This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Kim works to lower cost of dentures

Finds patient appreciation to be most rewarding part of clinical work

Published: May 1, 2008

Reporter Staff Writer

A UB dentist specializing in prosthodontics says the best thing about providing patients with attractive and cost-effective dental restoration is the appreciation of those benefiting from his research and practice.


Dental school faculty member Hyeongil Kim is working on several "bench-top" research projects that aim to lower the cost of dentures and dental implants for patients.

Hyeongil Kim, who joined the dental school faculty as a clinical instructor in 2002, became an assistant professor in the Department of Restorative Dentistry last fall. He previously served as director of UB’s fixed and removable dental laboratories.

“We treat many long-time denture wearers in the postgraduate and pre-doctoral clinics,” says Kim, noting that they often suffer from severe jawbone loss, which leads to loose dentures and sore oral tissues.

“Just a little aesthetic and functional improvement makes a dramatic difference,” he says. “The patient’s satisfaction is the most rewarding part of being a clinician.”

Buffalo is a particularly fascinating city from a prosthodontic perspective because the number of denture-wearers is well above the national average, Kim says, especially people who have worn them for many years.

“Many people here have had dentures since they were young,” he says. “There was a time when dentures were given as graduation presents, and many patients are now suffering because their dentures are too loose—they’re using glue to keep them on.

“A part of the problem is economic,” he adds. “One of my research interests is to satisfy the needs of this population using dental implants.”

The prohibitive cost of dental implants is a major concern, Kim says, noting that a single implant costs about $2,500, and a full set about as much as a luxury car. Kim hopes to launch a project exploring the use of minimal dental implants to accommodate patients with significant lower jawbone loss. If the support of a California-based dental company comes through, Kim says, the project could benefit as many as 30 individuals in the local community.

“If the results of the research are positive,” he adds, “then perhaps we can submit a government proposal for further financial support.”

Establishing a clinical research project remains a long-term goal, says Kim, who also is working on several “bench-top” research projects in his lab. The first involves testing the effectiveness of zirconia, a harder ceramic material that is becoming increasingly popular for a more natural-looking result. The second study tests the use of microwaves versus traditional techniques to fire ceramics more effectively.

“The microwaves heat from inside out, so it is a more homogeneous process,” he explains, referring to the fusion of the zirconia particles during heating. “The microwave runs faster, so we can achieve the same result in 40 minutes as opposed to six to eight hours in a conventional electric-coil oven.”

The projects have gained the support of two international companies: Nobel Biocare, a leading manufacturer of dental implants based in Sweden, and Ivoclar Vivadent, a supplier of dental restorative materials whose North American headquarters is in Amherst.

The recipient of a D.D.S. degree from Yonsei University in South Korea, Kim enrolled in the advanced education program in prosthodontics at UB in 1998. He earned a master’s degree in oral sciences in 2002 and a D.D.S. in 2006. In addition to research, Kim teaches in the student clinic and the postgraduate prosthodontics program.

“I’m sort of doing everything,” he says, “but my interest is in postgraduate-level research. Their cases are the most complicated and demanding.”

Before coming to UB, Kim had a private practice for eight years in his hometown of Pocheon, near Seoul. After deciding to pursue specialist training in the U.S., Kim says he discovered UB thanks to the positive endorsements of several colleagues, including Moon K. Chung, a former visiting scholar to UB who now teaches at Yonsei University, and Chin Choung, a former member of the UB faculty.

The desire to conduct research at UB, as well as the encouragement and support of Edward A. Monaco Jr., assistant clinical professor of restorative dentistry, factored into his decision to remain at the university after graduation.

“UB has had a long-standing reputation for its excellent prosthodontics program,” says Kim. “I hope to be a part of its history by adding to its research activities.”

Kim lives in Williamsville with his wife, Jeong, a clinical instructor in the same department, and their two children: a 17-year-old daughter, Jiyoon, and a 15-year-old son, Sangyoon.