear the enthusiasm for global health across all the medical disciplines. This enthusiasm seems centred on clinical practice: global health in the workplace, renewed focus on ensuring that the most vulnerable of our patients receive the best of clinical care, setting an example in the workplace to trainees who are going the extra mile to ensure that they address ALL the health needs of their patients and moving forward together to address the determinants of health in our undergraduate teaching programmes.

Thus, as ADEE and AMEE discuss the modern teaching agenda, we remind ourselves that global health is comprehensive healthcare and research. At BMJ Case Reports, we have the opportunity to put together the input of authors from across the world and emphasise priorities in addressing health disparities and access to healthcare. We have case reports from Trinidad in the West Indies (link) to Queensland in Australia (link). What is key is not so much the reach across the globe as the fact that authors are clinicians writing about patients they see locally daily.

As clinicians write about global health issues, we encourage students to do this, too. Global health problems cannot be tackled without a strong evidence base. Our cases are hugely valuable for teaching and to assist students as they begin to write. These case are also a powerful tool in bringing about improvements in health and should be used again and again as we advocate for our patients. There is extensive guidance on our website, and, as editors we are always to eager to engage with authors on how to make BMJ Case Reports more accessible to our readers and promote excellence in research and education.

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