The waiting room was packed at Beacon Smiles Dental Clinic in Calgary’s Northwest Sunday.
The dental clinic provided free exams, tooth removal and children’s cleanings for families who applied.
Staff at the clinic said it’s all about helping the working poor and families that fall through the cracks because they don’t qualify for social assistance.
“One thing that we are noticing, especially with the economy, there’s lots of our patients who are struggling to get work done that needs to be done. Things that can avoid infection and things that will affect their health,” Dr. Amrita Sandhu-Gill said.
“They simply can’t afford even the co-pay with insurance. You have a certain amount of money, you have a family to feed and not all that money can go towards dental work,” Dr. Sandhu-Gill. “So there are parents who are in pain because of dental issues, who are not paying for it because they need to feed the kids.”
Dentists at the clinic said two other factors are causing dental problems among Calgary children. According to Dr. Sandhu-Gill, with the elimination of fluoride in Calgary’s drinking water, she has seen more decay in children.
Dr. Sandhu-Gill said they are focusing on educating parents about the importance of avoiding processed food and sugars.
Amy MacLeod moved from New Brunswick to Alberta and was shocked by how much more dental costs are in Calgary.
Last year, the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association found that fees are higher in Alberta and have been rising faster than any other provinces.
Alberta’s Liberal leader David Swann doesn’t believe a fee guide would necessarily be effective but providing dental care to more people who can’t afford it, would be.
“We have a growing population, we have an increasing divide between rich and poor. We need to increase the resources for people with low income,” Swann said. “It’s just out of the realm of possibility for many low income families.”
There are also calls to allow dentists to advertise and offer dental promotions.
The Alberta government plans to release a dental fee guide this year to help patients better compare prices.