Oral health is a huge part of wellness. It can affect how you feel physically if you’re in pain. It can impact your ability to eat and even your emotional health.
But proper dental care is out of reach for many people who don’t have insurance and can’t afford the cost.
A foundation spearheaded by a group from Manitoba dental community is helping make a difference.
“As much as we try to balance affordability with the cost of providing the care, there’s a lot of people that can’t afford that care,” said Dr. Joel Antel, a Winnipeg dentist and president of the board of the Manitoba Dental Foundation (MDF).
The Manitoba Dental Foundation was created in 2015 to fill that gap in dental care. It raises money specifically for oral health programs.
So far the Foundation has distributed $50,000 in grants to five different organizations. Each one addressing a particular need in the community.
“It was almost an attitude, why didn’t we think of this earlier?” said Antel.
He says dentists give back in many different ways in the community but there wasn’t a coordinated effort focused on dental care.
“The work of the foundation is raising the funds and going out finding the organizations that provide the care, get the applications to find out what they can do and deciding who gets what grants.”
Among the recipients of a $7,000 grant last year was the dental clinic at Siloam Mission.
Siloam Mission provides food, shelter and other supports to people who experiencing homelessness. The Mission includes the Saul Sair Health Centre, which offers a dental program.
“Dentistry is super expensive. Our clients don’t have the means to go to a regular dental clinic,” said Angelika Fletcher, Manager at the Saul Sair Health Centre.
Last year alone, 425 people were treated at Siloam Mission’s clinic for broken teeth, infections, cavities, missing teeth and more.
A service that is critical for people trying to get on their feet.
“If you have poor oral health and people don’t feel well and they are in pain, going out there an looking for employment going back to school and interacting with people is really hard for them,” Fletcher said.
Even with dentists volunteering their time the cost of running the dental clinic is high.
“You need such highly specialized equipment and instruments and anesthetics and filling material, and those kinds of things. Getting monetary donations to buy that is very important,” Fletcher said.
The MDF hosts a major fundraising event each year and encourages private donations from the dental community and beyond.
The Executive Director of the foundation hopes to see a growing impact as time goes on.
“The reality is that even if every dentist provided some pro-bono work in their office, which I’m certain they all do, we don’t have a collective voice,” said Frank Hechter.
By teaming up to support various programs already doing good work, the foundation hopes to become a game changer.
“We’d like to be a real major player and go to an organization and say how can we take you to the next level and really make sure there’s a huge impact on the care that’s necessary,” said Antel.