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University of Alberta students provide free dental care for those without insurance

WATCH ABOVE: University of Alberta dentistry and dental hygiene students are offering a free service for those in need every Saturday.

Every Saturday morning during the school year, dentistry and dental hygiene students from the University of Alberta in Edmonton provide cleanings and checkups for free.

It’s part of the Student Health Initiative for the Needs of Edmonton (SHINE) clinic.

Students are watched over by a professional as they are learning new skills, working on hundreds of patients every year. Between January and July, the SHINE clinic did just under $90,000 worth of dental work for people without insurance.

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It’s a first-come, first-serve basis, but emergency patients and children are treated first.

“Dentistry will do things like extractions and fillings. We make referrals to the school for treatments we can’t do here,” SHINE’s vice-president Hygiene Megan Sedlacek said. “For hygiene, we just do all the regular stuff like cleanings, fluoride, we offer sealants and preventive services.

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“The people that we see here wouldn’t have care otherwise, and we are taking them out of a lot of pain.

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“[Some] are in pain where they can’t sleep at night because their tooth is so infected and so it’s really awesome to see people coming out of pain, or just getting their hygiene done which is so crucial.”

The clinic has been operating since 2007.

At the beginning of this year, the service moved from the health centre to the Renaissance Tower and expanded from a four- to eight-chair facility inside the Boyle McCauley Health Centre. The tower is a housing project operated by Métis Capital Housing Corp.

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Ummara Ayyaz has been to the SHINE clinic three times; she and her six-year-old son went to the clinic Saturday for a cleaning.

“It’s so satisfying,” Ayyaz said. “We don’t have to worry whatsoever about dental cleaning because we found the perfect place.

“It’s very important… when you have no insurance.”