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Interview with National Research Award Recipient Christian McSweeny

By: Blake Wichert

Christian McSweeny received the award for “Most Outstanding Presentation in Clinical Research” at the Hinman Research Symposium hosted by the University of Tennessee. Learn more about his standout research and the next steps in his journey.

What was your topic?

Nicotine Pouch Effects on Salivary and Phosphate Buffered Saline pH.

How long did this project take you to do? What was the timeline?

Started in July and ended in late August. I spent a lot of Saturdays at school doing research. Each protocol took an hour and 15 minutes for a total of 30 hours of research. A duration of time was spent to plan, perform write ups, build a protocol and receive funding. It took at least a year to make all of this happen. I was testing every major brand and concentration of nicotine pouches. Protocol would consist of taking the product and placing it in 3 mL of solution of saliva. I would test pH every 15 minutes for an hour and after the hour passed I would take the pouch out of solution and then test the pH of saliva solution afterwards to obtain quantitative results.

What inspired you to do this topic?

I wanted to have a better understanding about oral nicotine products as a future provider. These products are popular amongst our generation and with the lack of research on oral nicotine products I thought it would be important as a future provider to find out what these products do. Furthermore, this would allow me to treat and advise my future patients who might use these products.

Any difficulties or struggles along the way?

Lack of research on these products and figuring out how to pioneer these products was the biggest struggle I came across. There were an estimated 15 articles while doing research on these products that held significant bias and most were produced by big tobacco companies. The other studies that did not have bias did not dive too deep on these products. I wanted hard facts and to make connections to other areas of research. A connection we found was that these products changed the pH of the oral cavity to more alkaline numbers.

Describe the setting for the research symposium?

The 28th Hinman Research Symposium was located in Memphis, Tennessee at the Peabody Hotel. Students compete against each other with oral presentations and poster presentations over a single weekend. Oral presentations last from 8:30am to 12pm we would then break for lunch and poster presentations would occur after. My presentation was an oral presentation competing against 30 other oral presenters during this competition.

What did winning the award mean to you?

I was surprised this was my first year doing research. There was a lot of tension and every presenter wanted to represent their school well at this prestigious research symposium. Being able to represent ASDOH to the best of my abilities and show everyone that ASDOH can compete against other research schools is significantly meaningful.

What are the next steps with this research in the future?

I will be traveling to New Orleans the week before spring break to present the same research at the biggest dental student competition in the whole nation. It’s called SCADA which stands for Student Competition for Advancing Dental Research and its Application. I will also be presenting at IADR which stands for International Association for Dental Oral and Craniofacial Research. I also have a new research topic coming up that will add a new layer to my previous research.

What advice would you give to others pursuing research?

Do something you enjoy or are truly interested in learning about. You will spend your free time spending time with this research. My research has given me a better understanding about these products as a future clinician and will benefit my patients in the future.

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