The ambient lighting, the gentle trickling water from the tabletop Zen garden, the intermittent buzzing of a high-speed hand piece in the background, these sounds are becoming increasingly intermingled with the emergence of dental spas across the country. When dental anxiety is one of the leading drivers for patients avoiding essential dental care, the addition of a “spa-like” treatment may help patients feel more at home. A dental spa is exactly what you think it would be – a dental facility under a licensed Oral Health Care provider that offers spa services in addition to providing dental care.
After spending many nights and weekends in the dental lab preparing casts, fabricating custom trays, and setting denture teeth for my patients, I decided to spend a year in a different kind of lab—Dr. Toshi Kawai’s immunology lab at the Forsyth Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. My decision came after my research experience in Dr. Kawai’s lab during the summer after my first year in dental school. I first met with Dr. Kawai because of my interest in the link between oral and systemic health, specifically diabetes-associated periodontal disease. I took on a project to study ghrelin, a protein found in lower levels in diabetic patients. My work that summer helped demonstrate that ghrelin exhibits anti-microbial properties by protecting other anti-microbial peptides from degradation.
One of my favorite courses at UT Houston was the study of implantology. I had originally though implants to be new technology relying on sophisticated materials and techniques. In fact, the practice of replacing teeth was actually attempted as early as 400 B.C.! Civilizations in Egypt, South America and China are now known to have used materials such as stone, ivory, wood, seashells, animal and cadaver teeth, and gold to fill the holes in their mouths. I don’t know about you, but placing a sharp piece of anything into my jaw bone sounds less than desirable. Yet, all over the world archeologists are finding examples of humans practicing ancient dentistry.
This past spring break, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Panama through International Service Learning with seven other members of Baylor University’s predental organization and one pre-optometry student from Ohio State. I’d argue with anyone that this was leaps and bounds better than your typical college spring break on the beaches of Florida or Cancun. If you have the chance to do a service trip during college, GO. Serve. Love. Learn.
What do Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Warren Buffett, Lucy Liu, Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama and I have in common? We are all transfer students! Granted, they transferred undergraduate universities while I transferred dental schools. A year ago I did not even know transferring dental schools was possible. I had never heard of anyone transferring.