BY PAMELA CHOW
SINGAPORE will be training more dentists in the next decade to ease a dentist shortage here.
The National University of Singapore's (NUS) Faculty of Dentistry plans to increase its annual student intake from the current 48 to 70 in 2020.
Yesterday, it opened a $20-million building, built in just six months, which will allow it to house a larger student population.
For example, the building's simulation laboratory - where first- and second-year dentistry students practise dental treatment on dummies - can accommodate six more students than the previous site at the National University Hospital.
The three new student clinics, where third- and final-year students treat actual patients under the supervision of specialists, can now take up to 50 students each, up from the previous 48.
Ms Phang Zi Ying, 22, a third-year student, said yesterday: "The clinic is more spacious and we can connect more with juniors, so there's greater interaction between students."
The student clinics provide services ranging from basic polishing and scaling to complex specialist operations performed by postgraduates, at rates that are 50 to 70 per cent lower than those at polyclinics.
Plans to expand the faculty's premises have already begun to hatch.
Faculty dean Grace Ong said that another building will be up in about five years' time to accommodate more students in order to meet its 2020 goal. The faculty offers a four-year undergraduate degree programme and three-year graduate residency programmes in dental specialities.
Its biggest hurdle is in recruiting more full-time researchers, because it is difficult to find someone who is committed wholly to research, she said.
Currently, it has 25 staff members under its wing, only three of whom devote themselves to research.
Associate Professor Ong hopes to raise this proportion to 10 out of a 40-strong team, to focus on developing research in other fields of dentistry. The results may then subsequently be applied to clinical services.
The push to expand the faculty and cultivate more dentists here will ease the shortage of dentists in Singapore, she said.
The faculty aims to improve the current ratio of one dentist to 3,002 patients to move closer to Japan's ratio of 1 to 2,000, said Prof Ong yesterday.
This will shorten the long waiting list for dental treatment here, she added.
For more my paper stories click here.