A fresh perspective

Student’s restoration case study snags Whole Mouth Health Colgate Award

March 16th, 2021

D4 Cynthia Udeh’s case study on a patient with restorative work won third-place kudos.

As an aspiring prosthodontist, D4 Cynthia Udeh has learned how patients’ preventive care buy-in greatly impacts the longevity of restorative dental work.

With that insight, Udeh recently won third place in the Whole Mouth Health Colgate Award contest. The competition required entrants to submit a case study that promoted whole mouth health along with prevention and care strategies. Her submission was selected out of a crowded field of entrants.

“I have spent a good amount of time in dental school fixing restorations on teeth that broke down. A dentist’s job ends at the dental office, and the patient’s job begins outside of the dental office,” she says. “The issue we face is that many dentists and patients are not doing the work when it comes to preventive dentistry. There is not enough emphasis placed on what the patient needs to do to maintain their restorations and prevent new decay.”

She chose a patient who received extensive restorative work and in-depth input from dental students along his dental journey at Texas A&M College of Dentistry. That patient willingly agreed to have his history shared for her case study. Although change didn’t happen overnight, she says, the patient picked up better oral health care habits over time and with the students’ consistent urging.

Udeh says her case study included three years of the patient’s “full medical and dental history, risk assessments, restorative and periodontal charting, X-rays, models, all diagnostic tools used to develop a treatment plan, the complete plan, preventive treatment, oral care recommendations and patient outcomes.”

Udeh asked the patient to share his thoughts on how his oral health care improved between 2018 and 2021 with students’ guidance. His perception perfectly matched what had been recorded in his chart, she says, showing that the patient/professional work relationship had a definite impact on outcomes.

“This goes to show how strong the preventive program at Texas A&M College of Dentistry is,” says Udeh, who was the patient’s primary care provider for just one of the three years. “There was improvement throughout his time here. This shows that the previous dental students had also done a wonderful job regarding his preventive care.”

Udeh, who graduates in May, will take that knowledge with her next year when she starts a prosthodontics residency at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. She’s looking forward to partnering with her patients as they learn to take ownership of long-term care of their restorative dental work.

“In the dental field, we should not see ourselves only as people with the skills to fix broken things, but as people with the knowledge to prevent things from breaking down in the first place,” she says.

— Kathleen Green Pothier