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ADA annual meeting CE course helps Michigan dentist save his mother's life

April 28, 2015

By Jean Williams

Dr. Wright
Waterford, Mich.—Dr. David Wright never expected that the CE course he took at last year's ADA annual meeting would help save his mother's life. But that's exactly what happened.

In the course Anatomical Dissections of Occlusion and Implant-Related Structures, instructor Dr. Terry Tanaka pointed out severely blocked carotid arteries in a cadaver. Dr. Wright would later recognize similar blockages in his mother.

"Dr. Tanaka, a facial pain expert, discussed that while there are few symptoms of the internal carotid artery blockage until one has a stroke, the external carotid artery often has characteristic facial and neck pain associated with this condition," Dr. Wright said.  

"My 81-year-old mother had been having similar symptoms for the past year and had been to many physicians to investigate this pain. No diagnosis had been made. No one suggested carotid blockage as a potential cause."

Unrelated to this issue, Dr. Wright had sent his mother to an imaging center for a cone beam radiograph to understand her options for dental implants. A couple of days after returning home from the ADA annual meeting in San Antonio, he received her cone beam and radiography report. Because of what he had just learned in his CE course, Dr. Wright recognized his mother's potentially lethal problem.

"It noted a great deal of calcification of the carotids," he said.  "During the next week my mother met with a vascular surgeon and, with further testing, it was determined that she had over 95 percent blockage on both sides and surgical intervention was immediately needed.  The two endarterectomy procedures were performed in December, saving her life."

Helping him to recognize a potentially life-threatening problem with his mother definitely made the CE course pay off in an unexpected way for Dr. Wright, but he is doubly pleased that it also delivered professionally.

"The course is helping me each day as I examine my patients," he said.  "I can better understand what I am palpating in the exam, and how it relates to function and pathology.  

"It was one of the best courses that I have taken in my 27-plus years as a dentist."
Dr. Wright earned his D.D.S. in 1987 from the University of Michigan, where he later earned an M.B.A. He signed on for the occlusion and implant-related structures course because of the caliber of the CE presenter.

"I had taken several temporomandibular joint disorder lecture courses from Dr. Tanaka and they were excellent," he said.  "He remains one of my favorite dental educators."

Dr. Wright plans to attend ADA 2015 in November.  

"I think that the ADA meeting has morphed into the best CE meeting," he said.  "It always was the greatest overall dental show, but the CE offerings are fantastic now, too.  I will always try to make the ADA annual meeting in the future."

Registration for ADA 2015 opens in May. This year, the annual meeting will take place in Washington, D.C. from November 5-10. For a list of CE courses planned, visit Search for #ADADC on Twitter and Facebook for more on ADA 2015.