NUS Spurs Science Passion via Dental Sciences

NUS Faculty of Dentistry team and Science Centre educators after the training workshop

NUS Faculty of Dentistry academics hosted a Dental Science training workshop at Science Centre to inspire Science Educators with the problem-based learning approach On 7 April, Assistant Professor Jaya Seneviratne and his team, Dr. Weiqiang Loke, Dr. Wong Mun Loke, Dr. Preethi Balan, Dr. Tanujaa Suri, Dr. Sneha, NUS PhD candidates Kassapa Ellepola and Thuyen Truong buzzed down to the centre to host a training workshop for our in-house science educators. Their aim was to inspire the general public and school kids with the love of science using simple concepts in dental science and oral hygiene.

Among the current generation of youth, science is considered as one of the most mind-wrecking subjects in school to be studied under compulsion. They become convinced that science is dry and boring due to teacher-centred education. By using a learner-centred, interactive, hands-on approach based on real life problems, Dr Jaya and his team hope to convey that science can be fun and simple to learn because it is an integral part of life. You can see the beauty of science when you reach out to find the answers for real life problems.

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Looking out for plaque using Tri Plaque ID Gel

Using secondary school student, Jenny’s toothache as a case example, Dr Jaya and team were able to highlight the dire consequences of biofilms in our daily life. Biofilms refer to a surface attached bacterial community or simply, a “city of microbes” and these cities are all around us. Biofilms are ubiquitous in nature, from river valleys to the human body. Dental plaque or “white little matter” in-between teeth is a fine example of a microbial city or a biofilm. Biofilms are the main culprit behind gazillion of microbial diseases including dental diseases such as dental cavities and bleeding gums. However more often than not, their complications are overlooked as most people know very little about biofilm-diseases. When participants observed their own dental plaque under the microscope, they were able to appreciate that microbial biofilms can lead to diseases like tooth decay. In addition, participants were able to extrapolate this understanding to other biofilm diseases and their health consequences.How is saliva important as a buffer? Why is good brushing technique essential, or rather what will bad technique cause? How does bite marks, lip print or palatal rugae help in pinning down murder suspects? Through a series of four problem-based scenarios, educators sought to find out these answers, laughing and sometimes embarrassed as they went along. Not a single moment was dull and no hearts were left untouched. They had great fun and were eager to adopt the problem-based learning approach in teaching.

The workshop was a resounding success. At the end of the day, the major regret was that time for each station was not enough! The educators wanted more! To sum up, one of the educators said,’ I really enjoyed this workshop! Lots of relevant information, super fun and engaging hands on experiments. The workshop covered such a good range of topics that are so close to my daily life. I am now in awe of my saliva!’

The NUS team hopes this learning method can be adopted within more secondary schools, to ignite the love and passion of science in school youth through a very basic channel –our bite and saliva.

Exploring the buffering capacity of saliva using pH paper

Read more about Dental Science at the NUS Faculty of Dentistry website.

Zara Lin is a STEM INC Educator and a staff of Science Centre. She has written many articles for the Singapore Scientistand for Science Spy.

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