Free dental clinic provides relief

It may have been a one-time only event, but on Aug. 14 many people got relief from tooth pains and dental problems that have been plaguing them at a free clinic.

Prior to extracting a tooth

Prior to extracting a tooth

It may have been a one-time only event, but on Aug. 14 many people got relief from tooth pains and dental problems that have been plaguing them at a free clinic.

“This is something I have been thinking about for a long time and one day a dentist called me up and asked if I could use her services. That started the ball rolling,” said Greta Henning, who organized the free dental extraction clinic.

That dentist was Dr. Amaal Ayoub, a licensed general practice dentist who had been in touch with Interior Health looking for a way to volunteer her services.

“I thought instead of cookies, I would do something useful with my skills,” said Ayoub, who had been frustrated trying to find a place to help. “I want to volunteer; I want to do some dental service. I am giving you a golden opportunity, please grab it.”

Eventually, Ayoub was put in touch with Henning, who works in the community as a certified dental assistant, both in private practice and in pubic health. She felt the same as Ayoub, that Penticton was a big enough city to warrant a free dental clinic.

“We are very aware of people needing treatment, and very often they can’t afford it, or for whatever reason, they can’t attend dental appointments,” said Henning.

Using proceeds from a silent auction held at the November South Okanagan Dental Association meeting, Henning had already started a Dental Access Fund. That fund had already helped one qualified recipient have her impacted wisdom teeth extracted under sedation, though Henning admits her desire is to set up an ongoing no or low cost dental clinic.

“We would like a location somewhere in the community to set up a two-chair clinic and have rotating volunteer dentists to help,” said Henning. “We have Dr. Ayoub here today, but there were at least three other dentists that have approached me and I think they would be willing to help if a clinic was established.”

There is a good on-call dentist system through Interior Health, according to Henning, but it doesn’t always fill the need for dental service, especially for patients that can’t have the full treatment right away.

“Quite often, they are just given a prescription for antibiotics to relive infection, but when the prescription is done, they are still in the same boat; the problem is not fully addressed,” Henning said. “That can be a real problem, because they end up just living with pain or infection.”

She worked with a number of groups including Interior Health, Community Resources, social workers, the Salvation Army and the Soupateria to gather names of potential patients, enough to keep Ayoub busy with scheduled appointments through 2 p.m. In all, the clinic treated 18 patients, extracting 14 teeth and 18 root tips.

“I didn’t count; I really don’t care,” said Ayoub, who was just happy to see the dental clinic well used. She and Henning hope this trial clinic will lead to a permanent one.

“The ultimate goal here is to show a need, and hopefully we can fundraise or lobby for start-up funds from the government or Interior Health for a low-cost/no-cost clinic,” said Henning.

Henning drew together many threads to make this first clinic a reality. The United Church provided the location and their facilities at a nominal cost, while the Quota Club of Penticton helped sponsor the event, facilitating and administrating the financial end of running the clinic.

“Any people in the community, either privately or corporately that would want to make a donation, for the start-up costs of a clinic or the Dental Access Fund, they could do that through Quota International of Penticton,” said Henning.