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Dome - General Practice Dental Residency Fills Growing Need

Dome March 2015

General Practice Dental Residency Fills Growing Need

Date: February 27, 2015

How an expanded oral care training program supports patients.


Leah Leinbach, Caroline York, John Petrone
Dental resident Leah Leinbach assesses Caroline York’s jaw as general practice dental residency training program director John Petrone looks on.
Photo by Keith Weller

Ever since radiation treatments for nasopharyngeal cancer damaged her jaw and weakened her teeth, Caroline York has become “super-focused” on her oral health. For the past eight months, she has visited the Johns Hopkins Dental Clinic to receive the complex care she needs from clinic director and M.D. Alex Pazoki, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon—trained in diseases, injuries and defects in the head, neck, face and jaws—and his semiretired predecessor, Bill Henderson.

“They’ve been fantastic,” says York, vice president of operations for a pharmaceutical firm. “I feel confident that I’m in good hands.”

Her case also has offered teaching moments for Leah Leinbach, a resident in the general practice dental residency training program housed at the clinic on the second floor of the Alfred Blalock Building. Sponsored by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the program provides a year’s advanced training in hospital dentistry.

Each postdoctoral resident spends approximately nine months in the clinic. The remaining three months include lectures and rotations in anesthesia, internal medicine, and oral and maxillofacial surgery.

 “I’ve been fortunate to help with such a wide range of issues—from cancer to car accident injuries to bone lesions and rare infections,” says Leinbach, who earned her dental degree at the University of Pennsylvania. “I also enjoy getting to know patients from all walks of life.”

The program, which began in 2010, has grown to include three general practice residents. Leinbach, Eric Fitzgerald and Matthew Carella—both men University of Maryland School of Dentistry graduates—were selected from 96 applicants.

Aided by a hygienist and dental assistants, the trainees shadow and assist the dentists, who care for some 300 patients per month. The residents also have patient obligations, often working alongside periodontists, endodontists, pediatric dentists, and maxillofacial and oral surgeons. Future plans call for establishing an oral and maxillofacial surgery residency program, according to Pazoki.

When the dental clinic opened at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1952, its mission was to provide Emergency Department and hospital coverage for oral maxillofacial trauma and to support the needs of the hospital. At that time, the clinic’s faculty repaired jaw fractures, extracted or replaced teeth, and consulted on facial pain and diseases of the jaw and mouth.

Now the clinic offers routine dental care for patients and employees. It also provides evaluation of oral cancer and jaw tumors as well as reconstructive oral and maxillofacial surgery, and supports all the surgical divisions. It is part of the Division of Dentistry–Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, a part of the Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery.

Beyond serving Johns Hopkins Medicine’s educational priorities, the general practice residency program addresses a growing need for inpatient dental care visits, according to general dentist John Petrone, who directs the residency program.

Cardiac surgeon Duke Cameron explains that all patients undergoing valve replacement surgery or a bone marrow transplant must have an oral examination. “An infected tooth, gingivitis or maxillofacial infection can be the source of an infected heart valve,” he says.

York, who’s been cancer-free for the past three years, says that being a part of the teaching experience brings her greater peace of mind. “The risks of post-radiation complications will follow me for the rest of my life and can reignite a medical crisis at any time,” she says. “The questions residents ask and the oversight they receive help me feel comfortable that nothing will be missed. I feel relief knowing that my dentists and oral surgeons here will keep a close watch.”

—Judy F. Minkove

Learn more about the general dental residency program and dental clinic services at hopkinsmedicine.org/otolaryngology/specialty_areas/dentistry_oral_surgery or call 410-955-6663.

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