New SOD lab represents technological leap into ‘digital dentistry’
By Matt Westerfield
Counting those who marched in last month’s commencement, the School of Dentistry has reached a landmark by graduating more than 1,000 dentists since enrolling its first class in 1975. And virtually every one of those graduates has worked in the original restorative clinic laboratory to build crowns, bridges and dentures for their patients.
But it’s the start of a new era at the school: Current students will learn to build their restorations in a newly renovated, state-of-the-art laboratory loaded with cutting-edge equipment, flat-screen TVs and a brand-new student lounge. The lab is located on the fourth floor.A ribbon-cutting ceremony and reception is scheduled from 3-4:30 p.m. on Friday, July 13, in the new lab.
“This is where they spend the majority of their time during their third and fourth years,” said Dr. Larry Breeding, professor and interim dean of clinical affairs. “I think that’s why we were able to get so much donor support — they all remember working in it.”
Current students who have been displaced to other lab space around the school during construction began using the new lab last week.
Construction on the new lab began last summer, following a fundraising campaign to supplement the $2.4 million price tag, much of which was funded through a state appropriation. Thanks to alumni support, the EXCEL Campaign raised more than $400,000, exceeding its original goal by $100,000. Marla Martin, director of clinical operations, said that money paid for the lab’s upgraded equipment.
The new lab features 40 workstations — including four that were designed to be compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act standards — a new digital CAD/CAM room, workspace solely for the dentistry technicians on staff, and a student lounge and coffee bar overlooking the northeast corner of campus.
The lab makeover also reflects the school’s leap into the digital age of dental restoration. Although Dr. Breeding and the staff have made some use of computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing technology, new equipment representing the future of the industry will dramatically aid students in keeping on the forefront of digital dentistry.
Breeding says the lab now boasts two different systems for taking digital impressions: the Cadent iTero and the CEREC AC Connect, both of which are portable units that can be wheeled to the bedside and capture 3D virtual impressions by putting a special camera in the patient’s mouth.
“The other thing we have is a printer that will print out an actual plastic pattern that can be cast in metal, as opposed to using wax,” said Breeding. “That’s getting to be a big thing in the industry because dental techs are in short supply.”
Breeding said the lab will still emphasize the traditional processes for making crowns, bridges and dentures, “but what we’re doing now with this new technology will allow us to move into the digital age,” he said. “The industry is moving in that direction, driven partly by the technology and shortage of dental technicians.
“And one of the side benefits is you can look at the 3-D image on the screen and get instant feedback. With the traditional system, it will take two or three hours before you can see what the cast looks like. From a teaching standpoint, it’s good for students to see that instantly so they can see exactly what they need to fix.”
Dr. Gary Reeves, dean of the School of Dentistry, agreed with Breeding on the lab’s benefits for students.
“This new clinical laboratory has the latest cutting-edge technology for the fabrication of dental restorations,” Reeves said. “The training our graduates receive here will allow them to continue to be some of the best-trained clinicians in the country.
“This space is also a lot more pleasant for our students to spend the many hours that are necessary to be there.”
Dr. Larry Breeding displays the Cadent iTero digital impressions system.
Interim dean takes School of Dentistry’s helm
After 27 years of service as a faculty member, Dr. Gary Reeves was named dean of the School of Dentistry in May.
Reeves, who served six years in the U.S. Army before coming to the school as a student in 1980, has served as interim dean since 2010. He took the School of Dentistry helm after the previous interim dean, Dr. Butch Gilbert, retired in February 2010. Reeves is the school’s first dean since Dr. James Hupp, whose tenure lasted from 2002-08.
Dr. James Keeton, vice chancellor for health affairs, said he is thrilled to have someone as respected as Reeves lead the school.
“His loyalty to the school and his reputation are beyond reproach,” Keeton said. “Dr. Reeves has devoted his entire professional career to this school, and he knows every aspect of it. As dean, he is committed to addressing the oral-health challenges in Mississippi and to producing highly qualified dentists to meet those needs.”
Reeves became professor of care planning and restorative sciences in 1996, was named associate dean for clinical affairs in 2003 and served in Iraq with the Mississippi Army National Guard, Dental Corps, in 2004.
Keeton said Reeves will be instrumental in helping to keep UMMC well-positioned for future changes to the health-care industry.
“He understands how health care is evolving in America, and he will make certain the dental school can adapt to any changes and remain true to UMMC’s overall mission,” Keeton said.