Reflections

Member Name: Nicole Lee
Subtopic: Oral Microflora

What were some of the areas that you found particularly challenging during the course of your research?

1. Consolidating information

The subject of oral microflora is a very large and extensive one, and involves the study of a wide variety of different bacteria strains. As a result, the resources tended to go into very specific instances and species of bacteria in detail. This made it very challenging to sift through the various examples to derive the fundamental concepts. Also, it was difficult defining the boundaries of my research, with regards to the detail involved. Microflora is a very large field in itself, and hence I had to constantly filter the information to ensure that my essay was concise and relevant. There were also very specific technical terms and jargon with regards to the study of bacteria, which made me feel rather overwhelmed in the course of my reading, having not had that much background knowledge on bacteria and microbiology beforehand.

2. Obtaining sources

It was fairly challenging obtaining sufficient relevant information for this topic, as most of the journals and articles were focused on specific strains of bacteria, rather than the general concept in itself. Most of them were also too technical beyond my understanding. In the end, I was able to source a few textbooks on this subject and base my understanding on them, although they were slightly outdated.

What are the areas of controversy that demand for further research?

  • What are the new and undiscovered strains of microflora in the mouth?
  • How can we define which species of bacteria are universally endogenous to the mouth?
  • How does an individual's oral microflora reflect and have an effect on his/her systemic health?
What are the areas of research that fascinate you, which you would like to continue researching?

  • How can we define which species of bacteria are universally endogenous to the mouth?
This is a field of research that is constantly under debate, as microbial communities vary among individuals. Also, since the microflora is acquired though environmental contamination and interpersonal transmission, it is difficult to know if there are any strains of bacteria which are common among all humans, and if there are significant variances in oral microflora between people in different regions, with possible links to disparities in lifestyles and diet. With the rise of rapid bacteria mutations accompanying the widespread use of antibiotics, it is possible for oral microflora in humans will undergo changes, thus having implications on the incidence of caries.


What were some of the things that you were thankful for?

I am thankful for my group, which made the process of this project very enjoyable. With everyone being very enthusiastic and cooperative, all our parts managed to be completed on time, and the work was distributed equally among all of us. Also, my group-mates helped me in locating my sources, especially when I experienced technical errors with the websites.

Also, I am very thankful for our mentors, Prof. Robert Yee and Dr Huizhen Chen, who provided us with many valuable resources and direction in making our project better. This was especially with regards to my topic, where I had trouble defining the boundaries of my essay. Also, the textbook and the electronic journal article which they recommended and lent to me were of great help in my project.


What were some of the things you were unhappy about?

One of the things that I felt that was lacking was group interaction, as the nature of the project was generally individual-based. As the nature of the project was mostly about compilation and summary, i feel that it was not as meaningful compared to if it had involved more of our own creative input or the generation of new findings. Nonetheless, i still enjoyed the times we spent at the cafe working on our project beside one another.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Member
Name: Lim Young
Subtopic: Specific Plaque Hypothesis

What were some of the areas that you found particularly challenging during the course of your research?

1. The lack of relevant resources

I personally found it very challenging to obtain information relevant to my topic of interest. To begin with, my main source of resources comes from online medical journals and also some websites. The problem with these websites and journals is that they lack the scope of interest I need. For example, I may be looking for a detailed explanation of Specific Plaque Hypothesis. However, most of the resources gave me only a very generic view with regards to the Specific Plaque Hypothesis. What these resources could offer me were lots of information related to the Specific Plaque Hypothesis but may not be necessarily relevant. As such, I had to make sense out of these information that were related but not relevant. An example would be experiments that made use of the concept of Specific Plaque Hypothesis as their experimental basis. These information were related but not relevant to my area of interest. Thus, I needed to process these information in order for me to make sense out of these experiments. I needed to understand the information and create my own knowledge of the hypothesis on the basis of these information. This turns out to be extremely challenging as I was so used to gathering knowledge top down and was never put forth into the fore front of creating my own knowledge. I was forced to question my own understanding as I am now responsible for my own knowledge. My mentor wouldn't be the one providing me with the answers but rather, I needed to discern for myself what is knowledge and what is junk. This was particularly challenging for me.

2. Finding coherence among sources

Source A may state something that differs from what source B states with regards to the same issue. This when I was required to discern the reliability and the authenticity of the sources I am working with. Normally, journals and textbooks are quite reliable. I tend to not trust websites that lack any proper referencing and authentication. However, this process wasn't easy as I lacked the fundamental knowledge and experience to execute this. Thankfully, I had my mentors and friends that could help me out.

What are the areas of controversy that demands for further research?

