'Biodontics®' Promotes Biotechnology to Dentists

UConn Dental School Faculty Member Conceptualizes New Dental Specialty

University of Connecticut Health Center - August 20, 2003 FARMINGTON, CT

When the federal government wanted to know what could be done to move biotechnology more efficiently from scientists and inventors to dental practitioners, UConn dental school faculty member Dr. Edward Rossomando suggested Biodontics®.

An emerging dental specialty, Biodontics®, was conceptualized, developed and refined by Rossomando, a professor of Biostructure and Function, in the UConn School of Dental Medicine. Biodontics® applies molecular biology and biotechnology to clinical dentistry, or put another way, biodontics will train dental students, dental residents and dental school faculty in the best use of biotechnology to improve the oral health of the public.

Officials at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, were intrigued with the idea and awarded Rossomando a one-of-a-kind, two-year, $322,000 grant to bring the concept to educational reality. The vehicle is an innovative educational program to introduce the entrepreneurial process to dental students, faculty and practitioners.

The thinking reflects some research Rossomando did and posits: If dentists are made familiar with what happens from the time an idea occurs to when it is patented, licensed, manufactured, tested, approved and finally marketed, the acceptance of new products into dental practice will be enhanced.

“I was pleased when the NIDCR sponsored the research into Biodontics®,” Rossomando said. “I was particularly gratified when they funded the operational aspects of the program."

“Not only does the grant allow us to continue this work,” he said, “but it puts the UConn dental school in the forefront of the effort to introduce biotechnology to clinical dentistry. It’s very exciting.”

The Biodontics® concept is sufficiently exciting so that five of the most prestigious dental schools in the country have signed up for seminars and training. These include Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, New York University, University of California at San Francisco and University of Southern California.

Rossomando began his research into what would become Biodontics® in 1998 when he was a visiting scholar at the National Institutes of Health. A scientist as well as a dentist, Rossomando’s research originally focused on what could be done to improve the flow of technology from discoverers and manufacturers to clinicians.

Early indications suggested that the regulatory process was unwieldy and needed reform. A model was developed and a conference of stakeholders – inventors, entrepreneurs, manufacturers and end-users – was held. Further analysis revealed that manufacturers were sluggish in communicating their innovations and new products, which also impeded the flow of technology. But most importantly, the research ultimately found it was the dental practitioner who was the critical determinant of success.

Two principles were at work:

The first was the practitioner used the products and technologies he was exposed to and worked with in dental school and in post-degree residencies.

The second was any technology that would disrupt or interfere with the established office routine was likely to be disregarded. In a busy office – particularly with solo practitioners – any dislocation in treating patients was economically unacceptable.

The practical effect was: Dentists believed they couldn’t stop treating patients to adopt new technologies or learn new procedures. Dentists didn’t realize that new products and technologies would allow them to treat larger numbers of patients more efficiently despite the time it took to learn and incorporate these innovations into the practice.

“Technology is at work in all dental offices – from infection control to lasers in restorative dentistry, the use of computers for everything from imaging to record keeping,” he said. “Most dentists realize that the introduction of new products and technologies into their practice is in the best interest of their patients, but existing office routines and habits can present obstacles to any change.”

One solution, he figured, was to educate the practitioners and show how new technology would improve efficiency and delivery of care to their patients: Biodontics®.

To amplify Biodontics® and further research on the practical aspects of it, including technology transfer and how office habits and practices impact on the acceptance of new products, Rossomando established the Center for Research and Education in Technology Evaluation (CRETE) in the dental school. CRETE will promote education through its Biodontics® program, and conduct research in a planned “laboratory” modeled after a dental office.

CRETE’s mission is to “develop a research program for the scientific evaluation of new technologies and an educational program to produce a new generation of competent and qualified graduates in entrepreneurship, management and technology transfer as well as clinical dentistry for academia and industry.”

The organization consists of an advisory board of dental school senior administrators and faculty and a Board of Directors, chaired by Carl Bretko (UConn class of ’67) consisting of business people and entrepreneurs, dental faculty, scientists, researchers, practitioners and experts. Biodontics® practices what it preaches.

Dr. Hubert Benitez serves CRETE as assistant to the Director; Dr. Bernard Janicki serves as principal advisor and consultant.

“Biodontics® and CRETE serve to underscore the UConn dental school’s commitment to translational research,” said Dr. Peter J. Robinson, Dean of the School of Dental Medicine. “Advances in molecular medicine and biotechnology will provide the discoveries to improve oral health; and Biodontics® will provide the theoretical as well as the practical framework to translate those discoveries into new technologies for the dental office. Teaching Biodontics® will shorten the period from concept to product.”
The University of Connecticut Health Center includes the schools of medicine and dental medicine, John Dempsey Hospital, the UConn Medical Group, UConn Health Partners and University Dentists. Founded in 1961, the Health Center pursues a mission of providing outstanding health care education in an environment of exemplary patient care, research and public service.