The original article was first published in This Quarterly, January 2014. We have reproduced the article for those of you who may have missed it.
My specialization in the field of oral and maxillofacial surgery was a result of my husband’s instigation and foresight. Back then, that we had been practicing dentistry for about four years. We were newly married then and had to make a choice between starting a family or pursuing specialized training. Realizing that the field of dentistry was experiencing rapid changes – a development that made things both exciting and challenging at the same time – my husband in his infinite wisdom, applied to the National University of Singapore (NUS) for the both of us without my knowledge! I was nearly shocked speechless when I received a call from Professor Ho Kee Hai telling me that I was accepted.
In the course of my postgraduate studies, I started researching the challenges that clinicians faced when inserting dental implants. Back then, the insertion of dental implants were often hampered by the lack of adequate bone volume within the dental arch. This led to the need for autogenous bone grafting procedures that were often uncomfortable for the patient (due to the use of a second surgical site), and often increased treatment time significantly. There were other alternatives, such as the use of allogenic and synthetic bone grafts, but the outcome was not always entirely predictable.
My research indicated that, by harvesting growth factors (specifically PDGF and β-TGF) from the patients through a process known as plateletapheresis and impregnating graft materials with these growth factors, we could improve the success and predictability of bone grafting and tissue regeneration procedures. This not only made bone grafting significantly safer to carry out, turning it into a routine tooth replacement option, but also shortened treatment time through the use of improved techniques, modern implants and impregnated graft materials.
The increasing widespread use of growth factors aside, the area of corrective jaw surgery has also been experiencing significant improvement that I am very excited about. Although it is nothing new – we have been doing corrective jaw surgeries for many years now – recently technical improvements us to allow us to allow patients to recover faster, spend less time in the hospital and reduce the chance of complications developing. In light of the recent K-wave that seem to have ignited regional patient’s awareness and demand for such procedures, this can be nothing but a good thing.
I think dentists and dental surgeons need to keep themselves constantly at the forefront of technology. Personally, I do this by reading journals and periodicals, attending conferences, reflection with trusted colleagues and teaching. Out of all these, teaching is probably the best form of self-learning; after all, is there any better way of forcing you to consolidate your thoughts and understanding of the subject matter by putting you in the “line of fire” from a group of professionals who are just as intelligent, if not more than you.