Spring 2017

For the Good of Our Patients

110420_5332_thomas021.JPGGreetings! As we kick off our yearlong celebration of the 150th anniversary of Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, it’s instructive to glance into the rearview mirror to remind us of where we’ve been and where we’re headed, as a school and as a profession. More than two decades ago, in 1995, the Institute of Medicine released the report Dentistry at the Crossroads, which advocated for a closer relationship between medicine and dentistry. The report was followed in 2000 by one from the U.S. Surgeon General, Oral Health in America, which concluded that good oral health is essential for overall well-being.

Since then, more and more research has confirmed the relationship between poor oral health and conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This link becomes more pronounced as we age and face a higher risk of developing oral health problems and age-related chronic illnesses. We know that patients who visit the dentist twice a year for preventive care significantly lessen their risk for developing chronic health problems.

As a profession, we must continue to focus on aligning dentistry and medicine in education, policy and practice. Our patients deserve nothing less. Tufts University School of Dental Medicine has a long history of integrating medicine and nutrition into patient care and continues to make great strides in expanding these activities. We teach our students to care for “the whole patient,” and we’ve broken new ground in the field of interprofessional education with the goal of fostering better integration of care with our colleagues in medicine.

Our cover story for this issue profiles an innovator in interprofessional education, Athena Papas, the Dr. Erling Johansen, D49, Professor of Dental Research. Dr. Papas is an exemplar of the ways in which we can work across disciplines to improve the outcomes and overall well-being of our patients. As head of our school’s Division of Oral Medicine, she is a daily witness to the relationship between oral health and general health in her work with Sjögren’s syndrome patients and those whose cancer treatments have damaged their salivary glands or who have complex medical issues. Tina Papas is a true pioneer for her work as a groundbreaking clinical researcher and as someone who entered the profession at a time when just 3 percent of dentists in the United States were women.

One unassailable link between oral health and general health is the association between periodontal disease and Type 2 diabetes. Professor Jake Jinkun Chen and his research team are exploring ways to treat resistant cases of periodontitis in patients with diabetes. You can read about his research and its implications for preventing bone and tooth loss in this issue.

As another academic year winds down, we say farewell to the students in the Class of 2017 and prepare to welcome them as our newest alumni. My sincerest congratulations go out to the D17s, who have distinguished themselves in their academic, research and patient-care activities and their engagement with the local, regional and global communities.

We publish this magazine to celebrate the achievements of our Tufts dental community—faculty, staff, students and alumni. I hope you enjoy reading about all of them, and wish you and your loved ones an enjoyable spring and summer. As always, I welcome your feedback. Please do get in touch: 617.636.6636 or huw.thomas@tufts.edu.

Huw F. Thomas, B.D.S., M.S., Ph.D.
Dean and Professor of Pediatric Dentistry

Top Stories

All the Presidents’ Teeth

Who didn’t floss? Who was a bruxer? And who could have used some whitening strips? Our faculty give some historical smiles a thorough checkup.

Care Where the Kids Are

At this Boston elementary school, cleanings, fluoride and fillings are available just down the hall.

O Pioneer!

After graduating from Tufts in 1966, Athena Papas passed on the dental school because she didn’t want to be the only woman in her class. She finally joined the school eight years later as an assistant professor, and in the four decades since has secured dozens of grants for groundbreaking research, helped launch countless life-changing medications and mentored generations of colleagues. Today, half of all dental students are women… and Papas seems to be just getting started.

The Patient Whisperers

Every dentist can learn to put the anxious and the fearful at ease. It’s not magic; it simply takes time and effort.

When God Came Calling

Mina Kaddis, D06, was content in his private practice. Then his bishop had a request.

Editor's Picks

21st Century DMD

Educating the next generation of dentists

Building a Health-Care Home

One patient, many providers— and a fresh approach to bringing it all together

A Collective Assault on Opioid Abuse

First-in-the-nation core competencies will give dental students strategies for fighting an epidemic

A Personal Career Network

First job? Buying a practice? Need an associate? Let Tufts play matchmaker.

Hope for Those with Diabetic Periodontal Disease 

An experimental drug that mimics an insulin-regulating hormone could rebuild bone, and perhaps advance treatment for Type 2 diabetics.

In His Father’s Footsteps

The end of one career leads to the beginning of another

Magical Creatures Above

Look up! That’s the new directive in the dental clinic that treats Tufts’ youngest patients.

Safety Gap

Shortcoming in protective eyewear spurs look at new standards