UBC dentist Chris Zed and alumnus Mark Parhar are leading dental care for the 2010 Winter Games – photo by Martin Dee
The closest to gold and silver that dentists Chris Zed and Mark Parhar usually get is in their patients’ dental work.
But that will change in 2010, when their patients are wearing gold, silver and bronze medals around their necks.
“The Olympics and the Paralympics are about excellence and that is the standard we are striving for with our dental care programs,” says Zed, UBC Faculty of Dentistry, who is leading dental care with Parhar, a UBC alumnus, on behalf of the Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games organizing committee (VANOC).
With a new made-in-B.C. oral cancer screening technology, two state-of-the-art dental clinics under construction and prevention programs, Zed and Parhar are working to give Olympians and Paralympians more than your average dental checkup and offer UBC dental residents a learning opportunity to remember.
Zed and Parhar join a number of UBC faculty engaging with the 2010 Games, including sports physicians Dr. Jack Taunton and Dr. Bob McCormack, Chief Medical Officers for the Games and Canada’s Olympic Team, respectively, and Canadian Olympic Committee CEO Chris Rudge, who recently joined UBC as an adjunct professor to advance Olympic studies.
Ironically, athletes’ pursuit of perfection may negatively impact their oral health, says Zed, UBC Dentistry’s Assoc. Dean of Strategic and External Affairs, who leads a number of outreach projects with First Nations and in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. “Athletes’ demanding schedules often trump a regular trip to the dentist, so we try to do as much as possible during the Games,” he says.
“Standards around oral health care can also really vary internationally,” says Parhar, who led dental care for the 2006 World Junior Hockey Championship and is team dentist for the Vancouver Giants hockey team.
It is no surprise, then, that dentistry is historically the second busiest medical service at Olympic and Paralympic Games. During the four-week event, Parhar expects their dental team to treat more than 500 patients for everything from routine toothaches to severe sports-related oral trauma.
Zed and Parhar are using the Games to showcase the B.C. College of Dental Surgeons’ world-leading oral cancer screening guidelines, which UBC research helped to produce. For the first time, Games dental staff will use VELscope®, a two-year-old B.C. technology that floods patients’ mouths with light, to help detect and remove oral cancers before they spread.
“Outdoor winter athletes are at risk for cancers of the lip and mouth because the sun’s UV rays are magnified by the snow,” says Zed, noting that 20 per cent of athletes will receive oral cancer screening. “There are also anecdotal reports of tobacco-chewing in some of the alpine sports.”
Zed and Parhar are also developing a number of awareness programs. One will instruct athletes on the health benefits of sunscreen and lip balm with UV protection and another, tailored to athletes in high-contact sports, will extol the benefits of high-quality mouthguards.
Zed, who helped design UBC’s state-of-the-art Nobel Biocare Oral Health Centre, says the 2010 Winter Games are a unique opportunity for learning and research. Dentistry faculty and students will be studying oral health trends to pinpoint problem areas and improve future care. The dental program’s 14 student residents at Vancouver General Hospital will help with emergency care, while other students are helping to develop cancer and mouthguard awareness programs.
As for the more than 30 volunteer dentists they have recruited from around Canada, Zed says: “This is all about us giving back to the community. By taking dentists out of their day-to-day routine, we hope to give them new skills and a better understanding of people and dentistry from around the world.”
Parhar says he is happy he has rekindled his relationship with his alma mater. “UBC gave me a really well-rounded education and the tools to help me to be successful in dentistry and the community. It really laid a great foundation for me to build upon.”