Imagine starting kindergarten, surrounded by classmates with toothy grins, but with no teeth of your own. For some children, that’s reality.

A medical condition, called ectodermal dysplasia, results in few or no teeth. Dentist can treat children by giving them dentures to fill those gaps.

It’s changing the lives of children, as well as adults, who have lost teeth due to dental disease or injury, and inspiring the work and research on dental implants for Lisa Lang, the new chair of the Department of Comprehensive Care at the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine.

Lang joined the dental school faculty in August. She previously taught at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Her office and other faculty in the department are located in the central hub between the dental school’s two 70-chair clinics, where students treat patients seeking dental care.

Lang learned early in her dental education at the University of Michigan—first as an undergrad earning her BS in dental hygiene and later her DDS at the School of Dentistry—that replacing missing teeth can change a person’s life.

She recalls placing her first dentures on a Detroit autoworker.

“That whole experience made me realize how much we can impact patients’ lives in the way people look and feel about themselves,” says Lang, also an associate professor of prosthodontics, a field of dental restoration.

Time and again, she has seen a transformation in patients’ self-esteem when they receive dentures and implants to replace missing teeth.

Lang is currently the only woman chairing a department at the dental school and the second in the school’s history.

As chair of comprehensive care, Lang oversees the preclinical and clinical education program for the aspiring general dentist.

Part of delivering that education includes looking to the future of dental medicine to prepare students for not only when they graduate, but also for years to come, she says.

Lang added, “It isn’t enough to train a dentist for today because dentistry is rapidly changing and what they learn today may be soon outdated. We must prepare them for a career of lifelong learning.”

She will continue her research in the area of implant biomechanics; understanding the effects of loading on the development of bone around implants. She hopes to collaborate with biomedical engineers and others in the university community to evaluate the impact of biting and chewing on dental implants as well as treatment outcomes.

Posted by: Susan Griffith, September 9, 2010 03:51 PM | News Topics: Official Release