Master’s Program in Operative Dentistry Launches in Florida

Richard Gawel

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The University of Florida College of Dentistry is launching a new graduate education program in its department of restorative sciences for general dentists who want to earn a master’s degree in operative dentistry. Applications will be accepted through December 16, with the first classes beginning on July 1, 2017.

“This is a 3-year program, and it will be designed to meet the growing need for future educators in operative dentistry,” said Patricia Pereira, DDS, PhD, who will direct the program. “We’re having search committees for faculty, and it’s really complicated to find educators in operative dentistry.”

Operative dentistry addresses the diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of defects of the teeth that do not require full coverage restorations for correction. It should result in the restoration of proper tooth form, function, and aesthetics while maintaining the physiologic integrity of the teeth and their relationship with adjacent tissues.

“It’s general dentistry but more focused on aesthetic dentistry and preserving tooth structure,” said Pereira. “Operative dentistry is not a CODA recognized specialty like periodontology or endodontics, but it is in the process of becoming a specialty. Some branches of dentistry recognize operative dentistry as advanced training.”

First-year students in the program will be prepared to see patients while learning how to be educators. Courses in subsequent years will expand upon the basic knowledge of cariology, prevention, advanced operative dentistry, aesthetics, materials science, and urgent patient care.

For example, first-year students will spend 30% of their time in patient care, with the rest of their work divided between didactic courses and teaching preclinical and clinical students. In the later years, 40% of their time will be in patient care, with the remainder split between didactic teaching and research.

“There definitely will be teaching in the clinics and in the preclinical courses in the labs—when those students do their first tooth preparation, for example,” Pereira said. “They also will be presenting seminars for the other master’s students in other programs within the school. Our dental students are going to be more hands-on in terms of clinical and preclinical labs and in the seminars.”

Digital dentistry including CAD/CAM technologies will play a central role in the curriculum too. Students will learn how to scan teeth with intraoral cameras, design restorations on the computer, and mill composite ceramic blocks that will best fit their patients. Conventional impressions, Pereira said, are no longer necessary.

“We have at least 10 milling machines at the school. And the clinic where students will be working already has 4 scanners with 4 milling machines,” Pereira said. “Everything here is pretty much digital, and we foresee moving more toward that.”

Looking ahead, Pereira hopes to launch partnerships with different equipment companies to get their products in the hands of her students. That way, these students will get exposure to a variety of tools—and once they’re finished with the program, they may have a preference.

“For example, digital scanner companies can bring in their scanners and students can try all of them. When they leave school, they can decide which one they like best and what they want to buy,” said Pereira. “It’s going to be a good time for companies to start investing in terms of collaboration.”

The program will be small, however, with 3 students admitted each year. That’s because it’s an intense program that requires a lot of manpower on the faculty’s behalf. There also will be an intern program for students who do not want to enter the full master’s program.

It’s a demanding program too. Students must complete a minimum of 38 credits and carry a 3.0 GPA. Plus, they need to publish their thesis in a peer-reviewed journal and present it at a national or an international meeting—not at an in-house research event.

“If they want to be eligible for an academic career, they have to know how to publish. They have to know how to lecture. They have to know how to teach,” said Pereira. “We’re going to make these students eligible for an academic career or private practice with evidence-based dentistry as a background for them.”

Evidence-based dentistry, integrating clinical expertise with the patient’s needs and preferences and with the most current clinically relevant evidence published in peer-reviewed journals, will be the foundation of the program’s clinical work.

“As long as there’s evidence in the literature showing that something works, and has been retested, and we see that it works, then, yes, it will be the focus of our program, using evidence-based dentistry to treat our patients,” Pereira said.

Prior to joining the University of Florida’s faculty, Pereira spent 12 years teaching, including 6 years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in operative dentistry. She has published more than 80 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters and has presented many scientific research programs and continuing education courses.

Among other members of the faculty, Pereira will be joined by Saulo Geraldeli, DDS, MS, PhD, associate professor, and Alejandro Delgado, DDS, MS, clinical assistant professor, both with the school’s restorative dental sciences operative division.

“We have a very good body of professors here from different backgrounds. It’s a very cohesive division,” said Pereira. “We’re all very tight together.”

For more information and to apply to the program, go to http://admissions.dental.ufl.edu/advanced-graduate-programs/programs-application-process/masterscertificate-in-operative-dentistry/.

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