Old versus new – UQ dental facilities have had an upgrade.
Old versus new – UQ dental facilities have had an upgrade.
29 June 2015

As The University of Queensland prepares for this week’s launch of its new $134 million Oral Health Centre, Australian Dental Association Federal President Dr Rick Olive has provided a snapshot of how far dental education has come.

Dr Olive, a School of Dentistry student in the early 1970s, will be a guest at Thursday’s official opening at Herston.

In the lead-up, he told of the dramatic contrast to the facilities available when he learnt his profession at the university’s former facility at Turbot Street in Brisbane’s CBD.

“We were the last cohort to use the old pump-up chairs and slow speed belt-driven handpieces,” Dr Olive said, comparing it to the 187 top-of-the-range chairs at the new seven-level centre.

“When new equipment started to arrive and we began sit-down dentistry, those of us who were left-handed had to be careful because the belt driving the handpiece would rub against your arm.

“One morning I became aware of the faint whiff of burning hair and found the belt had worn quite a large bare patch on my arm while I was completely focussed on the cavity I was preparing.”

UQ’s Turbot Street dental school opened in 1941, not long after Dr Olive’s father flew as a fighter pilot in the Battle of Britain.

It served the university for a remarkable 73 years before being superseded by a building regarded as the most advanced tertiary dental facility in Australia.

Aside from having more than double the number of patient chairs, the Herston Oral Health Centre provides an x-ray machine for each chair, and clinics can record and livestream procedures.

The upper levels feature a certified Physical Containment (PC2) research laboratory, two operating theatres, a state-of-the-art radiography clinic and a specialist 15-chair suite with microscopic equipment and intra-oral cameras.

Students are educated in multi-functional dental simulation laboratories using professional-standard equipment.

“It’s a long way from the days when the smell of eugenol (oil of cloves) was ever-present,” Dr Olive said.

“I remember my first day at Turbot Street and the first time somebody fired up a turbine handpiece.

“The noise made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end and I had some serious doubts about my career choice at that stage.”

The dental building in 1941.

Dr Olive completed Dentistry with Honours in 1975 and a Masters in Orthodontics in 1979.

His association with the Australian Dental Association spans back to 1981, when he was elected to a branch council, and he has since been recognised as a Member in the Order of Australia.

Dr Olive will continue working closely with UQ after accepting an adjunct professorship in the School of Dentistry.

Media: Robert Burgin, UQ Communications, +61 7 3346 3035, +61 448 410 364, r.burgin@uq.edu.au.