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School of Dental Medicine

The Implant Dentistry Selective Gives Students the Opportunity to Delve Deeper

Tuesday, August 7, 2018
A student drills for an implant

Many students at TUSDM are motivated to complete their clinical requirements; the question is what to do once they achieve this goal? TUSDM has been actively thinking about how to keep these students actively engaged after meeting their requirements. In 2015, Dr. Michael Thompson, assistant dean for academic affairs, asked faculty to create “selectives” that would allow students to experience more in-depth clinical activities. Six selectives were created, including a selective in implant dentistry.

Several students at TUSDM showed interest in implant dentistry and were amongst the first to engage the community in their pursuits. In April 2016, Thomas Whitmer, D18, founded the Tufts Implant Club with Andrew Lum D19, Tuvy Phan, D18, and Lawrence Wong, D18, to learn more about the practice.

Over the course of two years, the club planned more than 18 events, including workshops with implant providers Nobel Biocare, Straumann, and Zimmer Biomet, as well as workshops on suturing, lectures on CBCT scans, 3D printing, bone regeneration, and more. The workshops and lectures were open to all students interested in implant placement. Through these efforts, students began to work with faculty in several disciplines (OMFS, Prosthodontics, Periodontology, Implant Dentistry) to enhance the implant selective.

Whitmer and Jared Wirth, D18, took leadership in the efforts, knowing that implant placement is becoming an increasingly common procedure. Predoctoral students at TUSDM study implant placement in the classroom and perform assists, but Whitmer and Wirth wanted to go further.

“The Tufts Implant Club really served as a launching point for wanting to improve the implant selective” Whitmer and Wirth stated during an April 2018 presentation to TUSDM faculty. An established curriculum for one student per year already existed for the selective, but the goals for the newly named Predoctoral Dental Implant Placement Program (DDIPP) were more ambitious.

The proposal they wrote for DDIPP called for didactic training for surgical planning and placement, hands-on surgical workshop experience, and the opportunity for predoctoral students to gain clinical implant placement experience.

In addition to attending all of the lectures and workshops and completing the relevant predoctoral courses, Whitmer, Wirth and Omar Ali, D18 (who was also selected to take part in the revised selective), took Implants A-Z with the postgraduate students and completed ten implant assists each. They were able to use the latest in dental technology, including 3-D printing and dynamic navigation systems to practice for the procedures.

Once patients were identified for an implant, the students worked closely with faculty advisors to create comprehensive treatment plans. These were approved by Implant Program Director Ekaterini Antonellou and went to one of three clinics: the Implant Center, the Oral Surgery Department, or the Periodontal Department where the procedures were performed. The students also worked closely with Dr. Irina Dragan, assistant professor of periodontology, who provided support, encouragement and supervision throughout the process.

The first implants placed by predoctoral students were completed in January 2018. In total, the group performed 10 successful procedures on TUSDM patients. “The most important part is the hands-on clinical aspect,” Whitmer said, emphasizing the knowledge that was gained during the clinic training and placement. “With the didactic and hands-on training, the ideal happened.”

In addition to the clinical experience, the students achieved in taking DDIPP from an idea to a reality in a relatively short period. “What makes this a great success is that we achieved our goals,” said Wirth. In the next year, the program is expected to grow from three to five students.  The Implant Club will continue to hold workshops and lectures, and work with faculty to refine DDIPP. Future students will continue to benefit from the hard work of the group’s founders and collaborators.