  • Is Specific Plaque Hypothesis still relevant or is it considered obsolete?
  • Will therapeutics that target specific oral pathogens be effective in caries prevention?
What are the areas of research that fascinates you which you would like to continue researching?

  • The evolution of Specific Plaque Hypothesis into Ecological Plaque Hypothesis
One thing that fascinated me was how much evolution the hypothesis went through to become what we know as the Ecological Plaque Hypothesis. It started off with a hypothesis that was rather extreme in nature, which was the Specific Plaque Hypothesis. It proposes that only a specific pathogens were solely responsible for caries formation. However, further experimental research reviewed that much more factors come into play when we are considering caries formation. What is more interesting is that these factors are not independent in nature, meaning the different factors actually complements each other before caries formation is possible. I found this fascinating as I was kicked out of the rudimentary understanding that caries are formed just by a few major factors. The truth is caries formation is much more complex than we thought and a myriad of factors actually interlink and come into play before an orchestrated formation of caries can be possible.

What were some of the things that you were thankful for?

My group mates rocks! I felt that everyone was very motivated and responsible when it comes to work. We also had lots of fun when we met up together (outside of school timing!) to touch up some of the things that were being done. I was kind of skeptical towards this project at the start as I wasn't sure how so many different minds can come together to form a coherent batch of knowledge that was required by our mentor. However, I was proven wrong when I saw how much our group's webpage has evolved. From a messy and incoherent piece of work, it slowly evolved into a page which I am really proud of. I really learnt a lot from this whole experience. With hard work and effective coordination, a team of us can actually come out with something that is in my opinion, good! I hope this set of information will be useful for our juniors and whoever may chance upon it.

I am also very thankful to our group coordinators, particularly A/Prof Robert Yee. He was always patient and caring in his guidance to us. There were times when we just didn't get the things right, like our referencing. But he has never faulted us for our mistake. Instead, his chose to guide us with his rich experience and commitment. His dedicated guidance and encouragement really spurred many of us to work hard and I feel that our group wouldn't have produce these pages without him. Thank you A/Prof Yee!

What were some of the things you were unhappy of?

Seriously, the internet connection in the cafe that we worked in was ridiculous. My suggestion to future groups working on this project is to choose a right location for your group to work in. Make sure that the things that you need are working. Otherwise, it would just be another wasted get together session each time you guys meet up.


________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Member Name: Benjamin Lim
Subtopic: Dental Biofilms

What were some of the areas that you found particularly challenging during the course of your research?

1. Summarizing and organization of materials available.


There was a wide array of information available online and in books regarding dental biofilms. Therefore, I found it challenging to sieve out the relevant portion of information, summarize and integrate it into the page. Some sources provided a brief coverage of the topic, while some sources provided a handful of details. I had to cross reference between sources continuously to make sure that I extracted adequate information on my topic without being too brief or providing too much details. In addition to that, I had to continuously decide which is the best source to use and which diagrams were appropriate in presenting my topic. Subsequently, I had to integrate materials from different sources into the page and I found this process very tedious. As materials were often taken from different sources, the process of referencing the materials was also rather time-consuming and tiresome.

2. Credibility of sources

Although there was a handful of information available, it was a challenge trying to decipher the credibility of sources. Some books and online journals that I found online regarding my topics were quite outdated and inaccurate. Therefore, it was necessary for me to cross reference the materials to other sources to make sure the information was coherent, accurate and up-to-date.

What are the areas of controversy that demands for further research?

  • Are the types of interaction between bacteria colonizers and the biofilm layer only hydrophobic, electrostatic and Van Der Waals forces?
  • Does the pellicle/biofilm interaction protect dentin from erosive conditions like it does on enamel?
  • Specific microbes present in the biofilm layer and their role in biofilm
What are the areas of research that fascinates you which you would like to continue researching?

  • The potential benefits of a dental biofilm to the human teeth in addition to those already known
In my research, I have found that dental biofilm possesses cariogenic features as they harbour cariogenic bacteria which produces acid upon ingestion of carbohydates. The acids produce will then speed up the process of demineralization. However, in addition to knowing its cariogenic properties, I would also like to research further on other potential benefits of the biofilm la. From my research, the benefits of the dental biofilm include providing a form of lubrication for the teeth during mastication and protecting the enamel of the the tooth from demineralization due to its selective-permeability. It would therefore be interesting to dwell deeper the properties of the microbes and their potential benefit to the human teeth. Perhaps, upon more detailed investigations of the biofilm layer and its composition, it might be possible to even create toothpaste that can maximise the benefits of the biofilm in remineralizing the enamel surface.

What were some of the things that you were thankful for?

