North

Dawson City dentist wants Yukon to revive dental therapist program

A dentist in Dawson City says a declining dental care program in rural Yukon is having a negative impact on children's dental health.

'I examined 31 children, and of those 31 only 3 had no decay, so it's going downhill'

A dentist in Dawson City says a declining dental care program in rural Yukon is having a negative impact on children's dental health. (The Canadian Press)

A dentist in Dawson City says the territorial government should find a way to revive a declining program for dental therapists, after seeing a negative impact on children's dental health in rural Yukon.

Helmet Schoener has been a northern dentist for almost 40 years and recalls a time when it wasn't unusual to see teenagers with dentures in Yukon.

Schoener says that all changed when dental therapists from rural communities were trained to do the basics, like cleanings and fillings. Dentists would only have to advise the therapists on what needed to be done.

"The dental therapist did the work, the standard work. If there was anything very complicated it would be referred to a dentist," Schoener says.

He says the school in Saskatchewan that trained the therapists shut down four years ago and the number of therapists in Yukon has dwindled to one. 

He proposed setting up a similar school at Yukon College but says he did not get support from government.

Schoener says he's beginning to see the negative impact on students' dental health.

"I just visited a community in the north and I examined 31 children and of those 31 only three had no decay, so it's going downhill."

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