Interview with Prof. Purnima Kumar

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“I look forward to four days of learning, meeting colleagues and planning future collaborations”

Running from 24 to 27 September, the FDI World Dental Congress is one of the most prestigious continuing education events in the global dental event calendar. (Image: Dental Tribune International)

Dr Purnima Kumar is William K. and Mary Anne Najjar endowed professor of dentistry and chair of the Department of Periodontics and Oral Medicine at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry in Ann Arbor in the US. In this interview with Dental Tribune International, she talks about her participation in this years FDI World Dental Congress, some of the topics she will be exploring in her presentations and her recent research endeavours.

Prof. Kumar, you are one of the most sought-after presenters at this year’s World Dental Congress. What are your expectations for the event?
I look forward to four days of learning, meeting colleagues and planning future collaborations. To be asked to speak at so many sessions at a meeting with such an impressive speaker line-up is truly humbling. I feel deeply honoured. It is my first visit to the land down under, and I look forward to the entire trip! 

What topics will you be discussing in your presentations?
I will be talking about various topics, including how intricately oral health and overall health are interwoven with the detrimental effects of vaping and the serious threat of antibiotic resistance. 

Prof. Purnima Kumar is a world-renowned professor of periodontics based in the US. (Image: Purnima Kumar)

Antibiotic stewardship continues to be a global public health concern, and various studies have shown that dental professionals often unnecessarily prescribe antibiotics to patients. What is the current situation regarding antimicrobial resistance in dentistry? Have you noticed a shift in dental professionals’ awareness of the topic?
We are learning more about how we, as a profession, have contributed to antibiotic resistance, but progress is still needed. For example, my patients ask me every day to recommend a good mouthwash. There is so much hype surrounding these products that we forget that they are antimicrobial and that using them continually can negatively affect our oral microbiome and therefore our overall health. 

Tobacco use has a profound impact on oral health. What recent efforts have been made to promote tobacco use cessation in dentistry?
I am the chair of the American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs, and we have recently conducted a survey of our expert panel of dentists on their attitudes and practices towards smoking cessation counselling. We have learned that most dentists wish that they had access to more resources to recommend to their patients and more training to have these difficult conversations. Smoking is a preventable cause of disease, and we need to equip our dental students with more knowledge on how to help their patients through counselling and other intervention. 

You have made tremendous contributions to dental research and education. What would you like dental professionals to take away from your presentations at the congress?
I am privileged to be speaking to such a large global audience on a diverse array of topics, all of which stem from my research. Advances in medicine have proved beyond doubt that personalised, patient-centred care is the only way to cure and control dental disease.

The basis of delivering personalised care is an understanding that variations in human genetics and behaviour can lead to differing patterns of disease presentations and varying susceptibilities to disease. This realisation drives my research, and we are teasing out the interactions between our genetics, environment, behaviour and lifestyle that govern health and cause disease. This allows me to take my research findings directly into my operatory for improved patient care.

Editorial note:

Dr Purnima Kumar’s lecture, titled “Cloudy with a chance of disease: how smoking, vaping and waterpipes increase the risk for oral diseases”, took place on 26 September. She is also s speaker at the symposium, titled “Vapinguniversal panacea for ceasing tobacco use or disaster”, which will be held on 27 September from 8:00 to 9:45. More information about the event can be found here.

ADA FDI World Dental Congress Antimicrobial resistance Dental research Dentistry Oral health Vaping

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