Tune in to Focus Carolina during morning, noon and evening drive times and on the weekends to hear stories from faculty members at UNC and find out what ignites their passion for their work. Focus Carolina is an exclusive program on 97.9 The Hill WCHL, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Dr. Jessica Lee heads the Department of Pediatric Dentistry at UNC’s School of Dentistry and teaches residents and students the latest techniques in dentistry.
Her assistant, Grayson, doesn’t have his PhD, but the four-legged professor helps kids in his own way.
“One of the things that we do at UNC is that we are a trauma center for pediatric trauma,” Dr. Lee said. “We are the only such center in North Carolina. So we see a lot of trauma children that get hit that have baseball accidents, bike accidents, and so they end up losing their teeth at a really young age. And so we’re trying to come with all these solutions on what to do.”
Because children are growing, it is not possible to put an implant in like doctors would for adults. According to Dr. Lee, there is another method that works better for children.
A team at @UNC_Dentistry is the first in the nation to try autotransplantation — a procedure which relocates an existing tooth to the site of a missing tooth in a child's mouth. See how this innovative technique is already brightening smiles 🦷 https://t.co/aAKyLbThj1
— UNC-Chapel Hill (@UNC) April 17, 2019
“The process of our transplantations is just taking a tooth from one part of the mouth and moving it to another. And in case of children that have trauma, they often lose their front teeth. So we may take a back tooth or a side tooth and move it towards the front. Basically you’re doing a transplant within the same person.”
This implanted tooth will continue to grow with the child and it acts like a real tooth… because it is a real tooth!
Listen to part one of the interview with Dr. Lee:
One of the most important members of the UNC School of Dentistry’s staff does not have her PhD.
In fact, she is not even human.
GRAYSON is an assistance dog who comforts young patients when they visit the dentist.
“I guess her technical title is a rehabilitative facility dog,” Dr. Lee said. “She is actually assigned to the school of Dentistry.
“As you can imagine, young children may be afraid to come to a dentist because of a lot of the smells and sounds and noises, but when you are greeted by a golden retriever, it certainly makes things feel a little bit more like home or normal.”
The idea to bring an assistance dog into the School of Dentistry came courtesy of Dr. Siggi Saemundsson, who worked to bring GRAYSON to UNC through the Wilmington-based organization paws4people.
“If a child requests her, she is actually able to jump on the chair with the child and lay on them like a blanket,” Dr. Lee said. “She will lay there while the child is having a difficult procedure, maybe a filling done, and they’re young or they’re just a little bit anxious and they will just kind of rub her head and she’ll just lay there for an hour to sit with the patient. It’s instantly calming.”
Along with being a therapy dog, GRAYSON is also active on social media.
“She does have an Instagram account,” Dr. Lee said, “and I hate to say it, but she’s probably also the most favorite faculty member at the school of Dentistry.”
Listen to part two of the interview with Dr. Lee: