Catherine Volgenant has the rare distinction of being both a practising dentist and a working academic, a typical week being divided between the two. She practises locally two days a week and spends the rest of her time as a researcher at the department of Preventive Dentistry at the Academic Centre for Dentistry, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Catherine opens the second session of #ColgateTalks with a presentation of the modern dentist’s dilemma: What is a healthy mouth and what can we do to keep it that way? Some dental diseases are not obvious until they have become painful, with much of the pain difficult for the dentist to quantify, track or predict. Health cannot solely be defined as the absence of disease. After all, many people often don’t come in to see the dentist until they are experiencing discomfort or pain. So for dentists, key questions are: how can we recognise the healthy patient; do they need any special consideration, and what kind of preventive care is appropriate for them? Does the same preventive treatment have the same impact on different people?
Catherine’s PhD research is on the extent to which red autofluorescence of dental plaque is an indicator of pathological plaque, the mass of bacteria (biofilm) that grows on surfaces in the mouth. The subject reflects the fact that dentistry is still an incomplete scientific discipline in which much remains to be established on the connections between various bacteria and oral health generally. Dentists need to be good coaches as well as good practitioners. Catherine’s dual role as a researcher and a dentist is an excellent example of this.