A state-of-the-art dental training school, aimed at filling gaps in the delivery of local services, has been established in Jamaica through a partnership between the University of Technology (UTech) and Canadian-based Marmicmon Smile Solutions.
The school, which is being operated out of the formerly government-run Dental Auxiliary School's facilities on Arthur Wint Drive in Kingston, after a US$1-million upgrade, offers a slew of dental services that extend beyond the extraction of teeth.
The first batch of students, who include 114 dental hygienists, 34 dental assistants, 28 dental surgeons and 10 dental technologists, are now in their second semester of study.
Angella Smart, business development manager at Marmicmon Smile Solutions Oral Health Centre of Excellence, explained that the plan is to build awareness of the correlation between good oral care and good health among Jamaicans.
"We will be going out to the public to educate them and we will also be engaging corporate Jamaica to take services to the employees," Smart told the Observer's weekly Monday Exchange of editors and reporters at the newspaper's head office in Kingston.
"We are looking to go into heavily populated areas like markets and towns and setting up in an area where persons can readily access the service," she noted.
Additionally, Smart said the school is working on acquiring a mobile unit as well as portable dental chairs which can be set up at different facilities.
Although private dental care can run into thousands of dollars, Smart insisted that the prices being charged at the school will be very competitive.
"The need is so great, we are not even focusing too much on the high price," she said.
Students will treat patients as part of their dental training, Smart said, adding that this would not be done without the patient's consent.
Andre Miller, regional manager at Marmicmon Integrated Marketing and Communications, explained that Smile Solutions was started with UTech under the guidance of the Ministry of Health in 2010 to rebrand oral health care in Jamaica.
According to Miller, this partnership has led to the establishment of the largest dental hygiene and dental assistance programme in the Caribbean.
With Jamaica's dentist-to-patient ratio at one to every 17,000 patients in private dentistry, and one to every 62,000 in the public health sector, Miller said dentists are limited to treating dental problems rather than preventing them.
He said the lack of public education on oral care is something Smile Solutions and UTech hope to change.
"The partnership will prove an opportunity for Jamaicans who did not have a relationship with their dentist to begin to have one," he noted.
Given that the programme will be taught using a Canadian curriculum, Miller said graduates will also be qualified to work in North America.
Dr Winston Grey, adjunct associate professor in dentistry at UTech, said the university has seen a need nationally and regionally for such a training facility, since up to 90 per cent of the dentists in Jamaica received their training overseas.