ACP Launches Digital Dentistry Curriculum with Partner Schools

Richard Gawel
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The American College of Prosthodontists (ACP) has selected 5 dental schools to pilot its Digital Dentistry Curriculum. According to the ACP, this is the first time that a curriculum has been developed nationally to train future dentists on the uses of digital technologies such as intraoral scanners, CAD/CAM, milling machines, and CBCT. 

“As a practicing prosthodontist, I know that digital dentistry brings remarkable benefits to clinicians and their patients. Yet it is new, complex, costly, and thus not rapidly adopted,” said Lyndon F. Cooper, DDS, PhD, chair of the ACP Education Foundation (ACPEF). “The ACP has developed a Digital Dentistry Curriculum that enables faculty to teach students the digital technologies and prepare them so they can fully utilize these tools in practice.”

According to the ACP, digital dentistry facilitates communication, improves treatment quality, and enhances the patient experience. Also, it directly archives individual data for simple retrieval worldwide at any time. Despite these advantages, there are significant barriers to wider adoption, including costs, regulatory concerns, technical and expert support, security and privacy, existing workflow disruptions, and time.

Nationally, 16 universities applied to join the pilot program. The ACP reports that each of these schools offered strong leadership as well as different advantages and unique challenges. The ACP’s Task Force then sought diversity and levels of engagement in specific categories. Other selection criteria included acknowledged leadership, class size, current equipment, the use of electronic health records, the presence or absence of specialty programs, and location. 

The pilot program will include AT Still University-Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health, the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine, the Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine, the UCLA School of Dentistry, and the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry. The ACP also recruited and selected 5 member volunteers who will serve as mentors and train faculty at these schools about the use of these new technologies.   

“Each mentor has been assigned to a school and will be a resource to these institutions through the piloting phase,” said Cooper. “The pilot schools all have different needs as it relates to faculty training and plans to incorporate the digital dentistry curriculum into their institutions. Part of the role of the mentor group is to identify faculty training needs and answer questions as needed.”

Stony Brook & Kentucky

“Incorporating this into our current curriculum will advance our program in terms of teaching and training in diagnostics, dental care, and oral function, particularly for restorative, surgical, and orthodontic procedures,” said Mary Truhlar, DDS, MS, dean of the School of Dental Medicine at Stony Brook University.

Stony Brook has incorporated digital dentistry into its patient practices, training, and research. For example, it uses cone-beam technology in the diagnosis of oral pathology, placement of implants via guided surgery, and orthodontics. The school also has used digital dentistry to deliver restorations using CAD/CAM technology. And, it is researching the use of 3-D printing.

Next, Stony Brook will incorporate the curriculum into its training during the fall and spring semesters of the 2017-2018 academic year. Full implementation will start with the class of 2021, while the classes of 2020, 2019, and 2018 will see some enhancements in their coursework to incorporate training and clinical experience prior to graduation. 

Dental medicine residents at Stony Brook also will train under the digital dentistry curriculum. A student and faculty working group called Club CAD will meet to review in a grand rounds format the latest digital technologies and how they are used in specific patient cases.

Meanwhile, clinical workflows at Stony Brook will be developed in dental anatomy, operative and fixed prosthodontics, removable prosthodontics, and implant dentistry to allow for easy adaptation into the existing preclinical environment. Postdoctoral residents in prosthodontics, the general practice residency program, orthodontics, and periodontics will participate in advanced digital dentistry training. 

“The recent explosion in digital technology, software, scanning, and manufacturing capabilities has resulted in a major paradigm shift in all aspects of dentistry,” said Ann M. Nasti, DMD, associate dean for clinical education at Stony Brook. She will lead the curriculum. “Patients treated with digital solutions benefit from the combination of the most efficient clinical processes, accurate high-strength materials, and appealing aesthetics.”

“Training our DMD students in the new digital technology will prepare them for how dentistry will be practiced in the near future,” said Richard Windhorn, DMD, chief of prosthodontics at the University of Kentucky and a member of the ACP curriculum team. “It is paramount that they are equipped with knowledge of the latest practices, techniques, and materials when they graduate. The bottom line is that they will be trained to deliver the best possible dental care for their patients in the most efficient manner.” 

What’s Next

Thanks to a generous commitment from Henry Schein totaling $1.25 million and from its partner companies Planmeca, 3Shape, Glidewell, BioHorizons, and CAMLOG, the ACPEF awarded a grant to the ACP to establish the curriculum and make the pilot program possible.

“As frustrating as waiting for the final curriculum may be, the Digital Dentistry working group is committed in ensuring through the pilot program that the curriculum is fully feasible, robust, sufficiently complete, and yet adaptable enough to serve our many different dental schools,” said Cooper.

“The goal of the current piloting phase is to test the curriculum and further refine it before it is made available to educators across the world,” Cooper said. “Other schools need to be optimistically patient and allow for lessons to be learned so that a vetted curriculum could be rolled out in 2018. Our goal is to offer this new curriculum to everyone and make it readily available.”

For more information, schools can contact the Digital Dentistry Initiative Management Team at digitalcurriculum@prosthodontics.org.

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