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Dentistry students drill into oral health research

February 7, 2019 — 

From comparing 2D to 3D imaging in orthodontics to analyzing oral bacteria, U of M dentistry students’ research is contributing knowledge to the field while sharpening learners’ scientific skills.  

Amanda Finch, a second-year dentistry student, was one of four winners of the research poster competition at the Dr. Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry’s annual Research Day, held in January at the RBC Convention Centre in conjunction with the Manitoba Dental Association’s 2019 convention.

Finch is among about 40 per cent of U of M dentistry students who choose to pursue a second degree – a bachelor of science in dentistry – while completing their professional degree. The science degree program provides students with a stipend to conduct research in the summers while they’re studying to become dentists during the academic year. 

Finch is part of a research team that has developed and is pilot-testing a questionnaire for parents to assess the risk of tooth decay in preschool children.

“It’s nice to have a different perspective on dentistry,” Finch said. “You see a whole different side of it through research. Next summer we’ll be looking at data that was collected with this tool.”

Dr. Raj Bhullar, associate dean (research) at the dental college in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, said the dental convention makes an ideal setting for Research Day. “It provides students with a very good opportunity to interact with practising dentists and showcase their work,” Bhullar said. “It’s also good for dentists to see what’s going on at the college.”

Participating in research, Bhullar added, helps students understand how to evaluate research findings – a skill they will need throughout their careers in order to stay current.

Dr. Kangmin Duan, associate professor of oral biology and a judge of the poster competition, said conducting research is relevant to the students’ future careers, no matter what path they take in dentistry. “It trains them in critical thinking. They’re learning the techniques to ask ‘why.’” 

The award for the top oral research presentation went to Manoj Medapati, a PhD student in oral biology, for a study of the role of bitter taste receptors in oral innate immunity. The oral presentations were judged by Dr. James Gilchrist, professor of oral biology.

Besides Finch, three students earned awards for their research posters after presenting them to four judges: Dr. Mitch Taillon, president of the Canadian Dental Association, Duan, and two other faculty members from the department of oral biology, Dr. Prashen Chelikani and Dr. Elliott Scott.

  • Vivianne Cruz, a PhD student in oral biology, studied the role of the oral microbiota (micro-organisms in the mouth) in early childhood tooth decay.
  • Israa Elgazzar, a fourth-year dentistry student, examined the causes and management of dental implant failure before the replacement tooth is attached to the implant.
  • Stella Korowski, a fourth-year dentistry student, analyzed a survey of Manitoba dentists about their use of cone beam computed tomography (3D X-ray imaging).

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