Ottawa Dental Society celebrates 125 years by giving back

ABOVE: Dr. Micaela Fitzgerald, Dr. Tanya Bracanovich and Dr. Jaideep Lal
Photos: by Sean Sisk Photography

On November 22, 1895 a group of dentists gathered at the Russell House Hotel on the corner of Elgin and Sparks Street. This was the inaugural meeting of the Eastern Ontario Dental Association, meant to serve dentists in Bytown and the Ottawa Valley. With only a handful of members they appointed their first President, Dr. C.A. Martin along with an honorary president, vice president, treasurer and secretary. A few other select members also played roles in what was then a very small association.

Following the first meeting the group met a few times before officially becoming the Ottawa Dental Society (ODS) in 1905. The society has continued to meet regularly since then, providing a social avenue for Ottawa dentists while also offering essential continuing education for all its members.

This year ODS is celebrating its 125 anniversary serving dentists and the Ottawa community. Since its humble beginnings in the Russell House Hotel, the Society has grown to over 600 members. It is the third largest dental society in Ontario under the provincial body of the Ontario Dental Association (founded by Dr. Barnabas Day in 1867).

Over the past 125 years ODS has grown to be much more than a social group for Ottawa area dentists. Members have played a significant role in history like providing pharmaceutical and dental care to soldiers during the Boer War as well as WW1 and WW2. “As the city grew the association grew,” says ODS

Dr. Michaela Fitzgerald is the president of the Ottawa Dental Society

President Dr. Micaela Fitzgerald

Currently, one of their main roles is offering four different one-day lectures a year which help members meet the continuing education commitment which is required of all Ontario dentists. The lectures, which run in the Spring and Fall cover everything from practice management to clinical topics like restorative dentistry, endodontics and pediatric practice. “Courses are offered on all aspects of dentistry to treat tooth, jaw and gum issues,” says Dr. Fitzgerald. “Other topics like infection prevention and control are also offered.”

ODS runs several services that are of benefit to both their members and the general public. Their Dental Emergency Service provides emergency dental care to Ottawa area residents 365 days a year from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Members sign up to be the dentist on call, ensuring that the Ottawa community has access to emergency dental care year-round. They also have an online directory that makes it easy for people to find a dentist in their area. All ODS members have the opportunity to be listed as service providers on their website.

As part of the 125-anniversary celebration ODS is spearheading a number of initiatives on top of the services and programs they already offer. Not only do they want to celebrate with members, they also want to give back to the community that they have been a part of for over a century.

Mouth Guard Clinic

The first initiative they are running this year is a free mouthguard clinic for amateur football players in the Ottawa area, who may not otherwise have the resources needed to protect their teeth while on the field. “Not all amateur players can afford [mouthguards],” says Dr. Fitzgerald. “Whenever there is someone who gets tackled there is the possibility for tooth injury.”

 ODS has teamed up with the dental program at Algonquin College whose students will be taking the impressions needed to make the mouth guards. Several local dental labs have also signed on to the initiative to produce the mouth guards once impressions have been taken. The Ottawa U Gee Gees and Ottawa Red Black’s Alex Mateus have generously agreed show their support and raise awareness for the initiative.

Oral Care Packages 

Every year The Ottawa Hospital (TOH) treats roughly 125 cases of oral cancer. ODS is teaming up with the hospital to provide all oral cancer patients with an oral care package which will include a water bottle, oral rinse, soft toothbrush and lip balm. “It eliminates the step of having to put it together themselves,” Dr. Fitzgerald says, acknowledging what a difficult and overwhelming time this can be for many people.

ODS will be putting the packages together and delivering them to TOH to be distributed to patients. Screening for oral cancer is one of the many reasons to go to your dentist on a regular basis. “You are screened at every visit,” Dr. Fitzgerald says.

Oral Education

ODS has committed to providing an oral hygiene care program for people in Ottawa-area long term care facilities. The program will educate caregivers about how to address the oral care of their residents effectively. ODS members will be going into long term care facilities to deliver the program in person, but it will also be available in a bilingual printed version for caregivers to have on hand. “When teeth aren’t cleaned properly plaque builds up and causes cavities which are difficult to fill with this population,” Dr. Fitzgerald says. “The first line of defense is good oral hygiene.” The resource will also be made available on the ODS website for people who are caring for clients or loved ones at home. “Prevention and education is a big step,” says Dr. Fitzgerald.

Keep an eye out for Mr Tootas he visit Ottawa area events spreading awareness for good dental hygiene!

Member Give Back Campaign

Finally, ODS is looking to its members to celebrate the organization’s milestone by reaching into their own pockets. They are asking members to donate $125 towards suppling much needed equipment to The Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus Dental Clinic. Dr. Fitzgerald says they have already received the hospital’s wish list which includes a dental chair and overhead lamp, an intra-oral camera and several smaller dental instruments. “I am confident that we will be delivering the entire wish list this year,” Dr. Fitzgerald says.

Dr. Fitzgerald says they are hoping to have all the initiatives rolled out surrounding oral health month in April.  

As part of their 125-anniversary celebration ODS would also like to recognize some of their outstanding members who are continually giving back to the community where they work. Some of them have volunteered at the Ottawa Mission Dental Clinic to provide dental care to the homeless. Others have participated in donating equipment for the dental program at St. Mary’s Home in Vanier. “We have several members who have been incredibly active in volunteering,” Dr. Fitzgerald says.

The ODS also hopes that the community will keep a look out for their mascot, Mr. Tooth, as he travels around to different Ottawa area events this year. His goal is to collect 125 high fives from children as part of their anniversary celebration. Winterlude, Ottawa Race Weekend and the Ottawa Parent and Child Expo are three of the many events where Mr. Tooth will be wandering around, spreading awareness for good dental hygiene and collecting those celebratory high fives.

The ODS has been around a long time and is committed to continuing to support their members and give back to the community that they have been part of for the past 125 years. Their website is a wealth of knowledge, not only for Ottawa dentists but also for the community as a whole. “Ensuring Ottawa residents have access to information to care for their teeth is important,” Dr. Fitzgerald says. “There is lots of information on the website to help promote optimal [oral] health.”