Center for Contemporary Dentistry celebrates revamped facilities

The center will better prepare dental students for transitioning into the professional world.

Mike Enright

A healthy mixture of suits and scrubs on Tuesday afternoon filled the seventh floor of Moos Tower to celebrate the University’s newest dentistry clinic.

More than 60 University faculty, private executives and dental students attended the dedication of the revamped Center for Contemporary

Dentistry. The center originally opened in 2001 as part of a cooperative effort between the School of Dentistry and St. Paul-based Patterson Dental, a dental equipment distribution company.

The center will help prepare dental students for the transition into the professional world by giving them first-hand experience with some of the most up-to-date technology in the field, said Patrick Lloyd, professor and dean of the School of Dentistry.

“There’s been an explosion in new technologies in dentistry with digitization of just about everything you can imagine,” he said. “These are the opportunities we want to expose our students to.”

Expansion of the clinic took a year and a half, Lloyd said, and cost $430,000; $125,000 for facilities development and $305,000 for the new equipment. The dentistry school paid for the facilities and Patterson Dental covered the equipment costs, he said.

When the center originally opened in 2001, the cost was $600,000 and completely funded by Patterson, said Scott Anderson, company president.

Anderson, whose company has also teamed up with the University of Southern California, said it’s important for the public and private sectors to work together to create better outcomes for patients.

“This is a glimpse into how technology will affect the dentistry industry for the better,” he said. “Any way we can help the school helps the industry in the long run.”

Lloyd said because the school, which has more than 350 treatment rooms, couldn’t afford to equip all of its facilities with the latest technology, fourth-year dental students will spend two weeks per year on rotation in the new clinic.

“In this small microcosm of an office, we can create settings that can be regularly updated and stay contemporary,” he said.

The 1,000-square-foot office boasts five laboratories, a

digital X-ray machine, a sterilization area and something called

a CAD/CAM system, which uses a computer to design a

porcelain tooth restoration,

said Dr. David Klein, director of the center. It acts much like a crown, but is much faster and easier than conventional technology.

Lloyd said the clinic also houses digital radiology technology, and a system that allows dentists to use cameras to look inside the mouths of patients and project the results on a screen. That way, he said, patients can see their problem areas and have a better idea of how to take care of them after treatment.

Dr. Karl Self, a professor who works at the center, demonstrated some of the camera technology for dental students at the event.

“It’s a fun thing to play with,” he said. “It’s not cheap, obviously, which is why you don’t see one in every office.”

Self said the technology, which costs $3,000 to $5,000, is beneficial because it is instantaneous and reduces radiation exposure to patients.

The contemporary center is an “amazing facility” for students, said Ryan Ritchie, president of the University’s chapter of the American Dental Student Association.

“It’s state-of-the-art,” he said. “You can’t get any better than that.”