Empowering dentistry students for career success

Donor-funded clinic upgrades bring a new level of professionalism and innovation to clinical training.

Having experienced half of her dental education in the midst of a global pandemic, fourth-year dental student Alicia Gordon says she’s prepared for anything.

“I feel really confident about entering the workforce, because I’ll be comfortable working in any dental setting,” she said. “I’ve had to perform dentistry in a number of different conditions, which has greatly improved my resilience.”

Thanks to donor support, several upgrades to the School’s main dental clinic have helped Gordon and her peers achieve success despite the obstacles the pandemic presented. These upgrades include new mannequins for simulated clinical education and intraoral cameras to enhance clinic safety and communication.

At the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, in-person dental care at the School was suspended for several months. As a result, the clinical education team set-up 40 new mannequins and designed an entirely new curriculum to train and test clinical competencies.

“We used case-based learning with the mannequins to supplement students’ lost clinic time,” explained Dr. Rae Dorion, Assistant Director, Clinical Affairs. “It was well-received, and the students were very appreciative to have the opportunity to train in a clinical setting.”

While patients have now returned to the main clinic, the mannequins will continue to be used by students to practise procedures and improve their skills. They are the same model as those used by the National Dental Examining Board of Canada, giving students an extra edge in preparing for their licensing examinations.

When patients returned in September 2020, safety was top of mind. Following requirements from the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario, closed rooms were established to perform aerosol-generating procedures. To reduce traffic in and out of the rooms, the clinic team acquired 75 intraoral cameras, allowing clinical instructors to review and assess photos and videos from a separate location.

In the longer term, the cameras are also enhancing diagnosis and treatment planning and improving communication between students, patients and specialists.

“The cameras have improved consistency in our treatment planning,” explained Gordon. “It’s really beneficial to show a patient what the issue is and explain the significance – this builds a relationship of trust and leads to more constructive, informed conversations.”

A standard in modern dental practices, the cameras are preparing students for the professional environments they will encounter after graduation. “Students are now learning how to take high-quality images as a part of their clinical education,” said Dorion. 

Half of the cameras were donated by Dentsply, and the remaining costs were covered through donor support.

The clinic also received 25 air purifiers donated by Austin Air Canada, which had a major impact on the safe delivery of patient care.

Third-year student Moulik Patel is training in the main clinic for the first time this year. Due to the pandemic, his class did not have the opportunity to shadow upper-year students to learn how the clinic operates and how to properly set-up for different procedures.

He says these upgrades have helped ease their transition to the patient care environment.

“With the technology and guidance of instructors, we’re feeling more confident, and our skillsets are growing,” he said. “Dentistry is evolving into a more digital, high-tech profession, so getting hands-on experience with these tools is important.”

With ongoing restrictions for dental care in Ontario, the clinic team continues to navigate the situation, all with an eye to the future.

“Never let a crisis go to waste, as the saying goes,” said Dorion. “The things we’ve learned and the adaptations we’ve put in place have proven to be things we’ll hang on to. They have been extremely valuable tools for the quality of patient care we’re providing.”

“These upgrades bring a new level of professionalism and innovation in providing patient care at the School,” added Gordon. 

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Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University
Clinical Skills Building
London, Ontario, Canada, N6A 5C1