University of the Pacific dental school honors students, research
Article Thumbnail ImageMay 31, 2013 -- SAN FRANCISCO - The University of the Pacific (UOP) dental school held its annual Excellence Day on May 29, where dental students and faculty were honored for their clinical work, research, and community service. And sometimes it's a family affair.

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More than 50 student dentists discussed how they helped patients with extensive dental care, including complex restorations, dentures, implants, cosmetic dentistry, removable prosthodontics, and orthodontics during the clinical excellence portion of the event. More than 20 awards for clinical excellence, research, and community service were presented at the awards ceremony. In the research segment, students presented posters of 37 research projects.

For one patient and student, it was a family affair. Robert Cuitanov, who received 14 crowns during 18 months of treatment by his nephew, graduating student dentist Michael DeFazio, proudly showed the results of his extensive restorations.

Dentist Michael DeFazio and Robert Cuitanov
Graduating dentist Michael DeFazio (left) and his uncle, Robert Cuitanov, who received 14 crowns during 18 months of treatment by his nephew.

"It was such a positive experience, and the instructors are so nurturing and positive with the students," Cuitanov said after presenting a video of "Uncle Bob" and his treatment.

DeFazio said his uncle's treatment included work on his full upper arch, including placing zirconia crowns (BruxZir, Glidewell Laboratories) on two second molars and Lava crowns (3M ESPE) on 12 other teeth. Cuitanov estimated that six instructors regularly advised his nephew on the extensive treatment.

For patient Matthew Polsdorf, the year and a half that student dentist Michael Kezian spent working to fix his broken front teeth was well worth it.

“It was such a positive experience, and the instructors are so nurturing and positive with the students.”
— Robert Cuitanov

"I feel like the problem has finally been solved," Polsdorf told Kezian replaced a fractured front tooth with an implant and placed anterior crowns on three other front teeth.

Polsdorf's dental problems began more than 40 years ago when he fell and broke his front teeth when he was 14 years old, killing the nerves in his teeth. Over the years, he had as many as eight sets of crowns that eventually fell out. Another problem was his bruxism, which wore down two other teeth.

Polsdorf, who has been coming to the school's clinic for dental care since 1995, said that one of the advantages of being treated there is the expertise of the instructors who guide the students' cases.

"A lot of these instructors have 30 to 50 years of experience, and it shows," he said.

Another patient, Beatrice Helena, came to the clinic with a broken upper bridge that was constantly falling off. Dental student Joanne Ngo spent six months performing root canals, periodontal surgery, and extractions and making two bridges for Helena.

"The work was more reasonable than a private dentist, and Joanne did a really good job," Helena told

Matthew Polsdorf and student dentist Michael Kezian
Matthew Polsdorf shows off his new smile, courtesy of student dentist Michael Kezian.

Dental students David Wirth and Katarina Tu talked about how they came away from a mission trip to Fiji in March with a sense of accomplishment after helping the islanders understand caries prevention. The school has been sending students to Fiji for more than a decade. During the recent one-week trip, students educated some 260 Fijian adults and children about good dental hygiene.

"I felt we were making more of a lasting impact, rather than just getting them out of pain," Tu told "Seeing the returning patients and their success was gratifying."

"The people are so grateful, " Wirth said. "It really makes you feel as if you're doing something important."

For patient Ildefonsa Huie, the treatment that student dentist Linda Kuo provided gave her a new smile and also relief from the dentures that were constantly falling out and cutting her tongue.

"When I was eating, the dentures would hook on my cheeks like a fish hook," Huie explained to

The nine-month treatment included replacing Huie's eight upper teeth with a permanent bridge and placing implants on two lower teeth.

Polsdorf summed up his experience for all of the patients: "The end result is what it's all about, and I now have a sense of confidence and a great smile."

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