Dental clinic to reopen with pandemic safety measures
While the Dr. Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry’s undergraduate clinic will look different when it reopens to patients on September 8, the same high-quality care the dental students, and their supervising faculty members, provide will remain the same.
New safety protocols and equipment, a reduced capacity, and digital paperwork will be in place to help keep patients, students, faculty and staff safe. The clinic closed in March due to the threat of COVID-19.
“I’m excited to reopen the clinic,” said Dr. Trenna Reeve, associate dean (clinics), Dr. Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry. “I’m looking forward to having the students back and treating patients. Although it will be a ‘new normal’ while we’re dealing with the pandemic, it will at least allow us to do what we need to do to care for patients and teach students.”
Daniella Battaglia, a fourth-year dental student, is thrilled to be returning to the clinic and can’t wait care for patients again.
“I think I can say for myself, and all of the other fourth-year students as well, we’re really excited to go back to the clinic,” she said. “Dentistry is our passion and it’s been a while since we’ve been able to provide care and interact with our patients.”
As part of the new safety measures, patients will be screened using Shared Health protocol 24 hours before their dental appointment and again when they arrive at the clinic. Patients will be screened before entering the dental college. They will also be asked to wash their hands and wear a mask.
The new normal will include staggered arrival times. When a patient arrives at the clinic they will be led directly to a dental chair instead of checking in at the front desk. This will eliminate a crowded waiting room.
The clinic will operate at reduced capacity, with 36 of the 65 chairs being used. Reeve anticipates they will see about 100 patients per day in the undergraduate clinic.
The college’s infection prevention and control protocol, and personal protective equipment standards go beyond what is mandated by the Manitoba Dental Association, Reeve said.
For low risk procedures, like a dental exam or an x-ray, the students will wear a face mask, face shield, fresh scrubs, gloves and shoes that will only be worn in the clinic. For moderate to high-risk procedures, like a tooth extraction, students will also wear a head cover and isolation gown in addition to what is worn during low risk procedures.
A high-volume evacuator system will be used during moderate to high-risk procedures. The cup of the suction device is placed beneath the patient’s chin and it sucks up aerosols released during the procedure.
“The high-volume evacuator systems will help keep patients, staff and students safer,” Reeve said. “This is above and beyond what the Manitoba Dental Association has regulated.”
To limit the number of people handling paperwork the college has placed computers at each station with signature pads so they can discontinue paper charts. This was made possible with funding from Dr. Gerald Niznick.
“We’ve gone fully digital,” Reeve said. “It will have a huge impact.”
The college has also increased its custodial schedule to clean and disinfect waiting rooms and common areas with higher-level disinfectants.
“COVID-19 has changed dentistry and I’m looking forward to taking on the challenges,” Battaglia said. “This will be the new norm for dentistry so I think it’s good that we’re getting as much support from the college as possible. This is something that we’re going to have to get used to once we graduate.”
Battaglia said she is happy that the undergraduate clinic is reopening because it is a crucial part of her dental education.
“The U of M prides itself on how much hands-on experience we get and the clinic plays a fundamental role,” she said. “The clinic really helps us develop not only our interpersonal skills but our hands-on skills as well.”
While the undergraduate dental clinic is opening September 8, the graduate orthodontic clinic reopened in July, and the periodontal and prosthodontic clinics reopened in August.
During the month of August, the International Dental Degree Program started up. Also, students who were in their first, second and third year last semester, were back on campus completing exams and simulation clinic work that was postponed due to the pandemic.