I was thankful that we had a very conducive environment to do our project and hold our discussion every week. There was also very strong support from our mentors who were very supportive throughout the project. I was also thankful for the comments our mentors left along the way. Those comments helped to steer my research back into the right direction. There were also sufficient resources given to us to help us in our research, making things a lot easier.

What were some of the things you were unhappy of?

There was not any part of the project that I was unhappy about. The only troublesome part of the project was probably having to reference the sources very carefully. Therefore, I would suggest that future groups reference their material properly right from the start and not leave it to the end as it might be difficult to recall which parts are from which sources.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Member Name: Lin Yi
Subtopic: Microbiology of enamel caries

What were some of the areas that you found particularly challenging during the course of your research?

1. Understanding the relationship and roles played by different bacteria during different stages of enamel caries

As there are many different types of bacteria involved in the initiation and development of enamel caries, it was slightly confusing in the beginning to understand and be able to see the whole picture of how the microflora in the oral cavity acted in relation to each other as well as with the enamel surface. Furthermore, not all the information can be found from a single source, thus making the understanding even more challenging, I had to read through several articles and research before knowing the exact function and relation of each group of bacteria.

2. Linking different resources
Throughout the research, there were new information about different types of bacteria, thus I had to reread different sources to see how the new information is relevant to the old ones. Certain resources even had slightly conflicting theories, due to the date of research done by the different authors, thus it was difficult to judge the relevance and choose the right information to be included in the research.

What are the areas of controversy that demands for further research?

  • Are there any other groups of bateria involved in the initiation and progression of enamel caries?
  • What is the reason for the bacteria in our saliva to not be able to overcome the bacteria involved in initiation of enamel caries?

What are the areas of research that fascinates you which you would like to continue researching?

  • What are the interactions between the different bacteria involved in enamel caries?
Althought there are researches that show some relations between the different groups of bacteria involved in the initiation and progression of enamel caries, however, i believe that there is a highly dependent relationship between all the different kinds of bacteria, and this area of research could be improved.

  • Are there drugs available to prevent growth of majority of such bacteria in-order to prevent enamel caries?
There is drugs in the market now that is capable of killing such microflora in our oral cavity, however, there is no drug that is capable in permanently preventing the growth of such bacteria by altering the "good" bacteria in our saliva, which would be a much preferred case.

What were some of the things that you were thankful for?

I'm very thankful for having Prof Yee as our group mentor, he gave me a lot of help and advice throughout the project, and he even printed relevant materials for me to get me on track with my topic. I'm also very thankful for Huizhen's help, in telling me which part of my research was insufficient and helping me add in relevant information to my topic, she also encouraged me to finish the project, giving me motivation to carry on. We were also provided a good environment to work in, with nice and helpful group members.

What were some of the things you were unhappy of?

I'm not unhappy about any part of this project other than the tight timeline.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Member Name: Jared Lim
Subtopic: Microbiology of Root Caries

What were some of the areas that you found particularly challenging during the course of your research?

1. Trying to comprehend the sources

As this is my first foray into the topic of Cariology, I found that there were many scientific terms that were used in the journal articles that were foreign and incomprehensible. It was difficult trying to appreciate these articles when one does not know the scientific basis behind them. I also felt that I might have missed out some important points as a result.

2. Drawing Conclusions

Initially when I first started on this project, I thought that the materials provided would be able to elucidate causative agents for root caries, and thus I tried to draw conclusions between the myriad of journal articles. However, I have come to realise that this is impossible since different studies conduct different tests and have differing results. It was also rather difficult to predict trends since, and very often, the result of one study contadicts that of the other. I have come to realise that the microbiology of root caries is evolving and extensive.


What are the areas of controversy that demands for further research?

  • Are we able to find causative agents for root caries?
  • Can the extended caries ecological hypothesis be proven?

What are the areas of research that fascinates you which you would like to continue researching?

I think it is fascinating how as one advances through time, we find different studies placing different emphasis on the types of bacteria that causes root caries. For example, in the 1970s, a lot of attention was given to Actinomyces and how it was cariogenic. However, in the 1980s, they found out that it was Lactobacillus and S. Mutans that were predictive of carious root lesions. This still holds true till recently, this year, when scientists discovered that species (eg P.alactolyticus) other than Actinomyces and S.mutans may play a role as pathogens of root caries. There is however, still limited literature to prove so and more research should be done. Many studies, then and now, are more concerned with the identification of microflora in root caries, but none (according to my research, which may not be sufficient) have actually studied why there is this change in the trend of microorganism that are seemingly associated with root caries. Is it in the food we consume? Or is it due to the different pathological factors present then and now? This is definitely an area for much debate.

