Study on emergency dental care provides insight and opportunities for Jessica Shamberger

Second year dental student Jessica Shamberger recently presented a research poster titled “Experience with Dental Emergency Department Visits” at the 57th Annual American Dental Association and DENTSPLY International Student Clinician Research Program in Denver, Colorado.

The research project allowed Jessica to begin exploring a topic that has captured her interest for a few years. After graduating from college, she worked at a hospital emergency department in her hometown of Aberdeen, North Carolina, and at an urgent care center in Greensboro, North Carolina. At these facilities, patients often arrived in need of dental treatment, but instead of treatment they were only given prescriptions for antibiotics and painkillers.

“I had questions as to why these patients did not see their dentists, and I wondered about barriers that played into their care,” said Jessica.

Second year student Jessica Shamberger recently presented research on dental emergency care at the Annual ADA Meeting in Denver, Colorado.

Second year student Jessica Shamberger recently presented research on dental emergency care at the Annual ADA Meeting in Denver, Colorado.

She turned her curiosity into a research project that evaluated dental emergency visits at a hospital emergency department near the dental school. She also evaluated the experiences of emergency patients at the dental school through a patient questionnaire.

Assisting Jessica in her research were dental faculty mentors Dr. Sharon Gordon, associate dean for research, Dr. Gloria Mejia, assistant professor of epidemiology, and Dr. Kimberley Gise, director the dental school’s Emergency Care Clinic, as well as other ECU researchers and statisticians.

In assessing trend lines, the most significant finding in the study was that as patient visit numbers have increased at the dental school’s clinics, the number of dental related visits at the hospital emergency department has decreased.

The poster that Jessica created to illustrate her research acknowledges the study’s limitations, which includes a small sampling of dental school patients.

“We will continue to study our patients experience with dental emergency department visits,” said Jessica. “The objective of the study is to see the impact that the dental school has had on visits to the local hospital emergency department.”

She hopes eventually to expand the study to include the emergency dental care experiences of patients at the school’s eight Community Service Learning Centers across the state.

Based on her past experience working at emergency facilities and on her resent study, Jessica concludes that it’s important for patients to have a dental home where emergencies can be treated.

“The School of Dental Medicine is making an impact by giving patients a dental home and alleviating the number of dental related visits to the emergency department,” she said.

Prior to presenting her poster at the Denver conference, Jessica presented the research at ECU forums, and at the National Oral Health Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the National Dental Association Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

She joined the School of Dental Medicine’s Summer Scholars Research Program even before starting dental school. The program allowed her to attend research workshops and begin working with faculty.

Besides gaining a better understanding of the complexities of emergency dental care, Jessica has also gained invaluable insight into the process of conducting research and into presenting at national forums.

“I really got a chance to see what is being done in research at other universities with long histories of students and faculty research. I also enjoyed meeting some of the people on the conference committee because they were once in my shoes, and it let me know potentially what I could do in the future.”

“I’ve learned that research takes time,” she said. “It is a long process to get a study approved and after approval it takes time to gather and interpret the data. Also, teamwork is key. The study would have been impossible without the help of everyone on the study team.”

Jessica serves as vice president of the dental school’s Student Research Group and as founding president of the Student Chapter of the American Association of Public Health Dentistry.