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Children's Dental Clinic reopens at HSC

$1.2 million renovation will be paid by fees generated by dentists

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A clinic with a long history of helping children with complicated oral health issues now has a new lease on life, thanks to a unique agreement between the Winnipeg Health Region and the University of Manitoba.

The Children's Dental Clinic, located at the Health Sciences Centre, has re-opened after undergoing about $1.2 million in renovations and equipment upgrades. 

First established 35 years ago by Dr. Howard Cross, the clinic treats around 1,800 children a year, including many who are medically compromised or have special health-care needs. It was also used to train pediatric dental interns.

In recent years, however, it became apparent that the facility and its equipment were outdated and obsolete. In some cases, replacement parts could not be found for some equipment.

That's when the Region and the U of M started talking about starting a Graduate Program in Pediatric Dentistry as well as how to upgrade the facility using a creative approach. In 2010 the Region agreed to provide $1.2 million loan to upgrade the facility. In return, fees generated by dentists working at the clinic will be used to repay the loan.

The renovations have breathed new life into the facility, according to Dr. Charles Lekic, Director of the clinic and head of the Pediatric Dentistry Program at the U of M.

Among other things, the clinic features a new digital X-ray and entirely redesigned patient care areas, including a new procedural sedation room. The clinic also has new, kid-friendly amenities such as a child-sized door at the entrance, televisions above every dental chair, a toothbrush-shaped check-in desk, lower sinks for learning to brush at, and a revamped waiting area with a Playstation and a fish tank to keep young patients entertained.

In addition to providing care to children, the clinic will also serve as the centre of operations for the U of M's Graduate Pediatric Dentistry Program, launched in July 2011.

Arlene Wilgosh, President & CEO of the Winnipeg Health Region, said the new clinic is a major improvement over the old one. "We're pleased with the updates," she said. "It's brighter, with a fun feel and provides the latest in oral health technology. This all improves the care and overall experience for these young patients." 

Dr. Anthony Iacopino, Dean of the Faculty of Dentistry at University of Manitoba, said the new facility will provide an appropriate home for the Graduate Pediatric Dentistry Program. "This visionary initiative transforms the current internship program into a full Master's Degree level graduate program," Dr. Iacopino said, "one of only four in Canada."

The program emphasizes prevention in rural, under-served, and First Nations communities. Faculty of Dentistry Residents will complete formal training in the cultures of those communities and will spend a large part of their practice hours teaching preventative oral hygiene to community families.

Cross, the original founder of the clinic, still works part-time at the facility, alongside Lekic and two residents. A small support staff rounds out the group.
Lekic said he hopes the clinic will be able to double or even triple the number of patients it handles. Currently, patients are referred to the clinic by other dentists. The clinic staff also see patients who are admitted to the Children's Hospital for medical issues but also have complicated dental issues that need to be addressed, said Lekic.

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