Nova Scotia

Annapolis Valley dentists open clinic for low-income patients

The Fundy Dental Centre launched a project that offers dental care at a reduced cost.

1-year pilot project by the Fundy Dental Centre began earlier this month

The Fundy Dental Community Association will fundraise to cover the cost of lab fees to make dentures. Right now, patients would pay $200 for a full set of dentures. (Fundy Dental Centre)

A dental project in Coldbrook, N.S., is aiming to help low-income patients gain control of their oral health.

The Fundy Dental Centre launched the Fundy Dental Community Project earlier this month, offering dental care at a reduced cost. It's $100 an hour to see a dentist, a price that covers all work including fillings and root canals.

Dentist Scott Schofield started the dental centre, which is an emergency clinic, about a year ago. A lot of people land in his dental chair as a last resort, he said.

"Dentistry is expensive, and there are a lot of people that just cannot afford that preventative dental care and there are even some people that can't afford the … one-off emergency treatment," Schofield said.

Affordability

Schofield said people let regular dentist visits slide because they can't afford them. This makes it harder to keep on top of their oral health.

The new program will help people catch up with ongoing issues.

Applicants are selected based on their income level and need for dental care. They also have to show a willingness to try to change habits that led to their dental issues.

Dentists and hygienists at the centre do cleanings and fillings, along with root canals and dentures. They try to fix dental issues before resorting to removing teeth and opting for dentures, Scofield said.

The goal is to have patients get their work done in the clinic, and then go back to private practices for regular upkeep work, he said. 

Schofield said he doesn't believe dentistry is too expensive, as dentists run busy practices with high overhead costs.

'Last piece of the puzzle' 

The program's about dental health, but it's also about employment, Schofield said.

"A lot of the patients that would be qualifying in this program, they're on low income because they have a barrier to employment," he said. "And sometimes the self-consciousness with their teeth and dental issues is one of the reasons they can't find employment."

The centre works closely with PeopleWorx Society, a group next door that offers programs designed to help people find work and improve their confidence. A number of its clients are getting their lives turned around and trying to get back into the workforce, Schofield said.

"A lot of times, the last piece of the puzzle is fixing their teeth."

'Fall between the cracks'

Schofield and his wife, Kentville dentist Elizabeth Jackson, have been thinking about these issues for a long time.

Three years ago, Schofield's brother was in a bad scooter accident in Thailand. He had to come back to Canada for care.

"It was kind of the straw that broke the camel's back," he said.

His brother returned with a lot of physical and cognitive issues, Schofield said. He ended up using social assistance and disability services.

"You can really see how some of the underserved patients can fall between the cracks," he said.

His brother was lucky because his parents have been huge advocates for him, he said.

"It just gets you thinking about what it's like for a lot of other people who find themselves in these situations."

The one-year pilot project will take in 100 patients at a time. Schofield hopes it will continue next year.

There's more information about the program, and the application, on the centre's website

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

natalie.dobbin@cbc.ca

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