College of Dentistry
A Year of Innovation and Impact

Patient Care

In a year replete with unexpected challenges related to patient care, the University of Florida College of Dentistry completed over 121,114 patient visits, a 9% increase over the previous fiscal year. The college took several steps to bridge gaps in access to oral health care for Floridians across the state, including the launch of a teledentistry platform and accepting emergency patients when other dental offices were unable to stay open.

Teledentistry created a crucial link between the College of Dentistry and patients with oral health emergencies, allowing faculty to provide care for patients who would have otherwise sought care in emergency rooms. After pilot testing the service with patients of record, the college opened teledentistry to all Floridians. Faculty members staffing the service invited dental students to participate in the online patient visits, giving students the experience of providing safe oral health care during a public health crisis.

When six year old Weston Gentzle sustained severe damage to his front teeth at the start of the pandemic, his mother brought him to the NCEF Pediatric Dental Center in Naples because his regular dentist’s office was closed.
When six year old Weston Gentzle sustained severe damage to his front teeth at the start of the pandemic, his mother brought him to the NCEF Pediatric Dental Center in Naples because his regular dentist’s office was closed.

Not all emergency patients can be treated remotely as was the case with Weston Gentzle, a 6-year-old boy who sustained severe damage to his front teeth after a bicycle accident. His regular dentist was closed because of COVID-19 and he was referred to the NCEF Pediatric Dental Center in Naples, which houses a College of Dentistry pediatric dental residency program. There, Weston received prompt, compassionate care, including tooth extractions, under the expert hands of a faculty member and resident at the center.

The NCEF Pediatric Dental Center is one of five UF-owned dental centers that, together with affiliated clinics throughout the state, comprise the UF Statewide Network for Oral Health, which cares for patients from all 67 counties in Florida.

Education

In March 2020, when much of the world shut down, educators faced new challenges. How would they deliver impactful lectures to residents, students and colleagues from afar? Software like Canvas, Zoom and Microsoft Teams became household words overnight and while these platforms provided adequate replacements for in-person interactions, standard laptop cameras and computer microphones left something to be desired for William C. Martin, D.M.D., M.S., FACP, and Luiz H. Gonzaga, D.D.S., M.S., with the University of Florida College of Dentistry.

Martin, a clinical professor, and Gonzaga, a clinical assistant professor, are typically very busy delivering patient care and lectures for oral and maxillofacial residents. But the pace of patient care slowed for several months at the beginning of the pandemic, leaving them time to solve the challenges of moving several weekly in-person lectures to virtual platforms.

Luiz H. Gonzaga, D.D.S., M.S., left, and William C. Martin, D.M.D., M.S., FACP, cobbled together equipment from their personal technical arsenals, took over a conference room and created a media studio in the UF Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. The room had three cameras, additional lighting including a large ring light, a green screen, and more.
Luiz H. Gonzaga, D.D.S., M.S., left, and William C. Martin, D.M.D., M.S., FACP, cobbled together equipment from their personal technical arsenals, took over a conference room and created a media studio in the UF Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. The room had three cameras, additional lighting including a large ring light, a green screen, and more.

Martin and Gonzaga, aficionados of all things tech and digital, dove into the world of online learning and drew inspiration from an unlikely source: online gamers.

“My son likes gaming and I noticed he’d started watching online gamers playing, rather than playing himself. I thought it was an odd way to spend his time until he explained that he learned a lot about how to play from watching,” Martin said.

Martin’s interest was piqued. He watched how gamers delivered lessons, using multiple cameras and other sophisticated equipment to elevate the quality of their content. He and Gonzaga developed a list of equipment they needed but, with the whole world moving to online communication, “Everything we wanted was sold out.”

Fortunately, they were able to cobble together most of the necessary equipment from their personal technical arsenals, took over a conference room and created a media studio in the UF Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

Gonzaga and Martin launched their online lecture series on March 24, 2020 and, because the implant dentistry world is very connected, the educational duo quickly gained a national and international audience. Colleagues at other dental schools asked Martin and Gonzaga to provide online content for their residents.  Soon there were dental residents from schools in Boston, Indiana, Texas and Brazil joining multiple College of Dentistry lectures each week. A year later, many are still attending.

