Dental School Adds Course Module on Treating Patients With Mental Illness

Dentistry Today


Beginning this spring, students at the University of Toronto Faculty of Dentistry will attend a new course module designed to prepare them to better serve patients with mental illnesses.

Yet that’s like saying the course prepares students to better deal with a significant portion of their future patients, said Joel Rosenbloom, DDS, lecturer and director of the third-year module, Psychiatry and Dentistry, who added that mental health issues are ubiquitous.

“According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), one in five people have a diagnosable mental health issue. We should be able to graduate students who are able to treat those patients,” said Rosenbloom.

The new material will supplement the current curriculum. Third-year students have the option of attending a rotation at CAMH as part of their hospital rotations. Fourth-year students have a mandatory rotation at CAMH. 

The didactic course module runs before the third-year and fourth-year rotations to give students a background in mental health dentistry by surveying a range of diseases and resulting conditions and behaviors that may present in their patients. 

One lecture will be given by David Clark, DDS, MSc, a staff dentist at the Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences and instructor at the school, both for 30 years. He also is the author of a seminal article on specialized care for patients with mental health issues, the school says. 

“I will be focusing on the everyday experiences at the hospital dealing with patients with various diagnoses,” said Clark.

Students will be tuned in to certain drug interactions that can indicate mental health challenges or affect the health and behaviors of their patients. In turn, the school says, this will help students become more confident in making treatment choices.

For both Rosenbloom and Clark, though, the overarching lesson of the course is about upending stigmas surrounding mental health issues.

“They’re people like you and me,” said Rosenbloom, who started as a dentist at the CAMH dental clinic in the early 1980s and returned there 11 years ago. “They have a condition that disposes them to act in a certain way. Part of what I like to do is break down stigma.”

In addition to directing the new course, Rosenbloom is a site supervisor for the CAMH rotation.

By emphasizing humanizing interactions through talking and listening carefully to patients, the course “is going to put this group of psychiatric conditions on the same level as any other condition,” said Clark.

Lecturers also will include trauma psychiatry expert Clare Pain, MD, DSc, staff psychiatrist at Mount Sinai and professor in the Faculty of Medicine; David Goldbloom, OC, MD, professor and senior medical advisor at CAMH; and Vicky Stergiopoulos, MD, MHSc, MSc, CAMH physician in chief.  

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