Nunavut child dental health project gets $6.9M expansion
Children from 25 communities will be flown out for dental surgery as part of the 3-year project
New money for dental surgery in Nunavut is a good investment, but not based on valuable feedback from those in the know, according to one dentist.
"I wish they would consult some of the dentists that actually live here because we live and breathe the problems on a daily basis," said Steve Partyka, a dentist in Iqaluit.
He said this in response to an announcement by Nunavut Health Minster Paul Okalik that a pilot project to provide out-of-territory dental surgery will be expanded.
In 2013, the federal government chartered five planes so that 120 children from Cape Dorset, Arctic Bay and Repulse Bay could undergo dental surgery in Churchill, Manitoba. Now that project will extend to children in Nunavut's 22 other communities at a cost of $6.9 million over the next three years.
"The earlier that we catch them, they have healthier teeth and won't cost us more in the long run," said Okalik.
Dental surgery is a pressing and expensive need for many children in Nunavut. A recent survey shows that 85 per cent of Inuit children need dental work on an average of eight teeth.
Partyka knows that first-hand.
"A lot of us work six to seven days a week, 12- to 14-hour days, dealing with these problems directly," he said.
The territorial government estimates a cost of about $1,000 per surgery, which doesn't include the cost of travel and accommodation.
Okalik says the money will also be used to hire more local dental professionals.
Partyka says with only two dentists living in the territory, and one soon to retire, he is pleased money will be used to recruit more oral health workers, who include dentists, dental hygienist and dental therapists. However, he is concerned that dental therapists are typically sent to under-privileged and remote areas, and don't have a clearly defined mandate like dentists and hygienists.