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Endodontics residency prepares clinicians, scientists

By Cindy Abole
Public Relations

MUSC's newest dental residency program is focused on preparing the state's endodontic professionals. The program uses the latest technology, research and clinical experience to train future endodontists at the James B. Edwards College of Dental Medicine Dental Clinical Education Center.

Endodontist Marc E. Levitan, DDS, is the program's postgraduate director. He and his three postgraduate endodontists can be considered dental heroes when it comes to performing tooth-saving emergency techniques by diagnosing facial pain and helping patients preserve their natural teeth. Mostly, they enjoy the challenge that their work offers and the opportunity to teach and promote good oral health among their patients.

Drs. Marc Levitan, left, and Justin McAbee review a digital X-ray of a patient's teeth during a procedure.

Endodontists are root canal specialists who are focused on managing pain, treating dental injuries and preventing tooth loss using advanced technologies, skilled techniques and procedures. Endodontists complete some additional years of specialty training and education in diagnosis and root canal treatment following graduation from dental school.

"Our goal was to build a postgraduate endodontic program that could support the specialized dental needs of South Carolina residents. As the state's only dental school, we need to provide training programs in endodontics and other dental specialties because all aspects of dentistry are becoming intricate," said Levitan.

The program's three endodontic residents are completing their first year of residency and preparing to welcome a second group of residents. Current residents include Justin McAbee, DMD, a spring 2010 MUSC dental alumnus; David Woodard, DMD, a University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry graduate; and Tom Heeren, DDS, who received his degree from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center's College of Dentistry and former U.S. Navy dentist.

According to Heeren, the program operates successfully with a good balance between clinical experiences, research work and the educational-teaching component.

"The program offers great exposure to all aspects of endodontics," Heeren said.

A flexible curriculum
MUSC's postgraduate endodontic program is a 26-month dental residency that focuses on both clinical and research components. The didactic component includes treatment planning, case review, literature review and endodontic lecture presentations. Residents are expected to complete a combined Master of Science in Dentistry (MSD) and certificate program. A combined MSD and certificate program also is available. Endodontic residents are expected to complete a research project that includes a thesis defense and a publishable scientific manuscript. Residents read and evaluate scientific literature, discover resources and tools, plus test and review dental products to share their findings at dental professional meetings across the country.

In addition to conducting research, residents will guide senior-level dental students rotating in the college's endodontics clinic also located at the dental clinical education center. Additionally, endodontic postgraduate students teach a new technologies course for second-year dental students and support emergency clinic calls.

Levitan, who has more than 25 years clinical experience in clinical endodontics, approached CDM Dean John Sanders, DMD, in 2006 to discuss plans for creating the postgraduate endodontics program.

James A. Rivers, DMD, professor and chair of the Department of Oral Rehabilitation, was excited to develop the program following the recruitment of Levitan and other dental faculty. Rivers tried to initiate the program in the 1980s, but the timing was not right. Instead, Rivers led the division to move forward in other areas including dental technology, new instruments and equipment that enhanced the school's undergraduate endodontics clinical practice.

In 2009, the college opened the dental clinical education center which expanded space and opened collaboration to establish vital partnerships with dental businesses and manufacturers to create the 120,000 square foot dental education and research facility, according to Rivers.

"That building allowed us to secure space in a modern facility and bring together modern dental technology, practitioners and students to let us improve oral health care in South Carolina," said Rivers.

Dental endodontics was recognized as a dental specialty by the American Dental Association in 1963.

Levitan was recruited in 2006 from the University of Tennessee's School of Dentistry after directing their endodontics program and establishing digital radiology services within their program.

Tapping technology, treatments
A year after observing and defining MUSC's endodontics program mission, Levitan shared some foundational recommendations with Sanders and dental leadership to enhance the clinical endodontics enterprise. Levitan suggested the use of newer, more efficient technologies such as digital X-ray imaging and new systems for treating patients. These were technologies that Levitan previously used and introduced at Tennessee's dental school. With the new digital imaging system, residents and practitioners can take, process and view large, enhanced images in seconds as opposed to traditional film X-rays that takes time to process.

"New dental technology is only beneficial if our students can be taught to utilize it when treating patients. All of this enables us to provide patients with better treatments and more predictable outcomes and fewer problems associated with root canals and other endodontic procedures," Levitan said.

At the dental school's initial 2010 accreditation visit with the American Dental Association's Commission on Dental Accreditation, accreditors were impressed with their findings and progress of the postgraduate program. According to Levitan, accreditors cited that MUSC's program was "ahead of the curve" in dental technologies and other areas compared to other postgraduate endodontics programs around the country.

Currently, Levitan and his colleagues have completed the selection process for the program's second group of residents. They will begin the program in June.


Friday, April 29, 2011

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