Community mentors

Drs. Timucin Ari and Gordon Payne

A new community clinic rotation is enhancing paediatric training and mentorship for third-year Schulich Dentistry students

By Emily Leighton, MA’13

Magic wands, raincoats and tooth washers.

These may sound like must-have accessories for the tooth fairy, but for students at Schulich Dentistry they are part of a specialized vocabulary.

Through the School’s paediatric dentistry program, students learn new ways to describe tools and procedures to children with the goal of making a visit to the dentist more comfortable, efficient and fun – curing lights become magic wands, dental dams transform into raincoats and drills act as tooth washers.

A new initiative at the School is enhancing this type of specialty training through rotations at local paediatric dentistry practices.

As part of the third-year curriculum, students are now required to visit a community clinic for at least two full days, shadowing and observing faculty members at work in their own practices.

“Mentorship better prepares our students to serve their patients and communities.” —Dr. Timucin Ari

“In the community, students will observe cases and learn in a clinical environment that is quite different from our school-based teaching,” explained Dr. Timucin Ari, chair of the Division of Orthodontics and Paediatric Dentistry.

The new rotations give students an up-close look at behaviour management strategies, specific dental techniques and sedation methods. Students also gain exposure to unique patient populations, including children with special needs.

Dr. Gordon Payne, DDS’86, a paediatric dentist and dedicated part-time faculty member, has hosted several students at his busy London practice.

“I’ve got all this knowledge I want to pass on, and I want to have time to sit down with students and show them how rewarding paediatric dentistry can be,” he said. “Not only do they see how to complete procedures more efficiently, but they also learn how to manage young patients and experience the flow of a typical paediatric dental office.”

Dr. Ari and Dr. Clive Friedman, a part-time faculty member, have also welcomed students at their local practice.

The community experience complements a robust paediatric program at Schulich Dentistry, which starts with lectures and coursework in the second-year curriculum.

Third- and fourth-year students gain clinical experience working with patients from two to 12 years of age in the Children’s Clinic. Set up to simulate a real dental practice, about 2,400 patients are cared for at the Clinic each year.

A key contributor to the overall success of the program is the small group of faculty who present lectures and oversee clinical instruction. “Faculty mentorship is key in our approach to dental education,” said Dr. Ari. “And the faculty are helping make the paediatric program a stand-out at the School; their contributions are the reason for its continued success.”  

One of the motivations in implementing the community clinic rotations is to build on these strengths in teaching and increase opportunities for formal mentorship between faculty and students.

“Mentorship better prepares our students to serve their patients and communities,” explained Dr. Ari. 

In addition to the in-person experience at local dental practices, students also write and submit reflective journals. The new initiative has been so well received that Drs. Ari and Payne are considering extending it to fourth-year students.

“This year is the test drive, to work out the practical elements and assess the learning benefits,” said Dr. Ari. “It’s been amazing to hear the feedback from students; they’ve all learned a lot and really valued the experience.” 

For Dr. Payne, showing students the day-to-day realities of a paediatric dental office makes teaching even more enjoyable. “Opening a student’s eyes to how much fun paediatric dentistry can be, that’s the thing that is so rewarding for me as an educator,” he said. 

Student Reflections

“I learned the importance of conducting and using the right practice management tools to enhance the dental experience for the child, so they may be more accepting toward dental treatment in the future.” —Neelima Soni, Class of 2018

“While shadowing Dr. Payne in his operatory, I experienced practice efficiency, patient communication, time management, organizational skills, and leadership.” —Pooja Bhatt, Class of 2018

“I learned how to engage with a variety of children and make them feel comfortable at the dentist’s office. I also gained a lot of insight into different techniques for treating special needs patients.” —David Omole, Class of 2018