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New U of T satellite dental clinic welcomes its first patients

(Photo by Jeff Comber)

A new, state-of-the-art satellite dental clinic operated by the University of Toronto's Faculty of Dentistry is helping students gain critical skills while providing lower-cost care for patients.

“These rooms are large and beauitfully coloured,” said Catherine Crowe, an artist who had a cavity filled at the clinic at 777 Bay St. in one of its 41 enclosed operatories. 

U of T's Faculty of Dentistry, the first and largest of its kind in Canada, operates two clinics where third- and fourth-year doctor of dental surgery students see 15,000 patients each year under the supervision of a licensed dentist – typically at just 30 per cent of the cost charged in private practices. 

Students will be carrying out much of their clinical care at the new site in the College Park complex, which has enclosed operatories that allow for aerosol-generating procedures under current COVID-19 regulations. Patients will alternate between the Bay St. clinic and the original site at 124 Edward St. depending on the type of treatment they are due to receive. 

At the 15,000-square foot Bay St. clinic, glass walls preserve sightlines between instructors and students. Fourth-year student Rami Alsabbagh said a hand gesture was often enough to get the instructor’s attention at the new clinic. 

Students can also signal for an instructor by flicking a switch that turns on a red light above the operatory's door on the outside. James Posluns, director of clinical affairs and assistant professor, teaching stream in the faculty, said the switch is a low-tech and effective way for students to call their supervisor.

The satellite clinic offers a view of the city that creates a nice atmosphere for both patients and students. “It definitely feels like more of a private dentistry environment,” said Alsabbagh.

The new clinic also keeps the noise to a minimum. “The one thing that struck me when I went over is how quiet it is in there,” Posluns said. “You don’t hear all those dental drills.” When he showed up for work one morning, he thought treatments hadn't started yet. They had, but he couldn't hear them.

For Alsabbagh, the new space means more opportunities to treat patients. “I’m just trying to get in time working on endodontics and crowns. It’s been a struggle to get through all the restorative treatments,” he said. 

Posluns agrees that the top priority for the new clinic is supporting students in getting patient time working with dental drills. “That box is really checked by this new clinic. We’re giving them the clinical experience they need to graduate.”

The clinic will also serve as a swing space during planned renovations at 124 Edward St. 

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October 12, 2021

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