Quality and comprehensive oral healthcare services made accessible to all residents.
To provide optimal oral healthcare services to all residents and support individual lifestyle choices that enhance optimal oral health.
The Department of Oral Health was established in 1998, to oversee the administration and delivery of Public Dental Services.
The practice of scientific dentistry was late coming to The Bahamas. Before the 20th century, the treatment of dental ills was relegated to treatment with traditional, "bush" and herbal medicines.
Historical records dating back to August 1916, reveal 3 qualified dentists given certificates to practice in the Colony of The Bahamas: Drs. George Henry Johnson, Chas Wendelly Bleby, and Joseph Wright.
Drs. Bleby and Wright were resident dentists. Dr. Wright provided care on a continual basis in the Public Sector, and Dr. George Johnson, the first certified Bahamian, practiced privately on Bay Street, New Providence, over the old G.R. Sweeting Store. (Dr. Johnson was also a member of Government in colonial Bahamas.) It is believed that Bleby was not a resident, but frequently came from America during the tourist season to attend to the dental needs of tourists.
According to even earlier records, there were 3 trained laboratory technicians that were given limited certificates to practice in 1 or more Family Islands, up to 1957. Additionally, there were some Catholic priests who performed dental operations; Fr. Cornelius Osendorf, a priest stationed on Long Island became well known for extracting teeth. He also made frequent trips to New Providence to learn from dentists such as, Drs. Eneas and Burnside. Medical doctors also performed dental treatments and this was included as a part of their licensure certificates.
In 1928 and 1937 respectively, Bahamian dentists, Drs. Hugh Albert Johnson and Raymond Sawyer, completed training at the University of Pennsylvania (both men took up private practice). In 1943, Dr. Jackson Burnside became the first black Bahamian to qualify, as Dr. Cleveland Eneas was trained in 1941, but chose to stay in the United States a little longer before returning home. Both Eneas and Burnside were graduates of Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tennessee.
Dr. Burnside was the first Bahamian dentist to become associated with Government service. He offered his services on a weekly basis at The Bahamas General Hospital, while maintaining a private practice in the nearby community of Fort Fincastle. Later, Dr. Paul Albury and Cleveland Eneas joined Dr. Burnside and manned the Bahamas General Hospital on a rotational basis.
Modern dentistry on the Family Islands was much slower in its development, with some islands progressing more than others. On Long Island, Dr. Hal Leyland, a Canadian, who came to The Bahamas in 1961, took over the work of Fr. Cornelius in 1970. Later, with the assistance of the Kiwanas Club, a modern dental clinic facility was set up in the settlement of Deadman's Cay, and Dr. Leyland continued to travel frequently to provide dental services there.
In the years prior to 1960, a few dentists who were not salaried by the Government offered their services at the hospitals to assist people in need of urgent dental treatment. These dentists realised the importance of the availability of dental health services to the general population, and the need to establish a permanent facility for dental treatment.
In the fall of 1960, Dr. Cyril Vanderpool, the first Government dentist, was hired. Under his guidance, dentistry was given a room with basic equipment and supplies. Dr. Vanderpool initiated the flying dental services, by which dental services were made available to all Family Islands. However, Dr. Vanderpool's stay in the Government service did not last long, for in 1962, he moved into full-time private practice. Dr. John Godet replaced Dr. Vanderpool - his stay was also short, and in 1963, he also went into private practice full-time. From 1965-1975, treatments rendered were limited to predominantly palliative and exodontias services.
The development of an organised dental service has seen steady progress over the years in terms of increase in human resources, as well as an increase in dental facilities. Until 1980, most of the dental services were performed in a single room with single operatory facilities, at the Princess Margaret Hospital. In 1978, the dental clinic at the Princess Margaret Hospital expanded its facilities to a state-of-the-art dental suite in the new outpatient wing of the hospital. The suite consists of 4 treatment operatories equipped with basic dental equipment, a Dental Laboratory (for fabricating dentures), and office, store room, patient waiting room, X-ray room, recovery room and a staff lounge.
For more information, please contact:
Department of Oral Health
Poncianna Hill Building
P. O. Box N-3730
Tel. (242) 502-4869
Opening hours: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday to Friday, except public holidays
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