The School of Dental Health is now fully prepared for the next public health challenge thanks to a significant expansion that includes two dozen state-of-the-art and standalone dental suites.
Students, faculty, employees and WAVE Dental Clinic clients can now access new dental suites featuring floor-to-ceiling glass and increased air ventilation to reduce the risk of virus spread from aerosol-generating procedures. The suites recently opened after a yearlong build on the third floor of the Daphne Cockwell Centre for Health Sciences at Waterfront Campus.
"With this build we are future-proofed. We are nimble and can now adapt quickly if changes are needed due to an evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic, future pandemics or a local flu outbreak.” - Lisa Rogers, Chair of the School of Dental Health.
The isolated dental suites, one of which was generously sponsored by our valued partner 123Dentist, are surrounded by glass to reduce the spread of aerosols and to allow clinical staff to observe students from the outside. Each dental chair also includes a monitor where clients can view their oral health records or educational materials. In addition, the updated facility includes five new touchdown meeting and collaboration spaces and an instrument reprocessing room where items are collected and sterilized.
The new area complements three existing clinics at the school for a total of 138 dental chairs, including 14 in the current radiography clinic. And flexibility was built in — the new clinic can be expanded, and the five touchdown rooms can be converted into dental suites should the need arise.
Project planning began in the fall of 2020, construction kicked off in July 2021, and the work was complete by April 2022.
"We now have one of the largest dental clinical spaces in the Ontario college system," Rogers said.
From plastic and Plexiglass to a permanent solution
When the pandemic started, the School of Dental Health moved quickly to implement temporary solutions to continue safely delivering learning and client services. Those measures included reduced capacity limits, floor-to-ceiling plastic dividers and Plexiglass, and adding HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters.
"To go further and to create something permanent, we built full enclosures with improved air circulation and ventilation exchange so we can lower the fallow time as recommended by Ontario Health and Toronto Public Health," said Mubein Tarahi, George Brown College's Manager of Capital Projects and Construction. (Fallow time is when a dental suite or operatory must remain empty and closed for the ventilation system to remove airborne contaminants.)
A dental specialist and an infection prevention and control specialist were involved in the planning and construction process, Tarahi explained, to ensure that every part of the project met all public health standards.
"We planned and built for all processes from when the client comes in to when they leave," he said. "This includes how and where people enter the facility, the surfaces they touch, how equipment is handled and where students and clinical staff put on and take off gowns and PPE (personal protective equipment)."
A collaborative effort
Fay Lim-Lambie, Dean of the Centre for Health Sciences and the Centre for Community Services and Early Childhood, said this expansion greatly benefits everyone involved in activities at the School of Dental Health.
"We're very grateful to the college's senior leadership for supporting the School of Dental Health in undertaking this important project," she said. "This flexible and modern facility means clients, students and faculty can confidently visit, learn and work in a clinical setting with the most up-to-date public health standards related to reducing aerosol spread."
Rogers credits the "positive working relationship" among all team members for the project's success.
"It was a great confluence of people and teams to see this project through," she said.