Cutting-edge clinical education: Isolite and CAD/CAM technology for TAMBCD

Patients and students can reap the benefits of contributions from Texas A&M Association of Former Students
June 18th, 2015

At Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry, more than 200 third- and fourth-year dental students provide clinical care. One thing often not available to these students, though, is the presence of dental assistants to aid with procedures.

This means with lengthy processes such as crown and bridge preparations or multiple restorative procedures, dental students need equipment in place of extra hands for tasks like retraction — holding the patient’s cheeks and tongue away from cutting instruments — as well as suction to remove excess saliva.

Traditionally this requires manual isolation with cotton rolls and moisture pads, but these can dry out the cheeks and tongue. Rubber dams are used when possible, but since many procedures don’t allow for them, this means cotton products, dental mirrors and a Svedopter, which clamps down on the chin, have served as go-to dental isolation tools.

An Isolite systemA $54,000 contribution from the Texas A&M Association of Former Students has helped to change that, allowing for the purchase of technology known as Isolite systems. Transparent, disposable mouthpieces prop open the patient’s mouth, protect soft tissues and block the throat, minimizing the chance that debris will be swallowed during a procedure. The systems also include attachments to provide hands-free suction and illumination.

“They’ve helped us be more efficient in the clinic,” says Dr. Rebecca Chang ’15 of the isolation systems. “In a dental school setting working without an assistant, they make a huge difference.”

Dr. Stephen Griffin, executive director of clinics at TAMBCD, notes that while this gift is intended to benefit students, it also has a positive impact on another group: patients.

“Besides a much better operating field for the care provider, these isolation systems offer a more comfortable and safe environment for the patient,” he says.

In addition to Isolite systems purchased during the 2014-2015 academic year, the remaining Association of Former Students funds have been allocated to the integration of more CAD/CAM technology (computer-aided design and manufacturing). A CAD/CAM unit can, in conjunction with a patient’s images, be used to mill crowns, veneers and fixed bridges, among other uses, all while the patient reclines in the dental chair.

This spring, Dr. Lawrence Wolinsky, TAMBCD dean, shared with the Association of Former Students just how the funds are being allocated at the dental school to aid in students’ clinical experiences.

“Students at Texas A&M Baylor College of Dentistry enjoy a unique benefit,” Wolinsky says. “Because of our affiliation with not just one, but two fine alumni organizations — the Baylor College of Dentistry Alumni Association and the Texas A&M Association of Former Students — we have access to a rich tradition of generosity between current students and graduates.

“We continue that tradition by giving our students the tools necessary to provide the highest level of safety and ease in patient care.”

— Jennifer Fuentes