Filling the gap

Michael CongiustaThis past spring semester, second year veterinary students were introduced to veterinary dental basics. But for most students, practice makes perfect, and for Michael Congiusta, there was a step missing between class and lab.

Congiusta, whose parents are both dentists, has a passion for veterinary education, innovation, and small animal oral health. He says the Dental Vet typodont concept models he invented, which are made of plastic, were intended for universities and veterinary technician schools to give out to students to practice basic dental skills.

Before any of their labs this semester, many second year students were able to practice on Congiusta’s plastic models. He applies a synthetic calculus mixture to the plastic models so students can practice picking it off with proper hand technique and familiarize themselves with what to expect in lab. “My vision was to provide each student with their own model so they can take it home and practice,” he says. “I got a lot of great feedback from the students who tried it.”

Recently, Congiusta’s plastic models took home the grand prize at “The Idea”—an innovation competition exclusively for veterinary students. Twenty-seven students from around the country entered the contest, which was held at the Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Annual Symposium in Philadelphia in March. With this grand prize came a $10,000 award, which Congiusta has invested in developing his models further. Previously, he was building them in his bedroom. Now, Congiusta is waiting for mock-ups of his models from various medical device companies who are vying to be his supplier.

dental modelCongiusta's dental models 

Congiusta’s aim for improving veterinary dental care extends beyond veterinary school. He has also invented a 3-D version of the model that exhibits pathology on one side and dental health on the other. “It was intended to enhance the veterinarian-client compliance relationship,” Congiusta says. “So, the veterinarian could educate the client on which pathology is on which individual tooth and compare it to the other [healthy] side.”

Congiusta has more ideas for his company, Veterinary Active Learning, LLC, to produce. “Any proceeds I would make from these canine models, I would reinvest into creating a cat model and then a horse model,” he says. In addition, he is looking to create educational programs and tools for students, including a software program.

“I just think it is important for students to learn basic dental clinical skills,” says Congiusta, “and constantly refresh their education and learning continuously throughout their career.”

Photos courtesy of Michael Congiusta