Silly costumes, serious dentistry at the Prosthodontics Olympics

- February 18, 2013

Not what you'd normally expect to see at the dental clinic. (Bruce Bottomley photos)
Not what you'd normally expect to see at the dental clinic. (Bruce Bottomley photos)

Outfits you don’t expect to see at the dentist’s office: army fatigues, hip waders, princess dresses, Girl Guide uniforms, professor impersonators.

Clearly, the Prosthodontics Olympics was not a usual day at the clinic.

Held on January 28, the annual event gives Dentistry students the opportunity to practice their skills in prosthodontics (dental prosthetics) and engage in a little friendly competition. And when it comes to team identity, the students go all out.

This year’s competitors included: The Navy Sealants, who sported fashionable army fatigues complete with face paint, Mount Olympus, laurels and all; the Loney Tunes, a play on Dr. Loney, the master of ceremonies; the “Profs”thodontis, the curious-looking body doubles of Dal Dentistry professors; Caries-Land, a sugary sweet team sure to make any dentist everywhere cringe complete with their own candy crowns; the Swamp Doctors, dressed in full hip waders; and last but not least the Girl Guide Planes, complete with “cookie” badges and neckerchiefs.

The goal of the Olympics is to motivate and challenge students in a way that’s both fun and rewarding. Although students work in teams, each student signs up for a different one of the five “events” and performs it alone, with their teammates cheering along. Points are awarded for both speed and quality.

“It’s all about quality and efficiency coming together,” said Dr. Loney. The judges also made it clear that only “acceptable” products are considered for points, and that the maximum score for quality (10) is higher than that for speed (9). In the event of a tie, the student with the highest score for quality receives the highest position (gold, silver, or bronze).

Moulds and impressions

The morning began with alginate impressions, an event in which one team member mixes and creates a mould of another team member’s upper and lower teeth. Powder flew, teeth were covered and impressions were made, all with a 10-minute time limit. Judges were looking for well-defined impressions with proper heights of the floor of the mouth. Most teams were done with impressive speed and had time left over to help clean up the alginate mixture that missed the inside of their team members mouths.

Up next were the boxing final impressions, requiring one member of the team to literally box up an impression of the teeth and roof of the mouth. Judges were looking for smooth impressions that were well adapted to the impression/custom tray. This event also began the openly welcomed (though ineffective) bribes to the judges, with some teams offering up cookies and pixie sticks. (Even dentists have a sweet tooth!)

The third event was the rubber dam placement, in which one student isolated specific teeth on a mannequin by using a rubber dam, and setting the placement of the dam with a clamp. The judges were looking for stable clamps with no space between the teeth and the rubber dam, no tears, no wrinkles and the teeth to be ligated with floss. This is when the events took a turn for the more technical side of things, and many competitors began to work up a sweat, and a few shaky hands first appeared.

This did not discourage students; they were ready. When asked if they practiced for game day responses varied, a member of the Navy Sealants saying, “we only really practiced once outside of class... it was up to students to come in on their own time.”

Reaching the finish line

The final two events were crown preparations and provisional restoration for a crowd. In the former, judges were looking for rounded angles, adequate reduction of the tooth and no burn marks — and all in under 15 minutes. “My heart was beating so fast!” one student said after the event.

The final event involved a custom acrylic restoration on a stone model of a molar tooth prepared for a full gold crown. Judges were looking for the provisional to be trimmed, finished and polished.

As the games concluded students were reminded by mentors that the games are not really about who wins, but the standards the students learn to set for themselves and whether or not they felt they met those standards at the end of the day.

But there were, of course, winners, with prizes for the top individual and team, plus a grand prize to a student with the highest point total for a single event from the winning team. The victors: The Swamp Doctors, who won the gold, and the team’s Ben Lawlor who set a new record in the boxing impressions event with a time of 32 seconds. (Another record was also set by Alali Talal from the Caries-Land team, with 4:28 in the provisional restoration event.)

“It’s a great way for students to learn from each other,” said Dr. Loney.

Expect these stellar competitors to be out looking at your pearly whites in the near future — in proper dentistry garb, of course.


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