Heejin Kwon, DDS ’16, won first place in the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry’s (AACD) Undergraduate Clinical Case Poster Competition. Kwon was the first University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD) predoctoral student to compete at the AACD annual meeting, which was held in San Francisco in early May. “I was thrilled to win first place,” Kwon says. “I am glad that I was able to represent our school well at this prestigious, international meeting.”
Kwon’s presentation centered around the case of a patient who suffered from moderate fluorosis that caused white lesions on her teeth. The lesions were so bad that the patient was very reluctant to smile at all, Kwon recalls. She and mentor Mary Ann Melo, DDS, MSc, PhD, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Endodontics, Prosthodontics and Operative Dentistry, developed a multi-stage treatment plan to improve the aesthetics of the patient’s smile using minimally-invasive procedures.
They began by performing macroabrasion, a technique that involves using a diamond bur to remove the superficial layer off teeth. Kwon and Melo followed that process with microabrasion, which is the application of a paste that has abrasive particles. Then they completed several sessions of dental whitening. The results were very dramatic, Kwon recalls. “After the treatment, that patient and I were both so excited by how white her teeth had become,” says Kwon. “A person’s smile is the first thing you see when you meet them. I think everyone deserves to have a nice, bright smile.”
Kwon and Melo were so impressed by the result that they decided to enter the AACD contest. Though she was up against stiff competition from U.S. and international dental students, Kwon enjoyed the opportunity to present her work. Five judges from around the world rated her research based on clinical protocol, scientific support, aesthetic outcomes and the quality of her presentation. The experience left her with a stronger appreciation for the importance of research in cosmetic dentistry. “The process taught me that, as dentists, we can take care of more than disease control,” she says. “We have the opportunity to change someone’s life by making their smile more aesthetic.”