SINGAPORE: The National University Centre for Oral Health, Singapore (NUCOHS) officially opened on Friday (Jul 5), becoming the second national facility in Singapore to offer specialised dental health services.
Set up to cope with the rising demand for dental services from Singaporeans, the new facility will offer services similar to the National Dental Centre, said NUCOHS director Patrick Finbarr Allen in a media briefing on Tuesday.
“I think the service requirement for Singapore has (gone) up and the population has grown, the population has aged … So the capacity of one centre to cope with that has been outstripped, hence the need for another national centre,” said Dr Allen.
He added that as more Singaporeans become aware of the importance of maintaining good oral health, more are seeking out basic and specialised dental services.
Located at the National University Health System (NUHS) Kent Ridge campus, the new S$370 million dental centre has been operational since January. The centre brings together dental services from the National University Hospital, Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, Alexandra Hospital, Jurong Medical Centre and National University Polyclinics with the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Faculty of Dentistry.
Speaking at the official opening, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong highlighted the need for an increase in capacity to properly treat patients with oral health problems.
“Many oral health problems can be prevented by practising good oral hygiene and care ... But for those with more complex dental problems, our two national dental speciality centres are there to care for them," he said.
“Together with the existing National Dental Centre Singapore in Outram Campus, NUCOHS will significantly increase capacity for subsidised specialist dental treatment for more severe or complex dental conditions."
In line with the rising demand, NUCOHS increased its capacity from 300 patients a day at National University Hospital’s (NUH) University Dental Cluster to treating 500 patients a day when fully operational. This represents a 40 per cent increase from NUH’s current patient capacity.
NUCOHS also has facilities for people with special needs.
Bariatric chairs with a weight limit of 325kg are available for obese patients, and a hoisting aid helps to move immobile patients onto the chair. A wheelchair tilter allows dentists to work on patients in wheelchairs without having to carry them onto a dental chair.
Four larger treatment rooms are also available for patients with special needs such as claustrophobia or behavioural issues.
NUCOHS offers subsidised patient care, and it plans to work with polyclinic groups to provide dental care for patients nationwide.
Patient Geraldine Oi, 52, has been seeing the dentists at NUCOHS – who were previously from NUH’s University Dental Cluster – for 14 years. She pays an unsubsidised average of S$80 to S$100 per visit for basic check-ups and cleaning.
She finds that service has “gotten better” and that she enjoys her visits to the dentists at NUCOHS, as it is “not fearful” and “like a family outing”.
Patient Marianne Lim, 23, has been with the dental team since 2003, and has developed a good relationship with her dentist. She said she likes the new building as it is comfortable and the decor is cheerful.
Other than patient services, the 11-storey building also has training and research capabilities, as part of its partnership with the NUS Faculty of Dentistry. One floor is dedicated to research laboratories.
In a first in Singapore, dental students training at NUCOHS use virtual reality (VR) technology to guide them in their learning. Using the VR simulation, they practise drilling and injections on dummies in a controlled environment, before moving on to practise on people.
NUCOHS said it hopes to eventually expand its facility, and extend its research into artificial intelligence and robotics capabilities to support its training and dental services.