Ottawa dentists shocked by condition of refugees' teeth

Dentists hosting free clinics for people recently arrived from Syria say they're shocked at the condition of the refugees' teeth.

For many Syrian refugees, free clinic is their first time in a dentist's chair

Dentist Mandana Nikoui examines the teeth of seven-year-old Majd Haidar as interpreter Rasha Hasan watches.

When Ottawa dentist Mandana Nikoui went to examine the teeth of eight-year-old Kays Haldar and his seven-year-old brother Majd, she broke down and cried.

In all her years as a pediatric dentist, she said she's never seen a child's mouth with so many cavities and other problems.
Kays Haidar, 8, is examined by a dentist for the first time at a free clinic for refugees offered by Ottawa Public Health. (Steve Fischer/CBC)

Nikoui said both boys' teeth are "rotten down to the gum lines."  

"They need immediate medical attention," Nikoui said.

They need immediate medical attention.- Mandana Nikoui, pediatric dentist


It was a first for the brothers, too — the first time either boy had sat
in a dentist's chair.  

Nor had either boy ever held a tooth brush.

Their parents fled Syria a year and a half ago. The family was holed up in Lebanon, living in deplorable conditions until they were selected to come to Canada as part of the government's sponsorship program.

They arrived in Ottawa a month and a half ago.

Free clinics

Ottawa Public Health is running these free clinics every Friday until the end of May.

Forty refugees — adults and children — attended Friday's clinics at two locations in Ottawa.

OPH's team of three staff dentists is getting a hand from other dentists who volunteer their time to help Syrian refugees.

After their initial exam, many of the refugees will need to come back again and again for extensive dental work.
Tamim Haidar reacts as his sons Kays and Majd are examined by a dentist for the first time at a free clinic for refugees offered by Ottawa Public Health. (Steve Fischer/CBC)

"When you have individuals who have been living in war-torn countries who are then living in refugee camps, they're unable to provide the level of care that's required," said Aaron Burry, the city's dental officer of health.

"They can't care for themselves so they are facing a lot more dental issues than you would see in the [general] population," Bury said.