A volunteer team of dentists and dental hygienists came to Cloverdale on Saturday to lend a hand to those who are most in need.
City Care Dental’s mobile dental truck set up at Pacific Community Church on Feb. 23, and saw about 15 patients throughout the course of the day.
Dr. Wendy Gaudet, one of the directors of the program, said that the service provides “dignity to the under-privileged and the marginalized.”
As Gaudet noted, oral health problems can lead to severe periodontal disease and facial image issues, and can lower job prospects. Providing dental care to those in need is one of the most “practical” ways dentists can give back to the community, she said.
The mobile dental unit has been running for just over a year now. The 38-foot RV is outfitted in the latest dentistry equipment, and is run by a volunteer staff of 10 people.
Currently, the organization operates through grant funding, which allows the volunteers to help care for working poor families, low-income seniors and people who live in transitional homes in the area. Through the program, they’ve been able to “make a big impact,” said Gaudet.
They have a different philosophy than some programs, she said, explaining that while most emergency dental clinics pull teeth and alleviate pain, City Care Dental is about complete oral health. Patients can have anything from full cleanings to complete sets of dentures made.
“We need low-cost care, we need all these emergency services, but they provide limited care,” said Gaudet. For example, a person could receive emergency care for immediate pain relief and qualify for tooth extraction. But then what?
City Care Dental could step in to provide follow up care, education on oral health, and perhaps a partial denture.
“It brings the dignity back,” she said.
The program fills a gap in emergency care, but it also want to keep people out of its chairs. Gaudet said that they are working on launching preventative programs, especially among Surrey’s inner-city schools.
“We have a lot of clients that are in their early 20s, and their teeth are already falling out of their mouth,” she said. “We need to help these kids before we get there.”
Their proposed “Hands Up” program will go to Grade 2 and Grade 6 classes to provide dental care, educate on nutrition and oral health, and assist in navigating existing government dental care programs.
A pilot program has already seen success. Seventy students from a Surrey school were screened, issues were identified in 35, and the team was able to do “fairly extensive” work to help them, said Gaudet.
When Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Marvin Hunt learned the program had gone to an inner-city school, he asked if it could come to a Cloverdale school in the future. When the Surrey School District informed him that no schools in Cloverdale meet the requirements, Hunt pivoted to another vulnerable population in his consitituency: those who are being helped at the Cloverdale Community Kitchen.
Kitchen director Matthew Campbell jumped at the opportunity to host the program. The kitchen brought forward a list of potential clients and hosted the truck in the parking lot outside of Pacific Community Church in Cloverdale. Hunt’s office provided the $5,000 needed to fund the supplies and equipment for the day-long session.
Hunt said he will now be working on approaching provincial ministries to see how the City Care Dental program can be further funded.
Funding would be good news for Gaudet, as she has been working on an application for government sponsorship. City Care Dental would like to expand its preventative care program within inner-city Surrey schools, and to do that, she said they need to hire staff to work a three-day week.
A funded preventative care program would be able to accomplish all of the organization’s goals. “We want to educate on how to get onto [existing government] programs, we want to educate on nutrition and the importance of oral health, and we want to keep the teeth in the mouth — not just pull them out,” she said.