An urgent need
“We must recognize the crucial importance of modernizing our School if we wish to continue attracting the best and brightest students, retain the stellar faculty and researchers who make our high ranking possible, and recruit the new people who will ensure our future excellence.”
Gary T. Chiodo, DMD, FACD
Dean, School of Dentistry
University of Washington
Anyone who has walked through our clinics in recent years will recognize the need to update them. While the cosmetic beauty of our facilities has never been our measure of excellence – compared, say, to our commitment to a world-class faculty and student community – the time has come to seriously address the physical state of our School. With so much equipment past its useful life, marred, or in disrepair, our clinics simply do not present the appearance our patients should expect from one of the world’s top 10 dental schools. Nor do they provide the kind of working environment we all want for our outstanding faculty, staff, and students.
Imagine: New chairs, cabinetry, and partitions for the D2 and D3 clinics will be aligned with the standards we’ve set in the Advanced Technology Center and the Sand Point clinic. Through naming opportunities, alumni can leave a legacy for future School of Dentistry students and patients by appending their name to an operatory of their choosing. Dean Chiodo: “Our patients understand that they are coming to a dental school for their care; however, when they arrive, the appearance of our facility is not inviting. We need to make our environment as appealing as any other dental clinic.”
Beyond the necessary physical upgrades, our students must train in clinics that reflect the rapidly changing dental profession into which they will graduate – a profession fueled by the power of technology. Chasing the latest trends in technology is never-ending, but we can make a number of upgrades now that will have a lasting place in our curriculum. For one, we must add electric handpieces, so students will learn with both electric and air turbine technology. State-of-the-art technology must start in the Simulation Clinic and continue seamlessly into the patient clinics. This will also require additional IT staff support to be sure we maintain our equipment well into the future.
Imagine: Dean Chiodo: “You can actually put on haptic goggles, and the instructor can instruct all students at once, and you don’t even have to be in the room. That technology exists now. Short of that, there’s also technology that’s been out there for a while – a virtual patient and instruments. Students look through the goggles and pick up a virtual instrument and do a procedure on a virtual tooth, and the feel is exactly the same as the real thing. And when you finish the procedure, you get a readout of the parameters of what you did. So, if the expectation is that you’re going to do a crown preparation with a 5- to 7-degree axial taper and a millimeter and a half of occlusal reduction, you finish it virtually and the readout shows you exactly how close you got to those parameters. Plus, the instructor can set parameters so it’s color-coded in terms of what’s enamel, dentin, and cementum, but you can also color-code for caries. So you can see how well the student did on caries removal without getting a pulp exposure and still designing the preparation appropriately. It’s amazing!”
“Maybe 40 percent of our pre-docs are exposed to digital dentistry now,” says Dr. John Sorensen, director of the B4T laboratory and Research Director for our Graduate Prosthodontics program. “That needs to change. CAD/CAM technology is rapidly changing the field and is essential to preparing our students to practice in today’s dental clinics. Today’s dental patients who are advised that a crown is needed will learn about the availability of this technology on the Internet and will expect it in dental offices.”
Imagine: It is not hard to imagine the new reality when you have world-class faculty members showing us the way. Dr. Daniel Chan, our Chair of Restorative Dentistry, and Dr. Sorensen have mapped out three major phases of implementation:
- Acquire the necessary hardware and software. Students using it would scan their tooth preparation, after which the software evaluates their work. The self-analysis software provides a color-coded 3-D analysis of preparation wall taper, over- or under-preparation, and quality of margin preparation.
- Employ CAD/CAM training in chairside milled restorations, including crowns, veneers, and onlays.
- Hire a specialized digital dental technician who will work with and teach the students in creating in-house CAD/CAM restorations for their patients.