Dozens line up for free dental clinic in Whitehorse

About 50 people braved the cold temperatures in Whitehorse Saturday for a chance at free dental care.

Cold snap doesn't keep people away, as some haven't had the chance to see a dentist in years

RAW: Lineups as Whitehorse dentist offers free clinic.

5 years ago
Duration 0:21
Lineups for a free dental clinic in Whitehorse stretched out the door in subzero temperatures. 0:21

"At least the dentist won't have to give me anaesthetic — I'm already frozen," joked Robin Darnell with a wry smile.

Darnell was one of about 50 people who braved cold temperatures in Whitehorse Saturday morning. All for a chance to do something many take for granted: See a dentist.

Dentists and hygienists at Riverstone Dental Clinic cleaned, filled, and pulled teeth for free, all day on Saturday. That offer was met with a lineup reaching past the parking lot into the street.

Darnell is is unemployed and was looking to get a filling replaced after it fell out a month ago.

"I want to make sure it gets filled before it gets any worse," he said, adding the last filling cost a few hundred dollars.

Darnell says dental care is now out of his budget.  

"It seems silly that it's considered a cosmetic thing," he says of dental care and healthcare in Canada. "I don't know the politics of it but it should probably change."

Living with tooth pain

Kim Bernier was among those in line. She said she's been living with tooth pain for a few months now.

"I have something happening up on my right side," she said pointing to an incisor.

Kim Bernier points to an incisor she needed a dentist to look at. She's been in pain for a few months now. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Bernier said she could not afford to visit a dentist and have it fixed.

"All I have to say, this person doing this is amazing and 'God bless' for doing this for us," Bernier said. "For people that can't get their teeth cleaned. It costs way too much money. It's expensive to live up here."

Employed, but no coverage 

The crowd had many people who are self-employed.

Mark Mendelson is a contractor who runs his own business. He was looking to get some fillings done.

"Last time I got a quote I got around $2000 to get everything caught up. I am hoping to at least get some of it done," he said.

An estimated 50 people lined up outside the Riverstone Dental Clinic in Whitehorse waiting for free dental care. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Owen Holmes works taking care of special-needs adults with a private company.He also has no dental insurance and hadn't visited a dentist in five years.

"I think the system is built for people with insurance. The pricing seems to be built for people with insurance and without it's pretty insane," he said.

People waited hours for their chance to be seen, but they didn't have to stay in the cold.

The dental clinic installed a canvas wall tent and wood stove outside with coffee and doughnuts.

Photographer Allistair Maitland says he appreciates the clinic since he's self-employed and is no longer covered under an insurance plan. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Whitehorse photographer Alistair Maitland was there warming up. He said the free clinic helps, but he'd be looking for a more permanent solution for his dental care.  

"It's something I need to explore potentially on my side," Maitland said. "I used to work for government where all that stuff is taken care of. But when I moved out and started doing photography and was self-employed, that's when things changed. Things that you take for granted, you can no longer take for granted."