Cariology Expert Excels In Teaching, Research
By Ginger Hall Carnes
Bennett T. Amaechi, B.D.S., Ph.D., M.Sc., MFDS RCPS (Glasg), FADI, is a trailblazer in the School of Dentistry, not only in how he teaches, but in what he teaches through his research. His methods have proven successful, earning him the 2019 Presidential Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching.
Dr. Amaechi, professor of comprehensive dentistry and director of cariology, refuses to follow the traditional lecture method. Some instructors depend on students to copy what they need to know off the board, “and then they clean the board,” he observed. “When I started teaching and looked at my students, I knew that some individuals don’t learn like that.”
When he arrived at the School of Dentistry in 2001, Dr. Amaechi started giving students his PowerPoint (PPT) presentation while other faculty said they would never do that. “I give it to them in PPT format, not PDF, so they can take notes on it with their laptops. It’s better for them to listen to the explanation and then use the PPT to take notes where they will be reading the explanation. It makes sense to them.”
He emphasizes to students that he is always available for a private explanation in his office and gives the full lecture notes with the PPT. “When they get both the PPT and the lecture notes, everything is understood,” he said.
Dr. Amaechi chose the teaching track in the dental school, but he blends it with research. “I want to be in academics because it allows me to combine my work in research and teaching. I build my research knowledge into my teaching,” he explained.
His interest in academic dentistry is what brought him from Nigeria, by way of England, to San Antonio.
Earning his dental degree in Nigeria, a former British colony where there were few residency opportunities, he moved to England. While there, he did a two-year residency, was a practicing dentist, earned his master’s degree in prosthetic dentistry from the University of London, and received an appointment to the University of Liverpool School of Dentistry, where he earned his Ph.D. in cariology and preventive dentistry.
When he was first studying cariology–also called caries management–the specialty was developing. “My research has everything to do with dental decay, especially its prevention and control. It’s centered mainly on development of strategies to prevent or repair early stage dental decay to prevent it from becoming a full-blown cavity.” He does clinical tests on toothpaste, mouth rinses, flosses and other oral health care materials.
In the early days, dentists just looked for cavities and did fillings (restorations). Now, with the growth of cariology, Dr. Amaechi gives lectures all over the world on modern caries management, which has the mission to preserve dental tissues first and restore only when indicated. While directing two main courses and teaching in several other courses each semester, he has written a book on dental erosion, 11 book chapters, 15 review articles and several research articles while being invited to 65 presentations locally, nationally and worldwide.
When the School of Dentistry was looking for someone to start the fledgling cariology program, Dr. Amaechi responded to the job posting from UT Health San Antonio while he was working in England. He’s been the director since
“Dr. Amaechi is a world-renowned expert in his field with sustained excellence in both research and teaching skills,” said Robert M. Taft, D.D.S., professor and chair of comprehensive dentistry. “It is truly a rarity to see a professional as talented as he is with a vibrant personality who is very approachable. Students are infatuated with his ability to make the most complex understandable and the most mundane interesting. We are lucky to have him at our institution and look forward to a very long-term professional relationship.”