University of Mississippi Opens Cutting-Edge Dental Clinic

Dentistry Today


The School of Dentistry at the University of Mississippi Medical Center joins three other schools in the nation by opening a technology center featuring cutting-edge dental equipment for student training funded by a national organization.

In 2017, the Center for Research & Education in Technology (CRET) chose the school to host the Regions CRET Innovation Suite, a high-tech clinic featuring six state of the art dental treatment rooms and two dental hygiene treatment rooms with equipment donated by more than 26 different dental manufacturers. 

“This is the future of dentistry. All the students—as I look around, you are the future of our industry and of dental healthcare,” said Don Hobbs, vice president of equipment sales at Henry Schein and CEO of CRET during the grand opening of the clinic on June 21. “It’s really important you get the chance to use the equipment. It’s really important.”

Regions provided $100,000 for renovations to the area on the second floor of the school’s building. John Boydstun, Regions commercial relationship manager and senior vice president, said Regions saw the value for the community in supporting the Innovation Suite. 

“These products and equipment are hitting the private dental practice as soon as they go into the marketplace, so it creates a challenge for dental school graduates to not be fully exposed to the technology that’s out there today,” said Boydstun.

“With the Regions CRET Innovation Suite, the School of Dentistry is going to have that advantage. It gives the school a very unique offering that differentiates itself on a national level,” said Boydstun.

David Felton, DDS, dean of the School of Dentistry, has been working the past three years to bring the center to fruition.

“The clinic is truly the shining star in the School of Dentistry and will enable us to train the next generation of dentists for Mississippi with cutting-edge technologies,” said Felton.

Designed to simulate a private practice dental office, the clinic also includes a new sterilization center, two cone-beam computerized X-ray machines, digital dental impression capabilities, 3-D printers, a laser room, and the capability to design and mill dental prostheses. Also, its conference room houses a large screen where students and faculty can watch patients be treated in the operatory rooms in real time. 

The clinic has been on the mind of Scott Phillips, DMD, associate dean of clinical affairs, for more than five years. The school says he was persistent about it, presenting it to Felton when he came to the school as dean in 2016. Felton was enthusiastic about the idea, and while Phillips coordinated with CRET, Felton helped secure the funding to open the center.

“We went from having one CT scan in the entire school that was limited and clunky, and now we have three, two of which are state of the art. It opens up opportunities we haven’t had before,” Phillips said. 

Phillips has stayed in touch with the CRET centers at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry and the West Virginia University School of Dentistry.

“We are learning from them so we can continue the CRET vision and mission,” said Phillips.

Dental students Collin Peterson of Gulfport, Mississippi, Erin Coggin of Madison, Mississippi, and Heather Wise of Gulfport are excited to get started in the clinic.

“It’s going to broaden the horizon of procedures we can do and the number of cases we can see,” said Peterson. “Right now, we’re limited on the supply and the technology we have, but now that we have all this, we can do a lot more advanced procedures.”

Dental students and attending faculty members will do rotations in the clinic throughout the year, with fourth-year students spending at least six weeks seeing patients there. Students will gain experience with the equipment in the clinic while treating patients in a way that more closely resembles what they will be doing as dentists, the school reports.

“The students will be… doing comprehensive treatment. What that means is they will be treating their patients as if this was their own private practice,” said Andres Pappa, DDS, director of the CRET Innovation Suite and assistant professor of care planning and restorative services.

“Upstairs (in the current clinics) they work by areas. One afternoon they are in prosthodontics and only working on prosthodontics. The next day, they’re in the endodontics clinic, only working on root canals, and so on,” said Pappa.

In the Innovation Suite, under the supervision of an attending faculty member, students will get the opportunity to treat all of a patient’s needs. 

Coggin is enthusiastic about the center’s digital capabilities such as intraoral scanners that can be used to create a digital model of a patient’s mouth that is then printed using a 3-D printer.

“We spend a lot of time without our patients doing the work,” said Coggin. “So (having that ability) and being able to pay closer attention to the patient and maximize efficiency will be great.” 

The digital capabilities of the technology center reflect the changing face of dentistry, the school says, better preparing students for the field in which they will practice. 

“Dentistry is being transformed from an analog profession into a digital profession. Having access to digital intraoral scanners, 3-D printers, and three-dimensional radiology is going to be the biggest advantage of having this equipment here,” said Pappa. “It will put us at the forefront of modern dentistry as far as what we’re teaching our students.”

Wise sees benefits for the patients as well as for herself and her colleagues.

“Instead of them having to go upstairs and be in the big open bay, with tons of doctors walking by, this is a more private and intimate setting,” said Wise. “Maybe it can help lower their anxiety.” 

Pappa, Felton, and others at the School of Dentistry are well aware this unique opportunity would never have been possible without the support of CRET and Regions.

“We are so thankful to CRET and all of the member companies that have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment and supplies. Without them and the support from Regions, all of this would just be a dream,” said Pappa.

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