What were some of the things that you were thankful for?

I think I am thankful for my group mates who are such a fun bunch to be with. It helps that we always hold our meetings at very conducive enviroments (like Coffee Grounds and Starbucks) that stimulate discussion. Everyone was very responsible and motivated and there was no need for any pressure from anybody to ensure that work gets done. All in all I think it was a very stress-free and successful group project.

I am also thankful for A/P Robert Yee and Dr Chen for providing many articles for perusal and also for their guidance whenever I had queries. It certainly has made it much easier and enjoyable.

What were some of the things you were unhappy of?

I felt that the aim of this project was not clearly elucidated and that everyone was very concerned with getting their portion completed rather than trying to appreciate Cariology as a whole. Other than that I think I am quite satisfied.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Member Name: Mandy Leung
Subtopic: Specific Plaque Hypothesis

What were some of the areas that you found particularly challenging during the course of your research?

1. Lack of relevant resources available

There were many resources for our perusal but many, if not all, only provided a very small section on the Specific Plaque Hypothesis and usually it only stated the definition of the hypothesis. Furthermore, many research papers that I looked into focused on the development of the Ecological Plaque Hypothesis and gave results of studies which did not support the topic that I was doing, which was frustrating as I was unable to get enough evidence to support the point I wanted to make.

2. Comprehensibility of resources

Many sources also gave evidence of studies which were not detailed enough and they were made on a pool of subjects which was quite restricted. For example, plaque formation on 85 to 88 year old Swiss elderly, six to eight year old Chinese children and et cetera, which made it difficult to compare results and provide the most reliable and relevant source as a basis of evidential support.

Furthermore, as many scientific and mathematical terms were used to describe the process of the study, there were some portions of the text which I could not understand enough to be able to tell if the results were favourable or not, or how the study had been carried out. Many good sources had to be dropped because of the convoluted descriptions given.


What are the areas of controversy that demands for further research?

  • Will there be elements of the Specific Plaque Hypothesis that will be relevant still?

What are the areas of research that fascinates you which you would like to continue researching?

  • The role of specific bacteria in plaque formation
It was interesting to read up on the bacteria and their different roles in formation of plaque, such as responses to different conditions that are provided as well as toxins secreted. Furthermore, by understanding certain bacteria and their interactions, it gives an overview of what is happening on a micromolecular level in plaque and makes research into drugs targeting for example, their growth or attachment to the tooth, easier. By doing this for other major bacteria which assist in plaque formation besides the specific ones, slowly, chemical or biological means may be developed, such as targetting helpful bacteria on the teeth to counter the cariogenic ones.

What were some of the things that you were thankful for?

I am thankful for the wonderful groupmates that I have, which made our group meetings full of fun and laughter and the whole cariology project more enjoyable to do. They were also always punctual for the meetings and our first one at Starbucks was particularly memorable because we were able to spend time together outside interacting as a group, instead of solely staring into our computers during every meeting and barely talking to each other because we were all doing different portions of the project. Everyone has also contributed equally to the project and this makes our meetings very efficient because most of the work has already been done during our spare time at home and minor changes such as formatting and referencing problems need only be solved.

Prof Robert Yee and Dr Huizhen have also been a great help, mentoring us and providing insightful feedback on our progress. Without their help, I would not have been sure of which direction to head with the subject because the scope is quite wide and which references to use, which would be most relevant to our project.

What were some of the things you were unhappy of?

There wasn't much I was unhappy with, besides the fact that I would much prefer more school hours allotted to Cariology so that we do not have to worry about trying to hit deadlines during our spare time.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Member Name: Liang Shuli
Subtopic: Probiotics

What were some of the areas that you found particularly challenging during the course of your research?

1. Understanding the little details in the information I found
As this was my first foray into probiotics, my lack of background knowledge in the field did leave me handicapped at times such as when reading articles explaining the mechanism behind the functioning of probiotic bacteria. It was hard to understand beyond the simple ‘coaggregation’ of the probiotic bacteria to the cariogenic bacteria, despite information being available about the actual mechanism and the biochemistry involved in the process.

2. Organizing all the information, consolidating it, and ensuring that there was a logical and coherent flow in presentation

After advice by Dr Hui Zhen, I realized that people do process information very differently. It was rather hard for me to decide how to organize the information to make it more palatable, such that one could read through the entire article and not at any point have any questions i.e. the article would guide the reader from the basics to the details.

What are the areas of controversy that demand for further research?
Probiotics is an area that is undergoing intensive research right now and it hasn’t been fully developed yet. There have begun to be innovations making use of the concept of bacteriotherapy to reduce the occurrence of caries but these have not become particularly widespread yet. Other research could be done to solidify the basis of the mechanism based on which these bacteria function, and also more studies on the relation to caries formation could be conducted to ensure the link is certain.

