Seven new chairs, a surgical room for live-streaming procedures and more than $1 million worth of high-tech digital tools in the newly renovated dental clinic signal a new era for patients, students, clinicians and researchers.

Mary MacDougall, associate dean for research, helps students with a fully automated imaging system.
The majority of the equipment is either subsidized or donated outright by manufacturers, says James Broome, D.D.S., associate professor of prosthodontics in the School of Dentistry. "We basically said, 'Give us your best stuff, and we will give students exposure to it," Broome says. And they did: new impressioning equipment, milling machines, drills, porcelain ovens, color-correcting overhead lights and sterilization equipment and more.

The major expense, however, was infrastructure. And Birmingham-based BioHorizons, a UAB spin-off company that specializes in dental implants, awarded a $400,000 grant to the school to renovate the sixth floor to accommodate the technology. 

Michael McCracken, D.D.S., associate dean for education and curriculum development, expressed gratitude to the company and all of the manufacturers that provided funds and equipment. Those gifts have given researchers and students the best possible equipment and materials for their work, he says, and will help the School of Dentistry expand its research and clinical trials. 

"Part of getting a clinical trial is having a decent facility to do the work and having the infrastructure to support it," McCracken says.

Tomorrow's technologies

John Burgess, D.D.S., associate dean for clinical research, says dental students will have access to the clinic to see patients one day a week. "We want to expose dental students to new technology and new delivery systems so that they have some idea of what is available and will be able to make intelligent purchases when they graduate," he says. "That's novel.

"We also anticipate that it will be a good resource for continuing education," Burgess says. "The surgical room soon will be outfitted with several cameras so that dentists watching in the adjacent conference room - or in lecture halls across campus or across country - will have close-up views of techniques being performed."

The new technologies, materials, research and procedures available through the clinic will help the School of Dentistry better serve its patients now and clinicians and researchers in the future. 

"The future of dentistry is earlier and better treatment, better restorative materials and the ability to diagnose and place implants much more accurately than we have," Burgess says. "That future is coming very rapidly, and this clinic is going to play a significant role in meeting it."