Edmonton dentist donates time to Syrian refugees

Edmonton dentist says refugees in pain need emergency dental care
WATCH ABOVE: A local dentist is offering up his services free of charge to Syrian refugees in need of dental care. Dr. Yousif Chaaban estimates refugees need ten times more dental work compared to the average Canadian. Now he's encouraging other dental offices to do the same thing. Sarah Kraus reports.

An Edmonton dentist is calling on others in the profession to help elevate the dental care of Syrian refugees.

Dr. Yousif Chaaban from Oxford Dental said in his experience, refugees are in serious pain when it comes to their mouths.

“They came from a war-torn country,” he said. “They have no dental education back there. Their teeth are in terrible condition.”

That’s why he got his staff together to donate their time to help nearly 40 Syrian refugees in desperate need of dental work.

The team put in a full day Sunday, examining, cleaning and performing extractions or fillings for children and their parents – many of whom have never been to a dentist before.

Supplies were donated by an Edmonton company, Patterson Dental.

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Dr. Chaaban estimates these refugees need 10 times the level of dental care an average Canadian would, adding dentistry is very different in Syria.

According to the dentist, there’s no fluoride in the water to prevent tooth decay and Syrian children aren’t encouraged to brush their teeth the way Canadian children are.

“Their teeth are horrendous – absolutely horrendous. I feel bad for these people, I really do.”

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Many of Dr. Chaaban’s assistants are also Arabic, something that helps when it comes to the language barrier.

“I am Syrian too, so this kind of hits home for me,” said Lina Jouma’H. “I know what’s going on there with my family experiencing everything so it’s really nice to give back.”

The dentist said patients are getting comprehensive care: “Today we’re doing fillings, extractions, every single patient is getting a full exam and cleaning.”

Catholic Social Services said those treatments wouldn’t normally be covered for refugees.

“Syrian refugees, in fact all refugees, come as permanent residents to Canada. So they have available to them the healthcare benefits that all Canadians have,” said community engagement vice-president Bruce Klanke. “That said, dental is often not covered by those benefits.”

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If patients are in serious pain, dentists can send away paperwork to see if the federal government will cover emergency surgeries or extractions. In the meantime, refugees in pain are left waiting.

“The dental care here is very expensive, it’s a lot cheaper in Syria,” said refugee Rana Alamian, through a translator.

Alamian has been in Canada for one month and wanted a cleaning to help ease the pain in her gums.

“We’d like to thank the government, the dental office here and Dr. Chabaan for providing us with free dental care.”

The team at Oxford Dental hopes their event prompts others to share their expertise too.

“I want all dentists to open up their eyes to this and hopefully open up their doors – be gracious and kind enough to help them,” said Dr. Chaaban.

The same dental office has previously held a similar event to help local homeless youth.