What are the areas of research that fascinate you, which you would like to continue researching?

Personally, I feel this area is very relevant to the general public as it may directly affect their oral health – perhaps through the consumption of probiotic products etc. Hence I reckon a focus on application of knowledge would be more fascinating to me, such as finding a way to introduce this concept into supplements that may be available cheaply and have a great impact, way greater than say the use of fluoride, on caries in the general population.

What were some of the things that you were thankful for?

I really enjoyed the research I got to do regarding my topic. Probiotics, as a new and rapidly developing area of research, is very dynamic and the things I learnt, not just knowledge but skills as well, were certainly very valuable.

I am also very appreciative of the guidance of Prof Robert Yee and Dr Hui Zhen, in advising me on the direction in which I should take my research, providing me with additional materials, getting me interested in the topic, and in general making Cariology an interesting experience.

Also, I could not have done without the group, who have been very cooperative and hardworking people.

What were some of the things you were unhappy about?

I felt initially, it wasn’t clear what the aim of our project was, if it was to create a presentation, or solely do research. Also, there was less ‘creation’ of things on our part involved, and the work was more of looking up what had been done by others and putting it all together, as opposed to building on it ourselves or coming up with our own ideas. Although I do understand that as first years, we are pretty inadequately equipped to go into research but I do feel a little more input should be required from us not in the form of compilation but in the form of creation. That would definitely make us feel more like we have a stake in the project.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Member Name: Lin Dan
Subtopic: Ecological Plaque Hypothesis

What were some of the areas that you found particularly challenging during the course of your research?

Processing of Information

Much research has been done on the Ecological Plaque Hypothesis, which has evolved from previous hypothesis like that of the Specific and Non-Specific Plaque Hypothesis. Therefore, contrasting information on the hypothesis was sometimes found. Despite there being various resources on the Ecological Plaque Hypothesis, the depth of information and relevance varies as well and more time had to be put in to sort out the relevant information.

Pictorial and other forms of Resources

There was difficulty in finding resources like pictures, videos and diagrams related to the Ecological Plaque Hypothesis, which would have perhaps allowed the readers to better understand the concepts of the Hypothesis. For example, a picture of the timeline of the evolution of the hypothesis was unable to be found, and was in turn illustrated by our group.


What are the areas of controversy that demands for further research?

Why are acidophilic Non-Mutan bacteria species replaced by Mutan bacteria species like Lactobacilli instead of more acidophilic Non-Mutan bacteria species?
How exactly are they replaced when there is a change in the pH of the oral cavity?


What are the areas of research that fascinates you which you would like to continue researching?

Under neutral pH, how does Mon-Mutan bacteria species help in maintaining the balance of the microflora community?
What is the exact relationship between Mon-Mutan bacteria species and Mutan bacteria species?

I find the relationship between different bacteria species in the microflora community very fascinating. The exact relationship between Non-Mutan bacteria species and Mutan bacteria species in the oral cavity was not very clear in my research, yet this relationship is a crucial factor in determining the caries production in the oral cavity. I would also like to find out more about the role of the Non-Mutan bacteria species and how they are able to maintain the stability of the oral microbacial community, such as how their activities and characteristics are able to aid in the homeostasis of the oral cavity. I believe these areas will help us to better understand the microflora interaction in the oral cavity and caries production, which will allow for the development of better treatment plans and strategies to prevent caries.


What were some of the things that you were thankful for?

Firstly, I am grateful for the guidance and encourage of our mentors Professor Yee and Dr. Huizhen throughout this project. Both of our mentors were always willing to patiently answer our enquiries, guide us in our referencing of our resources, and highlight any mistakes we might have made. This allowed us to better improve on our research skills. I am also very thankful for my teammates, who were very encouraging during the whole project, and provided much conducive feedback and also assistance in my research. They have truly made our project meetings enjoyable and conducive for discussion, and everyone listens with an open mind to each other’s ideas.


What were some of the things you were unhappy of?

I think that perhaps a slightly longer period could be given for the completion of this project.

~Navigator~
- HOME - INTRODUCTION - ORAL MICROFLORA - SPECIFIC PLAQUE HYPOTHESIS - ECOLOGICAL PLAQUE HYPOTHESIS - DENTAL BIOFILMS -
- MICROBIOLOGY OF ENAMEL CARIES - MICROBIOLOGY OF ROOT CARIES - PROBIOTICS - SUMMARY - REFLECTIONS -



More pages