Gonzaga and Martin also delivered online guest lectures for dental residents at the University of North Carolina, New York University, New York University at Buffalo, and Harvard University in Boston.

“We’re also the directors of the North Florida International Team for Implantology, or ITI, Study Club. After we converted our study club’s meeting to a virtual format, ITI shared information internationally and people from across the world, as far as Greece, joined our sessions. It has truly been an international experience,” Gonzaga said.

“It was a fun project for us but, more importantly, we hope it helped bridge a gap for our residents and the profession while showcasing the strengths of our college and UF,” Martin said.

These are two of many faculty members at the College of Dentistry whose efforts elevate our college and attract a growing number of applicants each year for its general dentistry and advanced dental education programs. The college remains a program of choice for applicants from across Florida, the United States and from around the world. During the last application cycle, the college received more than 3,000 applications for 93 available dental student positions and 60 advanced education positions, a 15% increase in applications over the previous year.

Research

The University of Florida Pain Research and Intervention Center of Excellence, or PRICE, is one of the cornerstones of the College of Dentistry research enterprise, which ranked seventh during fiscal year 2021 among all U.S. dental schools in National Institutes of Health research funding, with $13.3 million in contracts and grants. The center is directed by Roger Fillingim, Ph.D., who received a 2020 University of Florida Foundation Term Professorship Award. He is the first College of Dentistry researcher to be honored with this award since its inception in 2013.

The award was created to invest in the research endeavors of UF faculty members whose work is transforming lives.

“He is highly deserving and I am very proud of him, his work and how brilliantly he represents our college. His work on pain research is respected across the nation and is a perfect fit for the intent of the UF Foundation’s aims,” said A. Isabel Garcia, D.D.S., M.P.H., dean.

Roger Fillingim, Ph.D., is the director of the University of Florida Pain Research and Intervention Center of Excellence. His research investigates biological, social, and psychological factors that may influence the experience of pain.
Roger Fillingim, Ph.D., is the director of the University of Florida Pain Research and Intervention Center of Excellence. His research investigates biological, social, and psychological factors that may influence the experience of pain.

Fillingim, who joined UF in 2000, is a distinguished professor in the department of community dentistry and behavioral science, and the director of the UF Pain Research and Intervention Center of Excellence. His research investigates biological, social and psychological factors that may influence the experience of pain, perhaps the most widespread and expensive health problem in the United States. One major area of focus for Fillingim’s research is how women and men experience pain differently. Well known for his mentoring and support of young investigators, Fillingim also co-directs an NIH-funded center to train postdoctoral fellows interested in pain and aging research.

The UF Foundation awards two $25,000 term professorships annually, for the duration of three years. Awardees must have substantial research assignments and outstanding records of accomplishment.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Since 2018, underrepresented minority, or URM, students comprise 23 percent of all students, the majority coming from Hispanic backgrounds.

UFCD DMD Students According to Race & Ethnicity

Entering Class Year 2021 2020 2019 2018 Total
Native American 0 0 0 0 0
Asian American 16 17 20 14 67
African-American / Black 7 1 7 3 18
Hispanic 21 22 21 22 86
White 43 48 43 48 182
Asian & White 5 2 2 3 12
Black & White 1 2 0 0 3
Not Reported 0 1 0 3 4
Total Entering Class 93 93 93 93 465

Cecil White, D.M.D., met John Dozier, D.M.D., when they were dental students at the University of Florida in 1977, but it was an afternoon conversation several years after graduation during a meeting of the American Academy of Periodontology that led to a lifetime friendship; it was as simple as that. They’ve remained exceptionally close during the last 44 years and Dozier calls White his, “brother from another mother.”

When they started dental school, White was one of only two Black students in their class. Despite marginal improvements, 44 years later, Black dentists remain underrepresented in American dentistry.

Over the years, Dozier learned through White to see the challenges faced by minorities in our country, “He is so well-informed about inequities but despite that is able to embrace everyone. He has a remarkable personality that inspires me as a friend and as a fellow dentist.”

In 2019, the American Dental Association reported that, while underrepresented minorities in dentistry had increased overall, the increases were among Asian American and Hispanic dentists. The percentage of professionally active Black dentists had decreased from 3.8% to 3.7% despite multiple efforts to increase their representation.

Cecil White, D.M.D., is a periodontologist and clinical assistant professor.
Cecil White, D.M.D., is a periodontologist and clinical assistant professor.

