The DMD Check-Up: Dentistry Loses a Pioneer

Dr. Esther M. Wilkins, whose comprehensive textbook for the study of dental hygiene standardized how the field is taught worldwide, died on December 12 at her home in New Hampshire.

This week's list of must-read news stories for dentists includes:

Pioneering Dental Hygienist Dead at 100 (New York Times)

Dr. Esther M. Wilkins, whose comprehensive textbook for the study of dental hygiene standardized how the field is taught worldwide, died on December 12 at her home in New Hampshire. “People didn’t appreciate dental hygienists until she came along and made sure they did.”

History of America's Most Outrageous Dentist (Smithsonian)

Quite a tale. Edgar Randolph “Painless” Parker began his practice to take advantage of a turn of the century dental atmosphere -- “lack of trained practitioners and patients’ fears of pain.” His business “was deceptively simple: inject patients with watered-down cocaine and pull their teeth. The 50-cent extraction would be painless, or he'd pay the patient $5.”

Rural Dentists Get Hammered on Medicaid Costs (McPherson Sentinel)

“Medicaid providers only make 45 percent on the dollar of what they would make otherwise, and a lot of people don't realize that that number hasn't changed since 2004. The reimbursement is horrible," explained one Kansas dentist who has provided Medicaid services since 1990. Plus, “so few dentists are replacing those retiring.”

Support for Controversial Restraint Technique (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

“While some providers said a new restraint technique can help children cope better at the dentist’s office, opponents say it can actually traumatize children. But a division chief of pediatric dentistry at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, says that although the 'papoose board' is controversial, it can be crucial to a child’s dental visit.”

Scuba Diving and the Dentist (Science Daily)

“Scuba divers may want to stop by their dentist's office before taking their next plunge. A new pilot study found that 41 percent of divers experienced dental symptoms in the water, according to new research from the University at Buffalo.” Deep “underwater is the last place you want to be with a fractured tooth."

Dental Procedure Streamlines Soldier Readiness (dvids)

The first total rehabilitation of a full set of teeth supported by four implants was conducted on an active-duty soldier at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in Texas, according to this report from Defense Media Activity. The new process will “take care of soldiers, their quality of life, and readiness of the force.”

“Medical Tourism” … Dental Included (Voice of America)

Last year 11 million people worldwide traveled to other countries for low-cost medical (and dental) treatment. Called “medical tourism,” experts say hundreds of billions of dollars are spent annually this way. The industry is expected to grow by 25% in 10 years. One company, MedRepublic, connects doctors with people around the world who need medical care.

Save Fallen Tooth in Milk (DNA India)

In a symposium held by All India Institute for Medical Sciences, experts from India and other countries discussed various ways to deal with the increasing dental traumatic injuries among children. Among them, “If a tooth has come off entirely -- from the roots -- your dentist may be able to implant it back in its place if you save the fallen tooth in milk.”

Most Doctors Have Favorite Patients (Knowridge)

"Doctors like the majority of their patients, but a majority also like some more than others,” finds a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study. Favorite patients were “those who the physician had known over a period of time (one year to several decades) and who were or had been very sick, which meant the physicians saw them more frequently and spent more time with them.”

Overhauling America’s Dental Insurance is Necessary (

More on the new Health Affairs study about how Americans are more likely to skip needed dental care because of cost than any other type of healthcare.” The chief economist for the ADA’s Health Policy Institute says: “medical insurance is doing a better job at protecting consumers from financial hardship than dental insurance."

Making the Case for LANAP Protocol (Orange County Register)

With periodontal disease having reached “epidemic proportions” in the US, the dentist behind LANAP (or laser periodontal surgery) practice says it should be a standard therapy for treating periodontitis. The dental profession’s inability agree on accepted standards for insurance reimbursement for this care has hurt patients.