Say 'ahh'

(Edmonton) The University of Alberta dentistry school is doing everything it can to ensure its students are well versed in special-needs dentistry care.

Bill Preshing, professor in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, leads a post-grad residency program, which sees four dental residents work in the U of A Hospital’s dental clinic. They see patients with a variety of health issues including hospital in-patients, as well as people with Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities.

“These residents recognize they received little exposure, through a standard undergraduate dental program, to this broad range of patients who need help,” said Preshing. “These students want a broader range of experience with managing people with these conditions.”

This residency program is one-of-a-kind in Canada because it is two sided. Residents get a chance to work in the U of A Hospital’s dental clinic with the special needs patients, but also work in the department’s clinic to expand their dental skills.

“The dentistry [at the hospital] tends to be pretty basic so they aren’t really expanding their skills to a great degree,” said Preshing. “With this set up we’ve have, the residents can get the best of both worlds—expanding their dental skills while they’re also getting this experience with a broad range of special-care patients.”

Preshing says the year-long residency program teaches residents valuable techniques for treating special-need patients, including the use of sedation to relieve any apprehension or fear. Beyond the skill acquisition, however, Preshing says just being able to treat these patients in community settings is vital, as this is a vastly underserved area.

“We have patients coming in from Saskatchewan, northern Alberta, the Northwest Territories and northern British Columbia,” said Preshing. “We’ve expanded so much over the last 15 to 20 years; I think, more and more, U of A dentistry is becoming known as the place to go.”