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Something to Smile About

Appointments: 410-955-6662 or 6663.

Open Wide: The JHH Dental Treatment Center
Now reinvigorated for patients—and employees, too


James Sciubba checks employee Janel Lipscomb’s mouth.

In the late 1990s, the Johns Hopkins Dental Clinic was in crisis. Lacking a dental school to supply residents, the clinic, a component of Dental and Oral Medicine, was already disadvantaged. Its oral surgery and general practice residency programs, part of the Department of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, were forced to shut down. Administrators, troubled by understaffing and antiquated dental equipment, went one step further: They argued the time had come to close the entire dental service.

When the clinic opened in 1952, its mission was to provide ED and hospital coverage for oral maxillofacial trauma and to support the needs of the hospital. At the same time, the clinic’s faculty trained residents in oral surgery and general practice. They attended to repair of jaw fractures, extracted or replaced teeth, and consulted on facial pain and diseases of the mouth.

Over the years, explains Dental and Oral Medicine Director James Sciubba (pronounced SHU-ba), the clinic’s mission expanded to include routine dental care for both patients and employees. But with stiff competition from nearby University of Maryland’s Dental Clinic, underutilization and revenue shortfalls, things were looking bleak for the Hopkins service. By 1998, the program was hanging by a thread.

Then, a rallying cry from several physicians saved the program. “It’s a vital service for the hospital,” says cardiac surgeon Duke Cameron, explaining that protocol for patients undergoing valve replacement surgery and bone marrow transplant requires an oral examination. “An infected tooth, gingivitis or maxillofacial infection can be the source of an infected heart valve.” Adds Sciubba: “The slightest oral infection can be a portal of entry for blood-borne infection.”


The core team: Janice Brinkley, staff dentist William Henderson, director James Sciubba and staff dentist Ray Shefaat.

Cameron estimates that about a quarter of his patients have dental problems that must be addressed before surgery. “Many don’t have community dentists or are too sick to go see one.”

The clinic, located on Blalock 2, weathered its near demise and has just undergone renovations to make it brighter and more akin to the community standard. Armed with updated equipment, the new suite includes one oral surgery room, seven dental treatment rooms and one radiology area.

The clinic continues to support all the surgical divisions and cares for some 350 patients per month, including inpatients. Two full-time general dentists, a full-time dental hygienist, three dental assistants and two part-time oral and maxillofacial surgeons make up the core team. Sciubba consults on surgical oral pathology and has an active consultation clinical practice in oral medicine. He also oversees rotating residents from the University of Maryland’s School of Dentistry, who spend 12 to 14 weeks at Hopkins. Two to three foreign students or advanced trainees arrive every year as well. During their Hopkins stint, they learn oral techniques—everything from clinical disease recognition and oral and maxillofacial pathology to clinical dental medicine and surgery.

Lest one thinks dentistry is not on par with other medical specialties, consider this: Every two weeks, Sciubba presents cases at Otolaryngology grand rounds, to an audience of physicians. With colleagues David Bastacky and Timothy Carrion, Sciubba hopes to offer more continuing education.

At the same time, Sciubba is encouraging employees to take advantage of the full-service clinic just minutes away from their work areas. “The mouth is the site of your emotions, communication—your livelihood. It pays to maintain your oral and dental health.”

Judy Minkove

 

 

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