Spring 2015

Total Body Treatment

Tufts joins a select group in launching residency program in oral medicine 

By Helene Ragovin

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“Oral medicine is where dentistry and medicine overlap,” says Athena Papas, left, chair of the division of oral medicine. Photo: Kelvin Ma

Medical conditions such as Crohn’s disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and HIV, and even cancer treatment, can cause oral health problems. Tufts School of Dental Medicine’s new postgraduate program in oral medicine will train dentists to care for these patients.

“Oral medicine is where dentistry and medicine overlap,” says Athena Papas, J66, chair of the dental school’s division of oral medicine. The Oral Medicine Residency (OMR) program was accredited by the Council on Dental Accreditation (CODA) in 2014, and will accept its first residents next year. The OMR is a full-time, two-year certificate program, with the option of a third year leading to a master of science degree.

The residency program puts Tufts in the company of relatively few other dental schools—only six other oral medicine programs in the country are accredited by CODA. Yet the demand for such services is increasing, especially as the population ages. “A lot of dentists don’t even know about oral medicine,” Papas notes.

“The OMR program truly epitomizes a multidisciplinary approach to patient care and underscores our commitment to interprofessional education, says Dean Huw F. Thomas.

Only six other oral medicine programs in the country are accredited by the Council on Dental Accreditation.

Tufts is particularly well suited to host the residency program because it has operated an Oral Medicine Clinic since 1979 that sees more than 2,500 patients annually. The school’s Craniofacial Pain, Headache and Sleep Center treats 2,000 new patients every year.

Hospitals and specialists from throughout New England refer patients to the Oral Medicine Clinic for pre- and postcancer dental care. The clinic has one of the country’s largest programs for treating patients with Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that destroys the salivary glands and results in extreme dry mouth.

Residents will be able to examine patients being prepped for stem cell or organ transplants, manage oral health complications from radiation or chemotherapy and diagnose and treat infections in patients with complex medical issues, among other clinical work. They will complete rotations at Tufts Medical Center, UMass Memorial Medical Center and Tufts Dental Facilities Serving Persons with Special Needs clinics throughout Massachusetts.

“After 40 years of promoting oral medicine at Tufts, I’m very excited about this new program,” Papas says.

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