By GREGORY ZELLER //
Break out the intraoral scanners: Stony Brook University is sinking its teeth into a groundbreaking digital dentistry curriculum.
The university’s School of Dental Medicine is one of five U.S. dental schools (there are only 66 total) selected to pilot a new digital dentistry program developed by the Chicago-based American College of Prosthodontists. Stony Brook joins dental schools at the University of Kentucky, Rutgers University in New Jersey, A.T. Still University in Arizona and UCLA.
The curriculum framework, designed to help schools incorporate digital dentistry foundations and applications into existing curricula, follows two years of work by the ACP’s Digital Dentistry Curriculum Development Team, which had corporate backing from Melville-based global dental-products titan Henry Schein and other industry providers, including Glidewell and BioHorizons.
“Henry Schein recognized the need to develop a formal education to build not only awareness but knowledge of digital dentistry,” noted Lyndon Cooper, chairman of the ACP Education Foundation, adding the foundation ultimately worked with “45 volunteer members to develop this comprehensive curriculum.”
The course load is built to sharpen students on computer-controlled components added to – and in some cases replacing – traditional mechanical systems. Study areas include dental anatomy and implant dentistry, among others, with projected bite marks for future prosthodontists including improved workflow efficiency and easier professional collaborations.
And that’s on top of cutting-edge digital precision on things like fixed prosthodontics, a space-age boon for patients.
For each of the participating universities, the ACP has recruited an experienced “member volunteer” to mentor faculty about the use of next-level digital dentistry tools, which tend to be “complex, costly and thus, not rapidly adopted,” according to Cooper.
Hence the mentors, who will provide “a resource to these institutions through the piloting phase,” he noted.
“The pilot schools all have different needs as it relates to faculty training and plans to incorporate the digital dentistry curriculum into their institutions,” Cooper said. “Part of the role of the mentor group is to identify faculty training needs and answer questions as needed.
“As a practicing prosthodontist, I know that digital dentistry brings remarkable benefits to clinicians and their patients,” he added. “The ACP has developed a digital dentistry curriculum that enables faculty to teach students the digital technologies and prepare them to fully utilize these tools in practice.”
The opportunity to “comprehensively deliver digital dentistry training” is both an honor and a responsibility for SBU’s School of Dental Medicine, according to Dean Mary Truhlar, who noted a wide range of dental functions touched on in the ACP outline.
“Incorporating this into our current curriculum will advance our program in terms of teaching and training in diagnostics, dental care and oral function,” Truhlar said, with particular benefits for “restorative, surgical and orthodontic procedures.”
The dean is emerging as an instrumental partner in bringing the new curriculum to the masses, according to Cooper, who noted “strong support” from the SBU School of Dental Medicine.
“Dean Truhlar was one of the first people to recognize its value,” the ACP Education Foundation chairman told Innovate LI. “We’re really pleased Stony Brook is piloting this.
“We can’t just create a curriculum and hope it works,” Cooper added. “Schools like Stony Brook are really forward-thinking to test this.”
Stony Brook’s dental school is in a fairly unique position to implement the curriculum framework. The ACP selected the university as a pilot school in part for its class size, large patient base, experience with electronic health records and location – but also for its digital dentistry leadership, including the prior implementation of cone-beam computed tomography, “guided surgeries” and other computer-assisted training and practices.
Among the tech required by the ACP curriculum: laboratory scanners, oral cancer-screening devices and various computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing protocols, many of which are already in play in Stony Brook’s various schools.
Although digital dentistry technologies have slowly mainstreamed over the last 15 years, the ACP curriculum marks the first time a single syllabus has been developed to promote the uniform digital-dentistry training of U.S. dental students.
Plans are to begin incorporating the new syllabus at each of the five pilot schools during the Spring 2018 semester, with “full implementation” slated for the Class of 2021.
Ann Nasti, SBU’s associate dean for clinical education and the associate professor who will lead the integration of the new curriculum, said digital dentistry heralds major innovations in the art and science of dentistry – good news first and foremost for patients.
“The recent explosion in digital technology, software, scanning and manufacturing capabilities has resulted in a major paradigm shift in all aspects of dentistry,” Nasti said. “Patients treated with digital solutions benefit from the combination of the most efficient clinical processes, accurate high-strength materials and appealing aesthetics.”