Monday, February 22, 2010

Musings from a dental chair

Laying down for the first of three dental appointments in four weeks this morning, I was startled out of my happy place by the following snippet of conversation:
"Burnisher, please."
"Ball burnisher?"
Cantwell? Could this be a burnisher designed by the great Kenneth R. Cantwell, D.M.D, former faculty member of the OHSU School of Dentistry? If so, I figured I was in for a quick finish to my filling. After pioneering the use of the high-speed hand drill in dentistry, Cantwell went on to write the book (ok, it was just an article, with coauthors AW Aplin and DB Mahler) on "Cavity finish with high-speed handpieces" (Dental Progress 1(1) Oct. 1960), finding that "air-turbine handpieces can provide an acceptable finish to a cavity preparation when they are used in the stall-out zone."

As it turned out, the burnisher was wholly manual, but the thought of being in the ghostly hands of the famous clinician and educator was enough to cheer me through to the end.

Cantwell (1916-1990) was a 1943 graduate of North Pacific College (precursor to the OHSU School of Dentistry) who joined the dental school faculty in 1946. He served as chair of the Dept. of Operative Dentistry until his retirement in 1986. A devoted teacher, it was estimated at the time of his death that 90 percent of the dentists on the West Coast had trained under him during his tenure. The school's continuing education program is named in his honor, and numerous study clubs, such as the ones he established throughout his career, still meet regularly to discuss new techniques and materials. He lauded these groups in an OHSU newsletter in 1986, saying:
They are unique to the West Coast, especially the Northwest, and are a key to this region having what we consider the best dentistry in the world. I'm very proud of our Oregon dentists for their high participation--I think about half of practicing dentists--in continuing dental education.
Speaking as a patient, I too am proud--and grateful to Cantwell for leaving his mark.

1 comment:

Katia Craig said...

Legends are made by what they did to improve the industry. In this case, the great Kenneth R. Cantwell, D.M.D was the forefront of dentistry innovation from the 1950's up to his death in 1998. I hope the students who learned from him pass on to the next generations of dentists, what they have learned from this marvelous legend. Kudos! :)