New Wabano dental clinic to serve aboriginal community

Ottawa Public Health and the Wabano Centre have been given the green light to open a dental clinic at the newly built Ottawa centre for aboriginal health on Montreal Road in January 2016.

Clinic aims to reduce alarming uptick in poor oral health

Ottawa Public Health and the Wabano Centre have been given the green light to open a dental clinic in January 2016 at the Ottawa centre for aboriginal health on Montreal Road . 

The clinic will serve an estimated 2,000 patients a year, according to Wabano Director of Health Services, Dr. Sandra de la Ronde. 

"There's definitely a need in aboriginal children in general for improved dental care," said de la Ronde.

"I see a lot of adults in their 20s, 30s, 40s who have no teeth — have them just all removed or they have teeth decay or missing teeth. And what's becoming increasingly recognized is dental illness and cavities are linked to other health problems."

There's definitely a need in aboriginal children in general for improved dental care.- Dr. Sandra de la Ronde, Wabano Centre

Poor oral health also affects job prospects, mental health and speech, she said.  

An Ottawa Public Health report to be tabled Monday before the Ottawa Board of Health suggests that aboriginal children are more likely than non-aboriginal children to have total teeth extractions caused by poor dental health.

It cites a Statistics Canada health survey of children living off-reserve, which shows aboriginal children between the ages of six and 11 have twice the number of dental problems compared to non-aboriginal children — 84 per cent versus 46 per cent.

Aaron Burry, Ottawa Public Health's Dental Officer of Health, said the new dental clinic is part of a province-wide effort to improve dental health for the growing off-reserve aboriginal population. 

Many barriers to dental health

De la Ronde said that although most members of the aboriginal community are covered by various government programs — including Healthy Smiles Ontario for kids under 18 and a Health Canada program called Non-insured Health Benefits for First Nations and Inuit — there are many barriers to access dental care. 

The paper work is just one hurdle, de la Ronde said. 

"When you're focusing on, sort of, getting through a day because you're poor and maybe you're having difficulty with housing and food and the other essentials, then often things, unfortunately, like dental care go by the way," de la Ronde said. 

A dental clinic in a known aboriginal-friendly space will be a huge benefit for the community, she said. 

The Ottawa Board of Health has already approved Ottawa Public Health's recommendation to approve the hiring of five staff members for the clinic. 

The staff and the dentist will be funded by the Ontario government. Wabano will run the clinic and provide the space on Montreal Road.  


Amanda Pfeffer has worked for the CBC across the country, including Montreal, Vancouver, Fredericton, Quebec City and Ottawa. She welcomes story ideas and tips at


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