Schulich Dentistry opens unique operating suite for special needs patients

Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry has become the first dental school in North America to be equipped with a general anaesthetic (GA) suite allowing the School’s dental clinic program to expand its scope of services for patients, especially those with physical and/or intellectual challenges.

The two million dollar suite features two operating rooms and six recovery bays, and at full capacity, will accommodate up to 60 patients a week.  Located off the main adult dental clinic reception area, the GA suite also features barrier-free washrooms and a nurses’ station.  The Department of Anaesthesia & Perioperative Medicine will provide support for the program.

Wait times in hospital operating rooms for dental procedures for paediatric and special needs patients can be from 14 to 18 months long, as these procedures are considered elective.  This new suite will ensure prompt treatment.  It will also provide dental students and residents with expanded hands-on clinical experience working with special needs patients in an interdisciplinary setting.  

“This facility will enable us to provide oral surgery and a wide spectrum of dental procedures for special needs, paediatric and geriatric patients and will be the only one of its kind in North America,” says Dr. Harinder Sandhu, vice-dean and director, Schulich Dentistry.  “It will serve as a model for other schools.  But more importantly, it will provide much needed dental care to special needs patients and to children from low income families with no access to dental coverage.  This will improve not only their oral health, but their overall quality of life.  This is also in keeping with Schulich Medicine & Dentistry’s strategic goal of optimizing life-long health.”

Funding the suite was a collaborative effort with seven public health units in Southwestern Ontario led by the Middlesex-London Health Unit, directing a total of $900,000 from their “Healthy Smiles Ontario” funding to the project.  “Healthy Smiles Ontario” is a Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care program which provides free dental service through public health units for children under the age of 17 without any form of dental coverage.

“We know that good oral health is an important factor contributing to good overall health. This new dental suite at Western will increase access to free dental services for children and youth and special needs adults so that they can lead happy, healthy lives,” says Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care.

To see a virtual tour of the new suite please go to

Media Contact: Kathy Wallis, Media Relations Officer, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University, office: 519-661-2111 ext. 81136, cell: 519-777-1573,