Nothing but the tooth

Laura Dempster, assistant professor at the U of T Faculty of Dentistry, has been elected to the position of President of the Canadian Foundation for Dental Hygiene Research and Education. The CFDHRE is a Canadian entity that promotes education and research in oral health, including the funding of dental hygiene research in Canada.

Dempster, a graduate of U of Ts dental hygiene program, first discovered she wanted to teach while pursuing her bachelor of science in dentistry and dental hygiene degree. Her position as a professor, she says, enables her to satisfy both her love of teaching and her interest in clinical and education research.

Dempsters primary work is in dentist-patient anxiety, on both how it relates to what happens in dental practice and how it affects clinical performance in students. Its a well-known fact that many people get nervous at the dentists office and even put off dentist appointments to avoid those men and women with facemasks and sharp, pointy instruments. (Not that The Medium staff is afraid of any sharp, pointy and evil-looking objects.)

As it turns out, dental anxiety is indeed one of the most common psychological conditions in the field, but not just for patients—the people with their fingers in your mouth can be anxious too. Dempster examines how and why these fears occur, and the misperceptions that dentists, dental hygienists and patients have of each other. She hopes to make dental practise a more accessible and pleasant experience for Canadians.

Dempsters goals for the Foundation are threefold: to sustain existing collaborations with the Canadian Institute of Health Research, to identify further opportunities to fund research for masters and doctoral studies in oral health for dental hygienists, and to promote the idea of oral health as a vital component of general health.

Teeth are far more than just teeth, Dempster says, People have this idea that below the chin is general health, above the nose is mental health, and between the two is not that important; thats simply not true. Research confirms that oral health is an important part of general health and contributes to our overall health and well-being.

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