Chairside chat with Dr. Chantal Czerednikow
Interviewee: Dr. Chantal Czerednikow , Instructor McGill Faculty of Dentistry (Montreal Children’s Hospital)
Interviewer: Valerie Khayat
Can you tell us about your work at the Faculty’s pediatric clinic and its mission?
My role is to teach the 4th year students rotating through the pediatric clinic at the MCH.
I supervise and guide their work with children 0-10 years of age. I have an hour in the morning before clinic to review techniques for pediatric dentistry, such as behaviour guidance, anesthesia and restorative techniques, trauma management, caries prevention advice.
This is a unique rotation because the children they see are very young, often under 5 years old, so it gives them an opportunity to grow their comfort and skill level in pediatrics.
The mission of the pediatric clinic is to provide quality care for children who would otherwise not receive it due to finances. The children we see are either refugees without medicare coverage, recent immigrants waiting for medicare coverage, or children of international students who are not covered by medicare.
-Has your experience at the pediatric clinic changed your perspective of dentistry over time? Are you still motivated by the same aspects as when you started your career years ago?
My experience teaching at the pediatric clinic has made me realize how far I’ve come in the last few years! I still remember my rotation as a student years ago and it is exciting to be able to pass on to the current students what I have learned since then.
All of the patients we see in the clinic are from other countries, so it has given me a window into the world of dentistry outside of Canada. My perspective of dentistry in general has changed, because I have seen the different levels and access to care that patients have in their home country. It has made me realize that here in Canada we are fortunate to have preventive dental care, good quality dental education, and relatively easy access to dental care.
Through certain cases, I realize that there are different standards of dental care in different countries. For example, some children come with many teeth missing because in their country baby teeth are extracted more often than they are repaired. Others come for their first check-up in their life at the age of 7. Dentists and patients in Canada are lucky because a lot is being done to educate students and the public about the importance of early dental visits and prevention.
Since I have started my career I have met many outstanding people that have become my mentors. I continue to learn from them and they have helped me find deeper ways to be motivated. When I first began, I was motivated to “fix” people’s teeth and “teach” them how to take care of themselves. Now I am more motivated to “facilitate” their transition to health and guide them to “take responsibility” for their health. It may seem like just a change of words, but the actions behind it are very different. It is a work in progress and I am learning from my colleagues all the time!
Why do you think this rotation is so important to the training of Dental students in the program?
This training is important for the students because it is an opportunity for them to truly experience the challenges and rewards of pediatric dentistry.
It is challenging because they have never treated patients so young before. The students must use different ways to communicate and connect with the patient at the same time as working quickly in a mouth smaller than they are used to!
The treatments are also more challenging for them because the caries are more extensive than what they usually see at the faculty clinic.
Though they quickly realize the rewards are great too. Making a nervous child giggle and relax during their first exam or treatment takes a special approach and the student has a chance to realize they have that ability. This helps them understand how important it is to make your patient comfortable during their visit and how much smoother the visit can go once a connection is made, no matter what age the patient is!
You also collaborate with Centre for Innovation in Autism and Intellectual Disability as a dentist. This Foundation attends to individuals with special needs. Why did you choose to get involved with them?
A few years ago, when I met with the organization’s director for the first time, I was shocked as she explained the statistics on the number of individuals with autism and ID and the poor access to care they have, especially when they reach adulthood. At the time, I knew it wasn’t easy for people with special needs to find a dentist, but I had no idea it was so difficult in almost every other aspect in their life. The foundation’s mission is to improve access to care and facilitate the multiple transition periods in their life. They were in search of a dentist and we felt I was a great match for their open-minded, forward thinking team. There was no way I would turn down such an incredible opportunity to make an impact and connect with these individuals and their families.
My passion for special care dentistry developed through my experience in summer clinic as a dental student and then as a resident at the MCH. No matter the patient’s diagnosis, often they are scared to go to the dentist. There were many cases where I was able to make the patient more relaxed and comfortable by taking some extra time to talk, show them the steps, and reassure them. Other cases it was a bit more challenging to complete the visit, but singing, telling stories, and sometimes using sedation helped the patient through the appointment. Dentistry never gets dull in this field and I have learned that intuition is a better guide than a recipe when it comes to deciding how to approach and adapt to each patient’s needs.