As many of you know, I work in a Dental Hygiene setting, however, I have no previous experience or interest in that area. The job is a good one and I like it, but it is not at all what I expected to be doing. I’ve learned a lot about the field of dentistry and am finding it more interesting than I ever thought. Today, for example, we had a faculty and staff in-service in which a few of our students gave presentations on a variety of topics related to the field. Here’s a sample of what I learned:
1. Reversing Anesthesia
Dentistry has a new tool—Phentolamin Mesylate. This drug has been in use for a long time for other things (hypertension maybe? I didn’t take good notes!), but was only recently approved by the FDA for use in dentistry. Basically, it reverses the effect of the anesthesia, cutting the length of time you are numb in half! In fact, if the injection is timed just right, you could leave the dentist’s office without being numb at all. Generally, when you are numbed for a dental procedure, the numbness lasts about three hours (it depends on the type and amount of anesthetic used). With this new drug, you could have the option of only being numb for one and a half hours. This is especially helpful in children and mentally-handicapped patients who are more likely to accidentally bite themselves when they are numbed up. Also helpful if you are heading out to a real estate showing or business presentation right after your dental visit.
2. Maxillo-facial Prosthetics
There have been some incredible advances in facial reconstruction and prosthetics in the past ten years. You may not know about it because the prosthetics are so good, you can’t tell them apart from a natural face! People generally need these prosthetics due to oral cancer or throat cancer. Both the cancer and the therapy can weaken or destroy bones, which would then need to be replaced. We looked at pictures of some people who had lost their noses and had prosthetic noses attached—very cool stuff. I love science!! One of the faculty members is also a maxillo-facial prosthodonist. He told a story of a girl he worked on awhile back. She had two different noses made for her: one for winter and one for summer. This way her nose will match her face whenever she gets a tan : ).
3. Stem Cells and Oro-Facial Regeneration
Scientists are making huge advances in a wide variety of health care fields with the use of stem cells, so why not dentistry? Researchers are currently working on using adult stem cells to regenerate gum tissue and even re-grow entire teeth! This research is still in the animal-testing stages but has been highly successful in pigs. We haven’t managed to re-grow an entire missing tooth using stem cells yet, but we can re-grow a healthy root, which can then be completed with a crown. Obviously, we have a way to go yet with this research before anyone tries it on humans, but it is probably not more than ten years off. There is already at least one company that provides a kit for harvesting cells from your child’s mouth to be frozen for use later, if needed.
I hope you find those as interesting as I did. And remember: FLOSS! : )