USC Dental School Public Relations

October 2008 – December 2008

During her first semester at USC Annenberg, Alexandra Hinojosa also worked in the Public Relations office of the USC Dental School and wrote several articles that were published in both the Dental School’s and USC’s HealthNow websites.

The Explorer: Student Research Journal
By Alex Hinojosa


dental explorersIn an effort to get more dental students involved in research, several USC Dental School students have collaborated to produce The Explorer, the first research journal done by students at USC. The journal is set to publish in January.

“The purpose of the journal is to show students the kind of cutting edge research that has been done and that is being done at USC by students and faculty,” Rita Chaung said. Chaung, along with Bina Joshi, Mike Meru, Chad Tomavin, Goldwyn Jequinto, and Tin Luong, interviewed faculty in each department of the dental school. Chaung said that everyone involved in the journal was passionate about the process and hope to see it in its published form soon. 

“It has taken us close to a year to put this together,” Chaung said. “We’re hoping to get at least 2,000 published.”

While completing the journal, the students learned more throughout the process about funding, writing, editing and taking photographs.
“We’re not professionals,” Chaung said. “We had to learn how to photograph and do layout. It was a learning process and we now have something that we can proud of.”

The journal, Luong said, was written for every level of dental student. The journal should provide every incoming dental student an overview of each program from orthodontics to periodontics to aesthetic dentistry, as well as the opportunities available and the research conducted in these programs.

“We just want incoming dental students to really get excited about dentistry,” Luong said. “We also want them to feel a sense of pride about the amount of research that is being done here.”

Most incoming dental students, come into the program thinking that they only want to specialize in one aspect of dentistry without fully knowing what the other specializations are about, Luong said.

“We want other students to feel a sense of pride in the quality of research that is being done here and hopefully get them interested,” Luong said. “Not many students come in here thinking they want to do research. Other schools typically require students to do research and so there is a lot more involvement and at USC it’s not really required as much, so not many students show interest.”

Once The Explorer is published, Chaung and Loung say they hope that other dental school programs throughout the state of California may be able to access it and see the amount and quality of research being done at USC. Students who participated in Research Day and were recognized were also published in the journal along side the faculty. Chaung said that she hoped that this too would boost participation in Research Day.

“In my ideal world, everybody would be excited about research and that we will publish and that will take USC to the forefront in research and discovery,” Chaung said.



November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. Here, experts from The USC School of Dentistry talk about a segment of the population at an increased risk for diabetes and explain why good oral health is essential for any person living with the disease.

November 17, 2008

by Alex Hinojosa

toothbrush.jpgNearly 24 million Americans have diabetes, a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. An additional 5.7 million are living with the disease but unaware that they have it.

In particular, Hispanic and Latino Americans are increasingly at risk. According to the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP), approximately 4.5 million Hispanic/Latinos have the disease. That’s over 10 percent of Hispanic/Latinos population in the U.S. living with diabetes.

Why are Hispanic/Latinos at Risk?

Many factors such as diet, the level of preventative education and genetics contribute to the increased numbers of diabetics among the Hispanic/Latino population.

“Basically the reason why Hispanic/Latinos are more prone to develop diabetes is because of the diet change that they undergo when they come to the U.S.,” says Piedad Suarez, D.D.S., assistant professor of clinical dentistry at the USC School of Dentistry. “There are studies that show that Hispanic/Latinos in their own countries have less risk to develop diabetes, but once they come here, they increase their consumption of fast food and their portion size, adding the lack of exercise, especially in kids and teenagers.”

Suarez also says that lack of education is a prime factor in not understanding the disease and not knowing what factors put them at risk, as well as not realizing preventative measures they can take.

The USC School of Pharmacy has found a successful way to educate the Hispanic/Latino population about the disease through the fotonovela,Tentaciones Dulces / Sweet Temptations.

Messages to patients include the relationship between oral health and diabetes.

Oral Health Tips

All patients with diabetes, regardless of race and ethnicity, are at risk to develop hypoglycemia, or low sugar levels, at the dental chair, Suarez says.

“It’s really important to have a very good breakfast or lunch to prevent low sugar levels during the dental appointment,” she points out.

Patients must also be able to provide the dentist with their glycemia values for the day of the appointment or ask their physician for their hemoglobin A1C value, which gives an average of the sugar level for the previous three months.

Diabetics must take care to brush often, floss and visit their dentists more often than non-diabetics, says Michael Jorgensen, D.D.S., professor of clinical dentistry at the USC School of Dentistry.

