<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=799546403794687&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
a series of 10 images clipped together to represent the 10 stories listed in the article

CU Dental's Top Stories of 2023

minute read

Written by Laura Ramsey on December 19, 2023

2023 was a big year for the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine (CU SDM) as we celebrated our 50th anniversary.

Looking back at the many stories of student success, patient care, faculty scholarship, research and innovation, a few themes stand out: the integral connection between oral health and overall health; increasing access to dental care; and collaborative, person-centered care and education as we look to the future. 

Here are our top ten must-read stories of 2023. 

one person checking the pulse on another person's wrist 

Routine Dental Exam Catches Critical Heart Issue

When dental student Mohita Sharma, BDS, (ISP ’23), noticed her patient’s heart rate was higher than usual, neither of them expected it would save his life.

“Dentists are sometimes the first providers to diagnose something going on in the whole body,” said Sharma. “Dentistry is often considered separate from primary care, but it shouldn’t be. We are taught how the oral cavity affects the whole body and vice versa. That’s why we do a comprehensive exam every time we see a patient.” 


students in medical masks looking at each other with a computer in the background in a high-tech simulation lab

Me and My Avatar—A New Frontier in Dental Simulation

Imagine having the opportunity to join a multi-dentist practice during your first days in dental school. Imagine that within that practice, you are able to establish a long-term relationship with a patient whose evolving case and progress is your responsibility throughout your entire dental education. Now imagine that your patient is an avatar with a complex mixture of social, medical and dental histories and challenges that develop in response to your treatment decisions. 

Such experiences would have sounded like sci-fi fantasy to previous generations of dental school graduates. For students at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine (CU SDM), however, that precise scenario is now a reality in the school’s new Dental Advanced Simulation Hub (DASH). 



Can Dogs Improve Access to Dental Care?

When Lexi Dunnells looked to build a project for the School of Dental Medicine’s Research Day, she knew she wanted to study how to reduce barriers to care in the dental clinic.

“I was a teacher for five years and never knew that the number one reason why kids miss school is dental pain – it's shocking,” said Dunnells, a dual 2024 DDS and MPH candidate in the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine and Colorado School of Public Health. “So for me, combining the individual patient level nature of dentistry with the larger context of public health – remembering the ‘why’ of what I'm doing – was an exciting prospect.” 


MHA Pathway Luong Header

Finding a Different Pathway to Dental School

Jake Luong’s journey to dental school didn’t come easily, but he was determined to make it happen. Now, he is the first student to matriculate into the Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) program at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine (CU SDM) through the Master of Science in Modern Human Anatomy (MHA) Pathway to Dentistry Program.

“Getting into dental school has been both challenging and rewarding,” Luong said. “It's a demanding path, but the opportunity to help people with their oral health makes it fulfilling.” 



Can Flossing Help Prevent Alzheimer’s and Strokes?

What happens in the mouth doesn’t always stay in the mouth. That’s the mantra for many dental experts today, as research into connections between gum disease and systemic disorders – from strokes and rheumatoid arthritis to diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease – becomes more prominent.

Although more studies behind the suspected links are needed, one thing is clear, said Sangeetha Chandrasekaran, MS, BDS, chair of the Division of Periodontics in the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine: Any flossing or dental checkup resolutions made for the new year certainly can’t hurt. 


Haptics Competition Header

CU School of Dental Medicine Hosts First-Ever Haptics Competition to Elevate Students’ Skills

Students at the CU SDM are immersed in a collaborative environment where faculty, staff and peers are incredibly supportive, and everyone wants to see you succeed... but a little competition never hurt anyone. 

Michael Lampe, EdD, program director of digital education and academic technology, said, “With faculty who are eager to explore academic innovations and students calling for new dental simulation exercises, I wanted to reintroduce the technology we have available in a fun community-building approach.” He thought to himself, “If quidditch can become a major league sport, I’m sure we can make an interesting competition out of the Haptics Lab.” 


Colorado Communities

Serving Colorado Communities

 When alumni and students are asked about the Advanced Clinical Training and Service (ACTS) program, many share that it was one of the most memorable experiences in the Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) curriculum at the CU SDM. 

Hear from four alumni how the ACTS program shaped their education, practices and outlook on community and public health dentistry: Manisha Makhija, DDS (ISP ’14), BDS; Jacqueline Merz, DDS ’23, MPH ’23; Wyatt Nguyen, DDS ’23; and Stacey Robben, DDS ’16. 



Aging Americans Foreshadow Oral Healthcare Crisis

Oral health in a person’s golden years is a numbers game. The more natural teeth people retain – ideally at least 20 – the greater their quality of life and the lower their risk of chronic disease. For the 51% of Americans on Medicare who lack dental care, the odds are stacked against them.

A study into oral health among Medicare beneficiaries in American nursing homes underscores the far-reaching consequences of inadequate oral health. The study also brings into stark relief the disparities of oral health seen across ethnic groups. In this Q&A, Bruce Dye, DDS, MPH, the Delta Dental Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Caries Prevention and professor and chair of the Department of Community Dentistry and Population Health at the CU SDM, comments on the study and the need for expansion of Medicare coverage for dental care. 


SSCC Bruce Header

Patient with Complex Medical History Finds Comfort and Acceptance at the CU School of Dental Medicine

Bruce Jackson, a retired Microsoft engineer and patient at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine’s (CU SDM) Senior & Special Care Clinic, is battling a progressive neuromuscular disease that has completely changed his life. He’s convinced it all started with a cracked tooth. 

Jackson was excited to become a patient at the dental school: “You have full resources. You can do so much more than a regular dental office because you have all the different clinics and specialties right here. It’s also nice to know that I’m being treated with not just state-of-the-art learning but also equipment. You always have the latest and greatest because you’re teaching new dentists.” 


future header

Future Focused at 50—Merging High Tech and Humanity

As with all forms of healthcare, dentistry is changing rapidly. Factors such as new technologies, higher-quality data and a wider adoption of person-centered care models make our healthcare systems more cost-effective while delivering better outcomes. 

“A focus on person-centered care is critical to educating future-ready graduates,” said Dean Denise Kassebaum, DDS, MS. “It’s at the root of every initiative in the school-wide innovation agenda we are pursuing. It’s what our professors are passionate about teaching. And it’s why our students want to study here in our school-based and community-based care settings.” 


To see more stories, updates and events from the CU School of Dental Medicine, follow us on social media: Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook