Hundreds of Winnipeg refugees given free dental care

Hundreds of newcomers were given free dental care on Saturday. Mike Arsenault/Global News

WINNIPEG – Families that are new to Winnipeg were given free access to dental care on Saturday.

The ‘Open Wide’ event was hosted by the Manitoba Dental Association and the University of Manitoba College of Dentistry.

Geared towards newcomers who have landed in Manitoba within the last year, the majority of the patients seen throughout the day were children.

“A lot of cavities, a lot of neglect, a lot of things that had they been living in an area where access to care was possible would’ve been treated, said Dr. Carla Cohn, president of the MDA, while describing what types of oral health issues she was seeing.

Some children who came to the event had never seen a dentist before. Fixing the damage that can result from that lack of oral care can be costly, said Cohn, even with some help available from the federal government.

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“You’re looking at something in the hundreds of dollars which is absolutely prohibitive for somebody whose coming here as a newcomer with nothing,” she said.

Huwaida Alamouri arrived in Winnipeg just 14 days ago with her son Mohammed, 10, who was treated at the clinic.

He had only seen a dentist once in Syria before they spent a year in a refugee camp in Turkey.

“I was very comfortable and I did not feel fearful, they made me feel much better,” she said through a translator.

The clinic also hoped to educate families like the Alamouris about more affordable oral health care options.

“Sometimes that knowledge of where they can get care isn’t all that easy and obvious for people,” said Dr. Cory Sul, a dentist who volunteered at the clinic.

He was one of more than 100 volunteers that included dentists, dental hygienists and other dental professionals who were a part of the event.

The Manitoba Dental Association hoped to treat 400 patients on Saturday.

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