Patients who are diabetic are at a higher risk to develop oral infections such as candidiasis. Candidiasis, commonly called a yeast infection, can cause a burning sensation in the mouth and tongue. According to the National Institute of Dental Research, problems with teeth and gums are ranked sixth in the list of complications from diabetes.

“If diabetes is not well controlled then it results in the limited ability for the patient to deal with any bacterial assault or infections,” Jorgensen says. “In general the infection can become more severe if it’s not controlled. Periodontal disease aggravates the diabetes situation, and the diabetes aggravates the periodontal situation. But if the patient has their diabetes under control so that glucose levels are in the normal ranges, then the patient can deal with the periodontal disease pretty much like anyone else can.”

Jorgensen recommends the following for diabetic dental care:

• Inform your dentist that you have diabetes so that the proper care can be taken.

• Make dental visits a priority throughout the year. Deep cleaning should be scheduled every three to six months. 

• Make dental appointments in the morning, when your glycemia levels are most likely to be normal.

For more information about diabetes, visit the Web site of the National Diabetes Awareness Program at



October is National Dental Hygiene Month


By Alex Hinojosa

October kicks off National Dental Hygiene Month, an awareness campaign sponsored by the American Dental Hygienists’ Association. This year’s

theme is “A Healthy Smile Lasts a Lifetime.”

In recognition of National Dental Hygiene Month, Diane Melrose, chair of the Dental Hygiene program at the USC School of Dentistry, offers the following tips and explains why good oral health is essential for a lifetime of wellbeing.

Disease Prevention

“There have been studies showing a link between oral infection (i.e. periodontal disease) and systemic diseases,” Melrose said. “The main thing is to get the message out there about how important oral care is and that means getting bacteria under control to lower the risk of infection in the mouth.”

Some systemic diseases linked to oral infections include heart disease, respiratory diseases, pre-term low birthrate in women who are pregnant and diabetes.

Brush Up on Brushing and Flossing

Good flossing and brushing habits are key to maintaining a healthy mouth, Melrose said.

To floss well, you should bring the floss under the gum so it is between the tooth and the gum. The next step is to wrap the floss around the tooth before going into the gums. To remove bacteria effectively, you should use an up and down motion to sweep the plaque out from the gum line. This should be repeated at least five times on each tooth surface. Flossing should be done once a day and preferably before brushing.Power-assisted or electric toothbrushes can be more effective at cleaning than manual toothbrushes. Melrose said that if you have a manual toothbrush, it is important to make sure it is a soft brush so it does not irritate the gums. She recommends brushing your teeth at least once a day, and preferably at night, to keep bacteria and acids from doing damage as you sleep.

Toothpastes that have the ADA seal of acceptance are recommended.

Healthy Mouth = Healthy Mind

Self esteem and school performance also factor into good dental hygiene.

“Your dental health can affect how you feel about yourself and how you communicate with others,” Melrose said. “Also if kids are in pain from decay they are less likely to perform as well in school.

Be Food Smart

Foods that are good for your dental health include fruits, vegetables and other fare that are low in sugar, Melrose said.

It’s smart to avoid sugary candies, but it’s important to remember that dried fruits, especially raisins, can be harmful because they stick to tooth enamel and are difficult to clear out from all the nooks and crannies among your teeth. Other foods to watch out for because of their stickiness or hidden sugars include peanut butter, salad dressings, ketchup and breath mints.

Chewing gum and other products that use the sweetener xylitol are safe bets—xylitol has been shown to have an anti-cavity effect.

Keep Bad Breath at Bay

Some strategies to handle bad breath, is to clean the tongue at least once a day with a tongue cleaner or a soft toothbrush.

“Cleaning the tongue is really one of the best things you can do for bad breath because a lot of bacteria that cause bad breath are harbored on the tongue,” Melrose said.

Halloween Hints

Melrose encourages everyone planning to eat candy during Halloween to limit treats to meal times in order to limit acid exposure to the mouth. Melrose encourages parents to hand out healthy snacks to trick-or-treaters.

Set a Date for the Dentist

Regular visits to your dentist and dental hygienist are highly recommended.

“You need to make sure you’re getting a proper assessment of what’s going on in your mouth,” Melrose said. “Depending on a patients’ oral health, we can tell them what they need to do and what products they should use.”

For more information, visit

 El Paso Police Department West Side Regional Command Center Newsletter

Summer 2008

-As intern at the EPPD, Alexandra Hinojosa worked on the design of the online newsletter, WRCC and copyedited several stories.  



One response

1 03 2011
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I like the way you write. I love to read your blog posts.

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