Dentists provide free clinic in Penticton

Group working to establish a permanent location for free dental clinic

Volunteers with for the most recent free dental clinic pose around one of their patients

Volunteers with for the most recent free dental clinic pose around one of their patients

A free dental clinic at the end of September added 26 more patients to the count of people helped by a local dental access program.

Last summer, with the help of dentist Dr. Amaal Ayoub, Greta Henning and a group of volunteers put on Penticton’s first free dental clinic, in an effort to provide relief for people who couldn’t otherwise afford dental treatment.

Since then, Henning, with the help of volunteer dentists, has managed to arrange several more of the events in Penticton and one in Oliver and is working toward creating a permanent location for the clinic.

Henning, a public health worker, said there is an ongoing need in the community for dental care. For reasons of poverty, mental illness and instability in many forms, she said, there are many who have trouble accessing dental care.

The latest clinic saw Drs. Ian Dickinson and Ayoub perform 64 extractions and six fillings as well as some extensive scaling and pain relief on the patients they saw through the day-long clinic.

“It was just fantastic. I am always nervous about how it is going to go off, but this was one of the smoothest,” said Henning. “There were some no-shows from the appointments, but I did have a list of people that I hadn’t called yet. And I was able to call them in on short notice and they came and we treated.”

Henning is already planning the next clinic, with a Summerland dentist who has come forward to volunteer his services. She also has a major donor in the wings who is willing to help with the establishment of a permanent clinic.

“Our application for charitable tax status is being processed now,” said Henning. “So he is waiting for that to happen because his donation dollar will go further if we have that status.”

While many communities around the province have similar programs, Henning said they need to be tailored to the needs of the community. In larger centres, like Vancouver, they can be held in large venues, with an assortment of dentists and a stream of patients.

“In Vernon, for instance, they are raising the money to buy the equipment prior to giving the treatment. We’re doing the opposite; we are treating people on a shoestring and working towards a freestanding clinic,” said Henning. “But you have to have the compliance of the dentists. If the dentists are willing to work with me, the way I am working, then it works.”