Nerve Block Injection Research Garners Awards

Students Robin Lambert and Riddhima Suri, members of the DDS Class of 2017, are receiving attention and awards for research that explores a modified technique to deliver anesthetic to patients. Their project, “A New Insertion Landmark and Modification of the ‘Standard Technique’ for Inferior Alveolar Nerve Block Injections,” won the ADA/Colgate Dental Student Conference on Research award at the 18th Annual Pacific Research Day held as part of the school’s Excellence Day in May 2016. It also garnered third place in the Table Clinic Competition at CDA Presents in Anaheim in May 2016 and a first place Student Research Award at the San Francisco Dental Society and ASDA District 11 Meetings in late 2015.

Currently, dentists use soft-tissue landmarks to locate the injection sites for their anesthetics, achieving success rates that range from 98% to as low as 13%. By proposing hard-tissue landmarks instead, Lambert and Suri aim to simplify and standardize the technique while improving the success rate. Their work was recently featured in Dentistry Today in an article entitled, “California’s Brightest Students Shine at Table Clinic Competition.”

To establish appropriate new landmarks Lambert and Suri worked with Dr. Gary D. Richards, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences. They first carried out extensive dissections in the anatomy laboratory to establish nerve pathways and relationships. With that data in hand, Lambert and Suri moved to 3D virtual reconstructions of adult skulls from the dental school’s Atkinson Collection, curated by Dr. Dorothy Dechant. These virtual reconstructions were critical to establish the validity of the new landmarks and to test for variation related to age, ethnicity and the presence or absence of third molars or complete dentitions.

Lambert and Suri’s work, the first of a series of research projects, is leveraging the dental school’s resources in multiple departments to address topics of clinical interest. To this end, Lambert, Suri and Richards are working with Drs. Bernadette Alvear Fa ’06 and Karen Schulze in the Department of Integrated Reconstructive Dental Sciences to begin a clinical trial to establish the efficacy of the new landmarks. Additionally, Lambert and Suri are mentoring a group of four students in the DDS Class of 2018 who, with the help of Dr. A. Jeffrey Wood, chair of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry, plan to extend the study to include infants and children.