In 2020, Dozier and his wife, Martha, decided to take steps to make a difference. In 2021, they established the Dr. Cecil White Jr. Scholars Fund at the UF College of Dentistry to support scholarships for DMD students who have demonstrated a commitment to breaking down barriers and welcoming individuals from groups underrepresented in dentistry and at the college.

The Doziers pledged $125,000 to honor White’s legacy and establish the fund to immediately address disparities and open paths for students to follow in White’s footsteps and create the “next generation of Dr. Whites.”

In his 40-plus years as a dental practitioner, White has already made an enduring impact on the profession and is still working — providing care and teaching three days a week at the College of Dentistry in Gainesville.

They approached Dean Isabel Garcia and, with Garcia’s enthusiastic support, the fund was launched and, incredibly, is already making a difference for eight students in the first year DMD class who received scholarships.

“I am extremely grateful to the Doziers for choosing to honor Dr. White in a way that directly impacts a cause so personal to Dr. White. This fund adds a tangible asset to our efforts to increase diversity among our students, residents, faculty and staff. It’s a complex challenge but we can, and will, overcome. However, each step brings us closer and this is a truly meaningful step,” Garcia said.

Currently Florida’s population is 15% Black and Dozier says their goal is to help create an environment at the College of Dentistry where at least 7% of the dental student population is consistently representative of Black students and to foster a diverse environment that produces the next generation of oral health providers and role models like Cecil White.

COVID-19

Pandemics, by their nature, make us focus on community and population health. When COVID-19 descended on our state, faculty and staff in the University of Florida Department of Community Dentistry and Behavioral Science answered the call to educate and inform the broader community, and to continue their outreach efforts as safely as possible during the year. Department members continued to work tirelessly, educating and advocating for public health measures and partnering with public schools and other community advocates to amplify the messages of epidemiologists and other experts at UF.

In fall 2020, faculty members led by example, teaming up with dental students on multiple weekends to go door-to-door in underserved neighborhoods in Gainesville and Alachua County. They educated residents about safe practices to prevent COVID-19 transmission, answered questions about the vaccine and  helped register people for vaccinations. In addition, UF Collee of Dentistry faculty, staff, residents and students volunteered 320 hours during UF Health Screen, Test & Protect vaccination events.

Faculty members and dental students went door-to-door in underserved neighborhoods in Gainesville and Alachua County to educate residents about COVID-19 transmission and vaccines.
Faculty members and dental students went door-to-door in underserved neighborhoods in Gainesville and Alachua County to educate residents about COVID-19 transmission and vaccines.

During the 2020-21 school year, the department-led College of Dentistry School-Based Dental Sealant Program provided preventive dental services to 555 children at 10 Title 1 elementary and middle schools in Alachua County. The program delivered over $84,000 worth of preventive care at no cost to patients and included dental exams, oral hygiene education, placement of dental sealants and application of fluoride varnish. Faculty and staff worked closely with the School Board of Alachua County to ensure that, despite the pandemic, these vital services were still available for the county’s most vulnerable population in a safe, comfortable environment.

During the summer of 2021, the department’s community outreach team held a Saving Smiles Program at two locations in Alachua County in collaboration with the Gainesville Housing Authority and Hawthorne Baptist Church. The Saving Smiles Program provides limited restorative and surgical care to children identified to have untreated tooth decay in our school-based programs. More than 70 children with unmet dental needs received over $14,500 worth of treatment at no cost to their families.

The department’s outreach efforts also include some of the neediest communities in the state in Collier County from the NCEF Pediatric Dental Center in Naples. Collier County Community Dental Outreach Programs provided oral health prevention services for preschool-aged children through the School-Based Head Start Dental Sealant Program, as well as through Early Learning Programs at the Guadalupe Center, Monaghan, Pathways and RCMA in Immokalee, Florida. All participating children received a dental screening and were eligible for preventive dental treatments, including dental sealants on primary (baby) molars and fluoride varnish applications. In addition to providing preventive oral health services to preschool-aged children, the team in Naples also ran a successful school-based dental sealant program for first and second grade students in 15 Collier County elementary schools. Together, the Collier County Community Dental Outreach team placed a total of 5,307 dental sealants during the 2020-21 school year.