Program Training and Community Support Resume Within Sask Polytech’s Dental Clinic

When COVID-19 shut down Saskatchewan Polytechnic campuses in March 2020, hands-on training changed for Dental Hygiene and Dental Assisting and this impacted many community partnerships.

“Campus closures meant our dental clinic in Regina was closed, and that turned everybody’s life upside down,” says Dean Lefebvre, program head of Dental Hygiene and Dental Assisting. “The clinic is an absolute necessity for our students and community partners. Students need hands-on training under the supervision of licensed instructors in order to demonstrate competency in dentistry skills; they can’t graduate without it.”

The Regina Campus clinic also plays an important role in the community. “We’ve provided dental services at reduced rates for years, so many people rely on us for their oral health needs. When we had to shut down, it put vulnerable people at risk, so it was really important for us to get up and running,” Lefebvre says.

The dental clinic at the Regina Campus is one of the largest dental practices in the province. Beyond providing community dental services, the clinic also partners with elementary schools, senior care homes, the Regina Open Door Society, the Regina Food Bank as well as the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

Faculty and staff worked tirelessly behind the scenes, mostly remotely, to get the clinic open to meet student and client needs and to adhere to new pandemic health guidelines. Getting students back into a clinical setting was a huge win. “This past fall, we were finally able to celebrate the graduation of our 2020 class of dental hygienists. In December, we did the same for our dental assisting students,” adds Lefebvre.

The clinic reopened in August 2020 under stringent new protocols including aerosol reduction procedures developed by provincial dental associations, space dividers and distance requirements.

Clients are pre-screened before entering. Face masks are required. Fewer people are allowed in the clinic at any one time, and personal protective equipment is the new normal, including face shields, bonnets and gloves.

“The pandemic has pushed us to be more creative in how we do things especially arounds hands-on clinical training,” Lefebvre says. “We can’t provide procedures such as drilling or ultrasonic teeth cleaning on site because we operate in an open clinical setting without fully enclosed suites and proper ventilation.” Students are still doing manual cleaning procedures.

A significant infrastructure investment is being considered to ensure both the program and the community services it provides can continue. “The fifth floor of the Regina Campus that houses the dental programs requires a major renovation,” explains Sandra Blevins, dean of the School Health Sciences.

“We are currently running at a restricted capacity that is impacting both our students and the clients we serve. Without the required changes we don’t know how we would keep the programs and the community services going.”

“Renovations would enable us to set up preparatory suites similar to the semi-enclosed spaces you enter in private dental practices,” says Lefebvre.  “This would meet the stringent procedures for aerosol protocols, and provide better separation for our clients, students and instructors.”

Clients of all ages are welcome at the Regina Campus dental clinic. Dental hygiene care is provided by Sask Polytech students under the supervision of licensed dental hygienists and dentists. Dental care is provided by licensed dentists and dental assistants, assisted by Sask Polytech dental assisting students. For information about dental services at Sask Polytech, call 306-775-7531 or visit our website.

January 2021


Saskatchewan Polytechnic serves students through applied learning opportunities on Treaty 4 and Treaty 6 Territories and the homeland of the Métis.