WINNIPEG — We all know that going to the dentist is important.
But here in Winnipeg, there are hundreds of kids who are lacking the dental care they need.
A joint program started by Variety, the Children’s Charity and the College of Dentistry at the University of Manitoba are doing their best to change all that.
“It was the brainchild of the division of pediatric dentistry here and Variety to serve one of our most vulnerable populations,”says Dr. Tony Iacopino, Dean, College of Dentistry. “Many of the children and their families are in economically disadvantaged circumstances that makes it difficult for them to access dental care.”
Almost every Friday on the Bannatyne campus, the college welcomes kids to its dental outreach program. This year there are fourteen schools participating but in previous years there’s been as many as nineteen, all of them from the inner city.
Each year anywhere from twelve to nineteen schools participate in the program.
This year more than 4000 kids were screened from kindergarten to grade six, with 900 of them needing immediate treatment.
“Some problems are active infections and severe pain that need to be treated right away.” said Iacopino. “Other types of things can wait a little bit longer and we work those children into the program as we have availability. But everyone that requires some form of treatment gets treated.”
Some of the students who come in to the clinic have really had no education about dental hygiene up to the point they see their first dentist.
“I mean we even see kids that you ask them do you own a toothbrush and you’ll see that some kids don’t even own a toothbrush,” said Omar Mohammed, Pediatric Dental Resident. “And if you don’t own a toothbrush what are you brushing your teeth with?”
Children are missing school due to the pain. They aren’t sleeping, and they just can’t concentrate on their school work.
“Those are all tremendous problems across the globe right now and particularly in Manitoba,” said the Dean. “We think we’ve been able to make a really big difference for our community.”
Through the years Variety has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the program, with the benefit more far reaching that just the students.
“I think what’s really special is that is provides treatment to kids that otherwise wouldn’t be able to receive that care because they might not have dental insurance,” said Dr. Mohammed. “At the same time it also allows dental students that clinical experience.”
It’s not just the kids who are leaving the clinic all smiles. Parents are also thankful for what the program provides.
“It’s a big relief that the school can bring them to the dentist and it’s just easier,” said parent April Stacey. “I know a lot of parents and we are all grateful that Variety has selected our school for it and my daughter was able to come to the program.”