JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The smiles of thousands of ordinary Jamaicans have been made brighter through the outreach work provided by the country’s first dental training school, the College of Oral Health Sciences.
  • Chief Dental Officer for Jamaica and Interim Dean of the College, Dr. Irving McKenzie, tells JIS News that a significant number of patients all across the island are seen by well-trained dental students, who provide the highest quality of care.
  • The College of Oral Health Sciences Dean proudly states that the college and its students are “well equipped and well prepared to deliver all (dental) services,” from laser dentistry, biopsies used in diagnostic purposes; radiology; endodontics; and oral and maxillofacial surgery.

The smiles of thousands of ordinary Jamaicans have been made brighter through the outreach work provided by the country’s first dental training school, the College of Oral Health Sciences.

A faculty of the University of Technology (UTech), the college has, for decades, offered dental services free of cost through clinics and health centres in the public health sector.

The dental team, which comprises mainly student volunteers, also participates in community health fairs and other outreach events. This service forms part of the students’ overall training.

Chief Dental Officer for Jamaica and Interim Dean of the College, Dr. Irving McKenzie, tells JIS News that a significant number of patients all across the island are seen by well-trained dental students, who provide the highest quality of care.

“When you talk about every parish in Jamaica, you can find the College of Oral Health Sciences having a fundamental impact on the oral health landscape. The students are basically being like oral health evangelists, going in the highways and byways and reaching those that are lost and bringing the good news of oral health to the population of Jamaica,” he says.

He notes that in the first half of the year, the students saw nearly 50,000 patients in the various communities across the island, outside of the school’s clinical setting.

“This is what we have been doing. We have been reaching those in need, the countless hundreds and thousands of persons, who were not even aware of how important the care of their mouth is; and we have been able to make thousands smile,” he adds.

Dr. McKenzie points out that the College, which is the largest provider of dental services for the people of Jamaica, strongly believes in the plight of the common Jamaican, who is unable to access quality dental care.

“We believe that oral health (care) should be (as) available as vaccine and oral health is essential to life. Just as a child getting (vaccination), we believe that oral health is also important. We strongly preach that it’s essential from the womb to the tomb,” he says.

Dr. McKenzie notes that it is this concern for the common Jamaican, upon which the college is firmly rooted. “What we want Jamaica to know is that the College of Oral Health Sciences, your public health dental college, has a strong public health focus,” he says.

“We train students for the public sector. We are the Government training institution. So we train to bolster the Government’s oral health capacity as well as the capacity of the private oral health workforce. We are also moving towards training people for the world,” he shares.

Dr. McKenzie tells JIS News that the institution is committed to bringing good oral health care to the people of Jamaica “and to reach those who are in need.”

“(We want) to reach those who are not only in need of good oral health care, but those who are in need of emergency care and we will work to improve the public health landscape on public health oral health infrastructure for Jamaica,” he says.

The College of Oral Health Sciences Dean proudly states that the college and its students are “well equipped and well prepared to deliver all (dental) services,” from laser dentistry, biopsies used in diagnostic purposes; radiology; endodontics; and oral and maxillofacial surgery.

He notes that the students also gain hands on experience at a dental clinic facility, housed at the college’s Arthur Wint Drive location, which offers a range of dental services for Jamaicans.

A dental hygiene student performs a procedure on a patient at the dental clinic housed at the College of Oral Health Sciences. The college, located on Arthur Wint Drive in Kingston, is an institute of the University of Technology (UTech).

“As part of the Government infrastructure for dentistry, students of some 30 high schools and primary schools get services here (at the clinic) free of cost. We also treat the medically and dentally indigent free of cost. We have a profound special needs programme where we actually go out and we treat the special needs cases free of cost,” he says.

Dr. McKenzie notes, however, that the college has a sustainability model where persons who can afford to, are encouraged to make a small contribution to their care.

“If your talk about a dental hygienist doing a cleaning of a cost of $1,000, what you are talking about is really an insignificant amount of money for quality services,” he argues.

Not only have smiles improved, but, more importantly, persons have been sensitised about the importance of proper oral health, thanks to the continued outreach of the College of Oral Health Sciences.

Many more ordinary Jamaicans will continue to benefit from the exceptional services of the college for years to come, as it continues to produce highly trained dental professionals.