Northlands College launches Dental Clinic in support of their Dental Therapists Program

Justin Galloway, Director of Health and Wellness for Northland College, points out the Sterilization Lab. Photo by Valerie G. Barnes Connell Jordan.

Northlands College launched their “state-of-the-art dental clinic” on Tuesday, Feb. 25.

The eight-chair clinic includes eight bays, a dental lap, a sterilisation room, dentil simulator, and classroom. The Clinic is the latest similar facilities across the province. There is one in each, Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert.

Northlands partnered with the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Polytechnic and the Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority (NITHA). To bring the Program and Clinic together. The Dental Therapist Program is offered through the University of Saskatchewan, Justin Galloway, Director of Health and Wellness for Northlands College, said, in an interview with the Northern Advocate.

The Dental Therapist program has 14 seats at Northlands, seven for the first year and seven for the second year. This academic year, their first at the La Ronge site, there are seven first year and five second year students, he said.

“A Dental Aid is someone who comes to the job with minimal training. A Dental Assistant is a certified one-year program where they kind of do chair assistance working with someone that can do some treatment pieces,” Galloway said.

“A Dental Hygienist does a lot of scaling and cleaning of the teeth. A Dental Therapist is unique in our neck of he woods. Saskatchewan, we’re all remote (and) ecause of their scope, (it) allows them to do restorative oral health care. So, if you have a cavity they can give you a filling, where a Dental Hygienist can’t do that; they can clean teeth, but they can’t do restorative work … so that’s what this program is; this is a Dental Therapist Program,” he said, noting people are often  confused by the different roles in dentistry.

The dental simulator offers students the opportunity of practicing, for example dong a filling, Galloway said.

The sterilization room gives students a place to bring their used equipment on one side and then it is sterilized and ready to go on the other side.

The Dental Clinic has eight completely equipped bays. Photo by Valerie G. Barnes Connell Jordan.

They have one classroom where they will join other students in their year of the program virtually.

“It’s not just teaching in La Ronge; it’s in Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Regina, all connected through technology listening to the instructor give that session,” Galloway said.

Amy Laliberte brings 14 years’ experience as a Dental Therapist to her role as instructor for the first-year students, and she’s enjoying the experience. It’s her first years teaching, and it’s been a learning curve.

It’s Rhonda Krienke’s first year teaching. She is the second-year instructor and has found aspects of the job challenging.

“It’s the lectures that part, all your assignments and quizzes that were part of what we’re learning,” she said.

She brings 13 years’ experience as a Dental Therapist to the job.

Margaret Buck is a Dental Assistant and “I do all the sterilising.” She is in charge of scheduling patients. It keeps her busy, she said.

All have worked with the Saskatchewan Health in the past.

The impetus for the program and clinic initiative came out of the consistent number of, particularly children, being sent south for anaesthetic and oral healthcare, which, Galloway noted, is very expensive and very common. And there is a demand for this service, with several vacancies across the north. This is an opportunity for northerners to get dental care at home at a reasonable cost, he said.

Part of the Program involves offering dental care to northerners at home, while offering the second-year students an opportunity to work on clients, as part of their training. The students are taught and supervised by qualified Dental Therapists on site and through virtual classes in their classroom.

According to their poster, the Dental Program is accepting new patients at the Canoe Campus. They offer exams, fillings, X-Rays and more at a “reduced cost.” People are invited to call 306-425-4666 for an appointment.