Tuesday 16 July 2019 3:29pm
Dr Joanne Choi (left), Associate Professor Neil Waddell and Helene Chua in the University of Otago’s Clinical Services Building, in Dunedin.
A fourth-year undergraduate dental student has already made a mark in the world of dental research – and her findings could bring future savings to New Zealand’s dental practices.
Helene Chua, a 21-year-old fourth-year University of Otago Bachelor of Dental Surgery student, has recently completed research which has featured in regional media and is being peer-reviewed for an international journal.
A recipient of the Otago Medical Research Foundation’s 2018/19 Summer Research Scholarship, Helene investigated the cooling efficiency of different numbers of water coolant ports on high-speed handpieces (HSH) – the ‘drills’ used in dental practices.
Water cooling controls heat from the handpieces’ high-speed bur-tooth interfaces. While the handpieces often have as many as four coolant ports, single-port HSHs are considerably cheaper; a four-coolant-port handpiece costs around $1800, a single-port variety is around $800.
While Helene’s research did demonstrate an increased number of cooling ports led to better cooling, there was no statistically significant difference. That finding could end up being “a step towards making handpieces better and more comfortable” in the future, she says.
“Not many dentists know about the specifics of the tools they are using, and this research gives them information for choosing what to buy and use.”
Helene Chua’s research has demonstrated expensive multi-coolant-port high-speed handpieces do not offer statistically significant cooling improvements over cheaper single-coolant-port varieties.
Helene’s research supervisor Dr Joanne Choi says Helene’s research topic was novel, and addressed current questions in the dentistry field. Her willingness to do the research was impressive and “definitely” set an example for other undergraduates to follow, Dr Choi says.
“Opportunities like this give undergraduate students a taste of research, and that can encourage them to pursue postgraduate studies and possible future academic careers. It also lets students understand the importance of research-informed teaching and research-based practice as a dental professional.”
Department of Oral Rehabilitation Associate Professor Neil Waddell says Helene’s ability to win the scholarship as a third-year dental student – an unusual occurrence - and then complete the research to such a high standard, reflected her considerable ability and potential.
“She’s a very clever young woman and has a very bright future in dental research.”