Building on the University of Iowa College of Dentistry’s longstanding experience of university-industry collaboration, Fabricio Teixeira, professor and head of the Department of Endodontics, is working with the medical equipment manufacturer SONENDO of California, to evaluate a new piece of specialized equipment that SONENDO has developed called GentleWave.
The traditional treatment for infections that cause apical periodontitis is generally a standard root canal treatment using needles and syringes to flush the microbes and debris in the root canal using suction and water irrigation. In most cases, apical periodontitis will heal if the root canal system is adequately disinfected.
SONENDO’s GentleWave system uses soundwaves rather than fluids to disinfect the root canal system. The process can be completed in eight minutes, and the company has indicated that it has evidence that their process results in faster healing times for patients.
Teixeira and his team are providing an external and independent evaluation of the working time and post-operatory pain levels patients undergo after the GentleWave procedure. Notably, the team will estimate the healing of apical periodontitis using CBCT technology and whether the GentleWave treatment outcomes are superior to current disinfection approaches.
In addition to federal and private-foundation grants, industry-sponsored grants provide an essential revenue stream to support and encourage faculty research at the college.
“Faculty have to be open-minded about the opportunities and the challenges of industry grants,” Teixeira explained.
“These companies not only provide valuable funds and equipment to support research, but they also align with the research team interests and ultimate goals.”
Universities provide a strong statement in industry-university partnerships. An independent expert in the field conducting their analysis using a new technology ensures that a business's profit-motive is autonomous of the research findings. This process provides good scientific evidence and helps establish public trust in the quality of a new technology element.
However, this process depends primarily on the integrity and expertise of the liberated researcher. SONDENDO approached Dr. Teixeira and his team precisely for these reasons.
“It is paramount that researchers maintain their autonomy from external sponsors,” Teixeira said, “since it protects both the integrity of the researcher and the reputation of the company.”
Unfortunately, this process began just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit early 2020. As a result, the research project experienced several delays and is still developing a sufficiently large patient pool to complete the study.
Teixeira’s team includes statisticians Xian Jin Xie and Carissa Comnick, Sara Miller as clinic coordinator, and endodontics residents and faculty using the technology at the endodontic clinic.
Teixeira said, “I am fortunate to have worked with such wonderful people on this project, notably Sara Miller, Ann Lawler, Sharon Seydel and Carissa Comnick. We are very enthusiastic about this translational research opportunity.”