Spotlight on the General Practice Dental Residency Program (GPR)

By News Staff

Dental Residents completing their year(s) at UAMS will leave with the clinical skills to perform advanced dental surgical procedures in addition to being competent in the dental treatment of special populations: head and neck cancer patients, whole organ and stem cell patients, joint replacement, osteoporosis, and bisphosphonate therapy patients as well as cardiovascular surgery patients.

Ashley McMillan, D.D.S. Director, UAMS General Practice Dental Residency Center for Dental Education College of Health Professions

Ashley McMillan, D.D.S.
Director, UAMS General Practice Dental Residency
Center for Dental Education

The UAMS GPR has experienced exponential growth in recent years. With initial accreditation granted in September of 2014, the UAMS GPR is still relatively young yet robust. In the past 8 years, the UAMS Oral Health Clinic and affiliated residency program has grown from an initial cohort of two residents to its full accreditation size of six residents, including the addition of an optional second year resident. By the end of this Academic Year 2022, 31 dental residents will have completed the UAMS GPR program.

As has been the case in the history of the program, dental residents who complete the program are routinely able to negotiate higher salaries than their dental school peers who opted out of residency training.  Residents who complete the program are highly recruited by multiple employers due to the level of expertise they gain during their residency year at UAMS.  Additionally, many of our graduating residents choose to further their education in a dental specialty program. To date, UAMS dental program residents have a 100% acceptance rate into the specialty programs to which they applied.

In addition to their time in the UAMS Oral Health Clinic, residents rotate through the pediatric dental clinic at Arkansas Children’s Hospital as well as UAMS department rotations including Emergency Medicine, Otolaryngology and Anesthesia. During these rotations, residents learn how to function as part of an interdisciplinary care team and improve the care of their medically compromised patients.

This year the program was challenged, having accepted five first-year residents and its first second-year resident. Despite COVID pandemic conditions, patient and clinical procedure volume was the highest in the history of the program. This created an exciting opportunity to push the residents, program, and clinic to its limits by adding new technologies to increase efficiencies.

We augmented our clinic and program with the incorporation of a 3D scanner, allowing residents and faculty to take intraoral scans and create a digital dental workflow. This involves less time in the chair getting impressions or “molds” on patients, and more time utilizing technology to improve treatment outcomes and quality of product. These 3D scans are now utilized in the dental clinic for Invisalign, bleach trays, sleep appliances, crowns, and all types of dental products to maximize accuracy and minimize chair time and patient discomfort. Though the program’s grant partnership with Align Technologies, residents are able to do their first two Invisalign patient cases at no lab cost to the program. In a similar grant program with Nobel Biocare, dental residents are able to place 10 dental implants per resident at no cost to the patient. These opportunities allow for advanced resident procedure experiences without the restraint of patient affordability on unique cases.

The program’s lecture series and study clubs have grown since the emergence from COVID protocols and return to in-person events. An oral surgery lecture series with two practicing Little Rock Oral Surgeons has received rave reviews from the residents.  These lectures permit the resident classes to learn from some of the state’s best oral surgeons about advanced procedures. The program has always emphasized lifelong learning and professional development through participation in the Arkansas State Dental Association’s (ASDA) semi-annual meetings as well as the Central District Dental Society (CDDS) meetings. The return to in-person events have allowed us to refocus on our involvement in organized dentistry.

The UAMS dental residency program has become a destination program for graduating dental students across the country through the tireless efforts of our faculty, Dr. Dana Bodenner and Assistant Program Director Dr. Sarah Hardin. Both see their own faculty practice patients in addition to supervising residents, teaching didactics, and assisting in program administration. We augment our program with multiple adjunct faculty from private practice in the community who donate their time to the clinical supervision of residents. In addition to offering chairside instruction, these faculty members contribute lectures to the program and guide residents through their years of experience in dental practice management.

Other than a single resident dental AEGD in Northwest Arkansas, the UAMS residency program is the only form of post-graduate dental education in the state of Arkansas at this time. The program takes pride in being ambassadors for the practice of dentistry and promoting oral health as part of overall health, both on campus and in the community at large.