People in Arviat, Nunavut, are finally able to see a dentist, after equipment issues resulted in a painful break in service.

A dentist typically visits the community every month, but the July and August trips were postponed due to a broken dental chair. And there wasn't a trip scheduled for June due to "low demand," according to the Nunavut health department.

A vital service

Bob Leonard, mayor of Arviat

Arviat mayor Bob Leonard says the level of service is already extremely low. (Vincent Desrosiers/CBC)

"When the dentists are here the lineup to see them is out the door," said Arviat's mayor, Bob Leonard.

"The level of service is already so low, that people... can't even see the dentist sometimes when they are here."

According to Leonard, the missed visits likely meant some community members were "living in pain," and he's worried about how the Nunavut government will address what will likely be an "increased case load."

An excruciating wait

Elissa Curley knows first-hand the kinds of concerns Leonard expressed.  

"I had a really bad toothache end of June, and I kept asking when the dentist would be coming," she said. 

With no visit in sight, Curley eventually turned to the local health centre for help.

"They gave me penicillin, they prescribed me different antibiotics, and they also gave me Tylenol 3 for a few days, but nothing was working."

Curley said the experience — combined with the excruciating pain — was an upsetting one.  

"I mean having to be checked by the nurses, and they're not even the dentist, it was getting me frustrated because they couldn't help me all that much. 

"Because they're not the dentist."

Making up for lost time

A spokesperson for the Nunavut government's Department of Health says people like Curley will now be seen.

The dental chair was fixed and a dentist arrived in the community on Thursday, and will be there for the next five to 10 days.

The department also says lost service days will be made up with additional trips this fall, with a second trip already scheduled for September.