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Date:5/24/2010

Rice University bioengineering students really get their teeth into their senior design projects. This year, one team got everybody else's teeth into it, too.

Five Rice seniors have created a portable dental suction device, an inexpensive, battery-powered version of the vacuum system commonly used in dentists' offices to remove blood and saliva from a patient's mouth.

It's no surprise that big systems cost a lot, more than dental practitioners in developing countries can afford or even use because of limited access to electricity. For clinicians who travel from village to village to treat patients, gauze usually serves the purpose of soaking up fluids.

What is surprising is that many dentists in this country find themselves in the same situation.

Faculty at the University of Texas Dental Branch-Houston (UTDB-H) have long been aware of the need for a portable dental suction device and turned to Rice students to see how they could help.

Team Pearly Whites has come through with flying colors. Bioengineering majors Brian Benjamin, Jaime Wirth, Carmen Perez and Tiffany Kim and biochemistry and cell biology major Jessica Ma assembled a foot-operated portable system that will go on the road with UTDB-H faculty this summer for testing by rural Texas dentists. They hope the device will eventually become a standard part of Rice's dental Lab-in-a-Backpack developed by Beyond Traditional Borders to fulfill needs in developing countries around the world.

"I can't adequately describe how motivated and enthusiastic the students were this year," said Dan Bentley, an assistant professor of restorative dentistry at UTDB-H and one of the team's advisers. "It was amazing. I think their independent effort and willing attitude have produced exactly the desired outcome for the project."

"The students evaluated the need described by their mentors at the dental branch and created a viable solution that is ready to fie
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Contact: David Ruth
druth@rice.edu
713-348-6327
Rice University
Source:Eurekalert  

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