The University of Manitoba Dr. Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry’s undergraduate clinic will reopen on September 8 with new safety protocols and equipment, reduced capacity, and digital paperwork to keep patients, students, faculty, and staff safe.
“I’m excited to reopen the clinic. I’m looking forward to having the students back and treating patients,” said Trenna Reeve, DMD, associate dean (clinics).
“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,” said Reeve.
“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,” said Daniella Battaglia. “Dentistry is our passion, and it’s been a while since we’ve been able to provide care and interact with our patients.”
Patients will be screened using Shared Health protocols 24 hours before their dental appointment and again when they arrive at the clinic. They also will be screened before entering the dental college and asked to wash their hands and wear a mask.
Arrival times will be staggered as well. When patients arrive at the clinic, they will be led directly to a dental chair instead of checking in at the front desk to eliminate crowded waiting rooms.
The clinic will operate at reduced capacity, with 36 of its 65 chairs being used. Reeve expects the undergraduate clinic to see about a hundred patients each day.
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.
Students will wear a face mask, face shield, fresh scrubs, gloves, and shoes that will only be worn in the clinic for low-risk procedures like exams and x-rays. Students also will wear a head cover and isolation gown for moderate to high-risk procedures like extractions.
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,” said Reeve. “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 Gerald Niznick, DMD, MSD.
“We’ve gone fully digital,” Reeve said. “It will have a huge impact.”
The college also has 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 think it’s good that we’ve 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,” she said.
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,” said Battaglia. “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.
The International Dental Degree Program launched in August as well. 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.