USU Postgraduate Dental School Alum Wins Tri-Service Dental Research Competition

Maj. Jae Lim was named winner of the 2022–2023 Uniformed Services University (USU) Postgraduate Dental College (PDC) Tri-Service Dental Research Competition.

Maj. Jae Lim (middle) is presented with an award by USU President Dr. Jonathan Woodson (left) and PDC Dean  Dr. Drew Fallis (right) after winning the Tri-Service Dental Research Competition. (Photo credit: Maj. Jae Lim)
Maj. Jae Lim (middle) is presented with an award by USU President Dr. Jonathan Woodson (left) and PDC Dean 
Dr. Drew Fallis (right) after winning the Tri-Service Dental Research Competition. (Photo credit: Maj. Jae Lim)

May 31, 2023 by Vivian Mason

Maj. Jae Lim, a board-certified comprehensive dentist and the officer-in-charge at the U.S. Army Dental Health Activity, Fort Cavazos, Texas, was named winner of the 2022–2023 Uniformed Services University (USU) Postgraduate Dental College (PDC) Tri-Service Dental Research Competition. 

Maj. Jae Lim (Photo credit: Tom Balfour, USU)
Maj. Jae Lim (Photo credit: Tom Balfour,
“I wasn’t expecting to win anything and was shocked when I won,” says Lim. “However, it’s been quite gratifying to be recognized for this work. It’s been a team effort, and I’d like to thank my department, mentor, and residents for their support. I couldn’t have done it without them.” 

More than 70 project entries from the 19 master’s degree-granting postgraduate dental residency programs were submitted to the annual Tri-Service Dental Research Competition. Military dental educators from the Army, Navy and Air Force dental schools reviewed the research submissions and identified one project each for the Tri-Service Dental Research Award. Those projects were then evaluated by a panel of respected educator-scientists representing USU’s PDC, School of Medicine, and Graduate School of Nursing, who selected Lim for the award. 

His winning research, “Comparing the Shade-Matching Effectiveness of OMNICHROMA and Filtek Supreme Ultra Composites Using a Spectrophotometer and Human Evaluators,” was conducted as an integral component of USU’s Master of Science in Oral Biology Program. 

Lim, a graduate of the Fort Cavazos 2-Year Advanced Education in General Dentistry (AEGD-2)/Comprehensive Dentistry residency program, selected this topic because he saw an advertisement in a dental journal for a new composite material called OMNICHROMA, he says. “I had my own doubts about the material. So, I wanted to do a study to see if it performed as advertised and was worth ordering for our clinics.”

His mentor, Maj. Robert Masterson, program director of the AEGD-2, advised him throughout his research. Notes Lim, “He helped me to focus my study. He reviewed my work, gave constructive feedback, and provided assistance and guidance.”

Lim’s project took about 2½ weeks to complete: one week to prepare the samples, two days to do the spectrophotometric data collection (a method to measure how much a chemical substance absorbs light), and one week to visit the various clinics to get the clinical data. “Once everything was ordered,” says Lim, “the study was completed fairly quickly.”

His study consisted of investigating the composite material, which is resin-based with a universal filler. This unique filler creates what is advertised by the company as a one-shade composite that matches all patients. 

“It’s a chameleon-style composite filling material,” explains Lim. “There’s no shade selection process behind it. The color generated by the composite combines with the reflected color of the surrounding tooth and creates the perfect match for almost every patient.” 

Normally, the dental composite is a tooth-colored filling material with a set shade. 

“Usually, there are about 16 different classic shades to choose from,” says Lim. “But, if you really want to build the tooth back up to look the best it can, you have to spend time inspecting the teeth around it to see what kind of shape they’re in and then match it appropriately. Hopefully, you’ll have the composite material already in stock.” 

On the manufacturer’s side, studies looked at color matches between a few shades, conducting spectrophotometry to get data on the color match.  The subject composite shade match was compared to that of one or two specific composite shades depending on the shade of the restored material.

“My research looked at multiple shades and the shade matching ability of both OMNICHROMA and traditional composite when the restoration’s value was matched,” says Lim. “I also collected subjective data from human observers to verify if there were any clinical implications. We wanted to know if a shade match, or lack thereof, according to a spectrophotometer lab study, actually translated over when people were looking at the restoration.” 

After collecting data from the spectrophotometer, Lim’s study used a blind format wherein no one knew which tooth was filled with the traditional composite or the universal composite. Dental staff who traditionally dealt with color matching looked through all of the teeth and ranked the color match between the filling and surrounding tooth material on a scale from 1 to 4. Lim investigated if there was any correlation between how well the dental staff said that the tooth matched clinically compared with how well the clinical data from the spectrophotometer showed that it should match.

“We found that, for the most part, there was a correlation,” notes Lim. “The restorations that were rated to have better shade matches by the participants tended to be those that were measured to be closer in shade by the spectrophotometer.” 

What he enjoyed most about this research project was the fact that the results are almost immediately applicable. 

“The subjective data from shade match observations seems to show at least some validity to the company’s claim to be able to blend with any tooth,” explains Lim. “So, I was able to trust that data to utilize the composite with my actual patients. I’ve used it more than a few times now on front teeth, and each time had more success than I had originally thought I would. All of my co-residents have successfully used the leftover material with their patients as well.” 

Lim presented his award-winning research at USU’s Research Days in May 2023, where he was presented with the Board of Regents Award, the highest honor a graduating USU student can receive in recognition of his superior academic performance and professional excellence.