Clinical challenges and technological innovations: the perfect mix for this residency director
Dr. Amirali Zandinejad has one of those minds that strives to understand concepts in great detail. It’s what led him to seek a cumulative eight years of training after receiving his dental degree in 1996.
After two years of practice in public health, he began a master’s program in restorative dentistry at the University of Sheffield in England. Afterward, as a resident in the Advanced Education in General Dentistry program at the University of Rochester in New York, Zandinejad discovered something.
“I started to think about more difficult cases,” he says. “I wanted to know more and be able to treat more complex cases. To be honest, I enjoy doing them.”
So he signed on for another three years at Rochester, this go-round as a prosthodontics resident. The time spent in advanced training gave Zandinejad a taste for the variety that dental education offers.
“One of the reasons that I wanted to stay in academics was because of the diversity,” he says. “You get to be a clinician. You also teach, and research is a strong point as well. The background allowed me to be able to think out of the box and to think deeper.”
It also helped him to merge new ideas with technology and develop a ceramic crown with a graded structural design, something that was not possible without 3D printing technology. Zandinejad and team members at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry — where he taught prosthodontics for four years prior to coming to TAMBCD — even had the concept and design patented.
“Printing resin and metal is there, but printing ceramic is new,” Zandinejad says. “It provides lots of opportunity. You control the property, layer by layer. Which is fascinating, because we never could do that before.”
In June 2015, Zandinejad joined the Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry faculty in a role that is, in many ways, a perfect marriage of his expertise. As AEGD director, Zandinejad oversees the residency program at a time when the demand for general dentists to know more about technology, esthetic dentistry and dental implants continues to grow.
Here, Zandinejad, known to residents and co-workers as “Dr. Z” or “Dr. Zandi” talks about his goals for AEGD residents, considerations for using ceramics with dental implants, and the ever-increasing role of technology for today’s general dentist.
NewsStand: What are your top goals for AEGD residents?
Dr. Z: If you look at the new papers and articles regarding AEGD, what the residents are looking for is changing. The residents want to learn more about esthetic dentistry, dental technology and implant dentistry. That means a good program must be able to offer those things. I would like to emphasize more on implant dentistry as well as more esthetic dentistry. The other one is technology — digital dentistry, CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and manufacturing) — it’s coming very fast. Right now CAD/CAM is involved in many processes in implant and restorative dentistry.
This is a new generation, and we have to teach residents so they can follow the transition quickly and feel comfortable handling it. It is not completely replacing the conventional techniques yet, but I can see it is coming.
NewsStand: You are dually trained with an AEGD and prosthodontic residency in your professional background. Did you plan all along to merge advanced training in general dentistry with a dental specialty, or, as life so often goes, did it just sort of happen?
Dr. Z: As you get older, day by day, your view changes, your plan changes. You get exposed to more things that you didn’t know, and then you decide what you’re going to do next. I had no plan to be a prosthodontist before my AEGD residency.
NewsStand: Several of your current research projects deal with development of dental ceramics, specifically fracture-resistant varieties for use with dental implants. Just what are the differences clinicians need to consider when dealing with ceramics for use with dental implants as opposed to ceramics with existing teeth?
Dr. Z: You need to consider how to place it and how it relates to the rest of the teeth and the gums. There is more staging involved with dental implants. The biomechanics are different. The implant itself is basically replacing the root of the tooth, and then the dentist has to be able to design the abutment and the crown to replace that missing tooth.
NewsStand: Given your vantage point in AEGD, what does the future hold for dentists in general practice?
Dr. Z: Demand for implant dentistry and all-ceramic esthetic dentistry is increasing. I believe that the general dentist needs to be competent in these things, but they also have to know their limitations and initiate referrals when necessary in order to run a successful office. The new trend is going to be technology. It’s already changing. If you go to a lab, there are not as many technicians doing conventional lab work. Everything is designed on a computer and milled or printed. The speed of technology is so fast it’s sometimes even hard to follow. They have to know that and be on board.